Dogster has declared its official position on pet-store puppies clearly and compellingly: A puppy is not a present. This is the theme of our holiday campaign to raise awareness and help prevent the impulse purchasing of dogs. In the words of Janine Kahn, who wrote an excellent article on the subject: “If your family isn’t up to the commitment, you can’t just return that puppy to the pet store.” And if by chance the store does take the animal back, the little one may be disposed of (read: killed), as cheaply (read: inhumanely) as possible.
And yet, despite mounting media coverage on the horrors of puppy mills — and incontrovertible evidence that puppies sold at pet stores come from these hardcore hellholes — many holiday shoppers are still tempted to impulse buy an adorable little bundle at a pet store or online, tie a festive ribbon around the pup’s neck, and present it as a gift. Thousands of purchases like that add up; they’re what keep puppy mills in business and cause angst in the hearts of enlightened dog lovers, especially those who dedicate themselves to dog rescue.
But the ASPCA wants all dog lovers to know that the power rests with us, the consumers, to determine the fate of millions of innocent puppies — and to bring about positive change.
The most joyous, festive, empowering gift you can give yourself, your loved ones, and all dogkind this holiday is to resist the urge to impulse buy a dog, and instead to make a positive, impactful statement with your wallet.
As the ASPCA’s informational No Pet Store Puppies campaign reveals, our spending dollars and where we direct them can help save the lives of dogs cruelly mistreated at puppy mills. By refusing to purchase anything at stores or online outlets that sell live animals — that’s right, not even a last-minute bag of treats or a single chew toy — we can help shut down puppy mills for good. And that’s the greatest holiday gift of all, for dogs and the people who truly love them.
Cori Menkin is senior director of the ASPCA’s puppy mill campaign, and we took a moment to talk to her. “Consumers have more power than any other player in this industry,” she says. “If there is no longer demand for the product — the puppies — then the puppy mills will stop churning out the product.”
Yes, it’s as simple as that. Where you put your money will pave the way for a more humane future for all dogs. How cool is that?
“I know the Dogster community is well educated about puppy mills, the large-scale breeding operations where profit is put ahead of the well-being of dogs, who are kept in crowded, unsanitary conditions and forced to churn out litter after litter of puppies,” Menkin says. “So the ASPCA’s No Pet Store Puppies campaign actually says, ‘I pledge not to buy anything from pet stores or on websites that sell puppies.’ Not only are dog owners empowered by making this pledge, but all pets are empowered.”
Taking this pledge also encourages solidarity amongst all animal lovers, regardless of preferred species, Menkin adds, making it easy for pet owners who aren’t dog people to help positively impact the humane treatment of dogs. “If you have a cat or rabbit or ferret, there’s absolutely no reason to give your business to a pet store that sells puppies,” she explains.
While it’s easy to spot a pet store that sells puppies — they’re right there on the premises, and they were supplied by puppy mills — online resources hide behind clever graphic design, marketing themselves as “responsible” resources for purchasing dogs, when nothing could be further from the truth.
How can consumers tell if a site is promoting and selling cruelly produced puppy-mill dogs disguised as “responsibly bred” pups? Simple, Menkin explains: “If an online store is willing to ship you a puppy sight unseen, you can pretty much rest assured it came from a puppy mill, because responsible breeders don’t do that.”
When you’re ready to bring home a dog, your local animal shelter is an excellent, humane resource, and the ASPCA — which operates an animal shelter in New York City — encourages shelter-dog adoptions. “The ASPCA did a research poll and found that people who adopted a shelter dog were more likely to say they had a positive experience, and that the experience was transparent and honest — much more so than people who purchased a puppy from a pet store.”
Menkin speaks from firsthand experience in assuring adopters that shelter dogs make awesome additions to any family. “I have a two-year-old son at home and a nine-year-old Shepherd mix, and the two of them are the best of friends,” she says. “I could not have asked for a better match for our family. There are incredible animals available in the shelter and rescue community.”
Whether purebred or mixed-breed, adoptable dogs are your best bet. They are not defective or second-rate in any way — they’re a delight and a joy forever. Bringing a shelter dog home for the holidays really is the ultimate gift.