Without pets, there's no pet industry.
Just recently, AB 485 was passed in California banning the sale of pets from pet stores unless they're sourced from shelters or rescue groups. This bill has threatened the supply of pets in California since earlier this year.
Upon first glance, this seems like a good thing. In fact, we believe the hearts were truly in the right place of many of the supporters. After all, what could possibly be wrong with selling animals strictly sourced from humane rescue groups?
The bill passed because pet lovers all over the United States are filled with concern and anger toward pet shops who opt to sell live animals from breeders. Animal welfare groups are known to spread the message that these animals are often mistreated, filled with diseases, and living in inhumane conditions.
No one, certainly in this industry, wants to see a pet harmed in any way. With this said, the question isn't whether animals deserve to be mistreated (because the answer is a resounding no). Conversely, the question should be: are pet stores to blame?
To understand the depth of how an issue like this truly affects an industry built around the love for our furry loved ones, it's time to look at the facts.
Are Pet Stores the Problem?
Pet stores in particular are being targeted by AB 485 and other bans on the sale of live animals across the United States. Yet, are pet stores the ones who are causing the problems on a large scale, or is it something even deeper than that?
In our article, Why We Shouldn't Just Adopt from Animal Shelters, we outlined a few points that may be important to reiterate.
- There's nothing wrong with adopting pets from animal shelters. In fact, it's a great way to find a pet a home that he/she may not otherwise have and a chance to form a really special bond
- Not adopting from an animal shelter doesn't necessarily condemn the animals to death - in fact, the demand for dogs is now higher than the supply in animal shelters
- Consumers should have the right to choose an animal that fits their particular lifestyle. Not all pet owners can handle a blind dog, a very active dog that needs lots of attention and exercise, or a deaf cat. The evidence of this is clear in that 20% of animals in a shelter were originally adopted from a shelter to begin with, compared to the 4% from pet stores.
What About the Breeders?
Answering this question correctly requires pointing out that there is a difference between professional and backyard breeders (also known as "puppy mills").
Contrary to popular belief, we found that responsible pet stores, including Petland and Pet Express, source their animals from the following:
- USDA licensed breeders and distributors
- Hobby breeders as defined by the Animal Welfare Act
- Local adoption animals that are vet-checked
These pet stores enforce strict requirements for their breeders. These include a consulting vet providing good medical care, safe and comfortable housing, frequent socialization and exercise, and a state-issued health certification. They have set very high standards for their breeders and ensure that all practices and procedures hold up to these standards, or else they won't be bought from.
And the puppy mills? None of that is true; and those guys aren't supplying these pet stores. Instead, they're selling illegally on the internet and through other third party sources.
The Better Solution
To quote a recent article, Changing the Way We Sell Live Animals in Pet Stores, in order to improve animal welfare and industry standards, we must abide by the following:
- Making the sourced breeder(s) known to the public
- Only sourcing animals from regularly checked, licensed, and high standard breeders
- Creating more strict guidelines and regulations for breeders to follow
- Ensuring strict enforcement of these regulations so breeders don't fall through the cracks
According to the owner of Pet Express Boston, Rob Mellace, "If the goal is to eliminate 'puppy mills’ why are we not eliminating the source? The unregulated sales of Internet puppy mill puppies will only continue to grow and consumers will be left with no protection" (Source).
If you ask Sheila Goffe, AKC Vice president of Government Relations,
“A much smarter solution is to educate future pet owners about the demands of responsible pet ownership; support responsible breeders, including local breeders who breed high-quality pets; encourage public interaction with local breeders and other educated pet experts who can advise prospective owners; strongly enforce existing laws against negligence or cruelty; support the needs of our local shelters; and ensure access to a variety of pets so owners can make a good choice for their pet’s life-long success. “
At the end of the day, it comes down to the supply of adoptable pets and eliminating the problem of inhumane animal treatment at the source, rather than targeting pet stores - both the good and the bad - with bills that limit how to source the animals that need to find good homes.
What happens when pet stores are no longer able to sell animals from breeders? Backyard breeders are going to keep doing what they're already doing - selling mistreated animals illegally through the internet and other less-regulated third parties - and professional breeders (the ones who do things right) and pet businesses around the country will go out of business.
As we said at the beginning of the article: without pets, there will be no pet industry.