Sunday Tasmanian; Anne Boxall; Sunday Dec 6, 2009
KITTENS and puppies are so masterfully cute that they seem specifically to have been designed to say “take me home”. Their playfulness, appealing eyes and general snuggly-ness make them simply irresistible to many.
And that’s all fine, providing the smitten pet parent is up to speed on what happens next. I wonder how many people are besotted by a puppy or kitten only to find that keeping their new four-legged friend safe, happy and healthy feels like a full-time job?
When pets live with us, we inevitably take away opportunities for them to act out their natural behaviours. We are then kept busy compensating for this or else risk having a bored, destructive or unmanageable companion animal.
Providing food, water and a back yard is not enough. It’s a big job for the next 10 to 15 years or so — but lots of people already know this, they do the job well and reap the benefits.
There’s much to be said for pre-planning a four-legged addition to the family and little to be said for a rushed or impulsive decision. This is one of the reasons pet shops are coming under fire.
Radio National reporter Hager Cohen recently told listeners of a vicious cycle involving unregulated breeders supplying to pet stores, pet stores driven by sales, buyers who buy a puppy without thinking it through, and pounds who have unwanted dogs handed in at an alarming rate. Some of these surrendered dogs were the puppies people had paid upwards of $500 for on impulse.
The radio program played a recording made by a person posing as a potential puppy buyer in a pet shop. The pet-shop owner had previously claimed high standards of staff training and responsible sales.
The potential buyer deliberately acted impulsively by saying she’d come to the shopping centre to buy new shoes, had never had a puppy before but was now charmed by the puppies and wanted to buy one.
The tape revealed that the accredited pet shop was still keen to sell and didn’t provide up-front information on what caring for a puppy would entail.
A vet interviewed for the same program said he was saddened by having to euthanise so many dogs who were originally cute puppies bought on a whim.
He added that pet shops were not ideal for selling puppies because they tended to fall down on providing information on what long-term responsible pet ownership was all about.
Also interviewed was a previous pet-store manager who quit under the pressure of that store’s sales strategy — sell, sell, sell while the puppies are still cute and before the costs of feeding and vaccinations mount up.
She spoke of a high occurrence of the deadly parvo-virus in puppies because of their confined quarters and the lack of time for staff to clean soiled bedding.
Also given a hearing were breeders running large-scale puppy farm establishments to supply pet shops.
One breeder confirmed that he bred an astonishing 2000 pups a year from 300 breeding dogs.
When asked how breeding in such numbers could be justified when there were already so many dogs and puppies in animal shelters, one breeder simply said, “We just love puppies”.
Well don’t we all? That’s why we want to see each and every one of them get a long-term, caring home.
If you love puppies, be aware that most pet shops source from unregulated breeders who churn out litter after litter. Consider adopting instead because animal shelters exist to save lives, not to end them.