Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Impulsive and Irresponsible

It is estimated that between 5 to 7 million pets enter shelters each year.  More than 3 million are euthanized on an annual basis.  Those animals, presumably, were once someone's pet.  The owner wanted them and maybe even loved them at some point.  Then things changed...

Animals should never be something you buy or adopt on impulse.  Ask yourself some basic questions.  Are you prepared to care for that pet for the rest of its life?  What if your situation changes? If the animal gets sick, are you prepared to provide it with the necessary medical care?  What happens when you go on vacation, get new carpet, the kids grow up and leave the family home, etc? A pet is a commitment, not a novelty.

We are a society that demands immediacy.  From drive-thru windows to microwave meals, texts and emails, on-demand television to stores that are open 24 hours -  all of our modern conveniences have turned us into a culture that craves instant gratification.  Living creatures should not be treated as products that satisfy whims.

Malls across America are packed with holiday shoppers.  Many stop and coo at the cute little puppies in a pet store window.  Some of them decide they just have to get that furry bundle of joy.  So, they whip out their credit card, pay far too much for the dog, and happily make their way home with their new possession.  Oh, everyone thinks it is sooo cute, and puppies are adorable.  But puppies poop and pee on the carpet, they chew up things indiscriminately, they require a lot of attention and training ... and then they grow up.  The family grows tired of the pet and off to the shelter ... or worse ... it goes.

An example of impulsive buying is going to cost a family that I know thousands of dollars.  They purchased two Golden Retriever puppies from a pet store in the Denver metro area. Both puppies had kennel cough. One of the dogs isn't a purebred Golden.  She has severe hip problems that are going to require very costly surgery to correct.  She lives in pain every single day.  If they would have done their homework, they would have discovered that the breeder/broker had dozens of complaints against them. The pet store did offer to take the dog back, but the family had already bonded with her and knew what would happen to the dog if they accepted the offer.  Fortunately, they are in a financial position to pay for the dog's surgery, but that isn't always the case.

I received an email from an acquaintance who wanted to buy his daughter a puppy for Christmas.  He was seeking information about how to know if it is coming from a reputable kennel.  The rule of thumb is that most puppies in pet stores do not come from responsible breeders.  Those who take pride in the puppies they produce will interview YOU to ensure that you will be a responsible pet owner, they'll make you sign a contract to spay/neuter the dog, and might have a waiting list.  Buying puppies as Christmas presents isn't the brightest of ideas.  Holidays can be very busy, stressful times and not the best environment to introduce a new family member. A child's desire can be extremely fickle.

Erik's message

Today's treasures often end up in tomorrow's donation pile.  If you aren't convinced by the written words of an adult, please listen to the spoken words of a child.  Erik has a message about buying puppies as presents...

The bottom line is think through your decision to get a pet and do it more thoroughly and with more insight than it would take to purchase a new pair of shoes. Consider adopting a dog.  There are many purebreds available from shelters.  The experience of saving a life is rewarding beyond words. Investigate where the puppy comes from and how its parents are treated.  Puppies don't grow on puppy trees, after all!

Be part of the solution and help put an end to the cycle of supply and demand. Animals are not disposable. They are wonderful additions to our lives that give and receive love.  They can feel when they are neglected, abused or unwanted. The decision of pet ownership should be preceded by careful consideration and a lifetime commitment.

Jene Nelson is a veteran journalist and the producer/director of I Breathe, an eye-opening documentary about the secretive commercial dog breeding industry.

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