by Cecila Cantu, OPINION EDITOR
23 April 2019
A millennia of loyalty, dedication, and emotional connection between species like no other, the relationship shared with dogs and humans is a truly remarkable phenomenon. A mutualistic symbiosis that has evolved into something so treasured that we often consider our dogs to be our own family. So, the question must be raised: why aren’t humans acting like it? Dogs will give their entire lives to their humans; Fido, Hachiko, and Balto are all famous examples of this. Nowadays, humans have begun objectifying their companions. They value their ancestry over their compatibility. They shop for rare dog breeds, drop thousands of dollars on one, and show them off like a new car or watch. Many potential pet owners get wrapped up in this mindset and can forget the true reason for adoption: finding a companion. This dangerous way of thinking can lead people astray and trick them into accidentally supporting organizations that value money over the animals’ health and happiness.
The types of adoption
There are three prevalent routes a person can take to finding a dog. Pet stores, breeders, and shelters. Of course, every individual must carefully consider their situation and choose an option that best suits themselves and their families, whether it is any of the previous three or a less conventional method. By definition, breeders are typically private workers who select animals based on favorable traits or heritage to produce highly valued litters. Pet stores often source their dogs from breeders and have specific guidelines they follow in regards to health and safety. Shelters are places where sick, lost, abandoned, or surrendered animals are kept or rehabilitated until adoption or death. They take in countless dogs with a spectrum of tragic backstories. A dog could be left to fend for themselves alone on the streets or become pregnant and be dumped on the side of the road because her owner couldn’t bother to care for her anymore. It is the shelters’ job to pick these broken animals up and teach them love and care again.
Some dogs live in some of the worst conditions under the guise of a puppy mill that would suggest it cares about the welfare of the pets it will put up for adoption. Photo courtesy of Peta.org.
The secrets revealed
All options, by definition, sound reasonable and fair. In reality, though, both breeders and pet stores often times have hidden and bloody secrets. They hide their sins behind pretty and neat guidelines that proclaim the well-being of their dogs and keep them from trouble. The “breeders” that large companies source their dogs from are 90% of the time actually puppy mills, according to paws.org. Puppy mills are commercial breeding facilities that use inhumane methods to push out the most puppies for the highest profit. They disregard all health and happiness of the animals for a quick buck. They keep dogs in tiny cages where they are forced to breed over and over until they are considered no longer useful and thrown out like trash. Their suffering doesn’t end with adoption, either. Many dog owners have reported puppies with diseases, parasites, even dying within days of coming home. Large companies such as Petland have faced backlash for this, but have not made any attempts to change their ways. When contacted, Petland failed to comment, following a suspicious trend of silence reported by several credible news sources. The reason these places are so popular is because there is not a legal definition that can hold these monsters accountable for their horrific actions. Instead, groups such as the The Puppy Mill Project have worked for decades gathering information and statistics to raise awareness about this issue. Currently, they estimate a disgusting 10,000 puppy mills to be active in the United States. Of course, there are some pet stores that highly value their animals and actively work to ensure their comfort and health. It is the pet owner’s responsibility to research credible and humane chains in their area if they choose to buy a dog from a store. Stores such as Pet Supplies Plus and Central Bark have been praised by the Humane Society for their transparency in their sourcing of dogs.
There is another way
However, there is an option that is commonly looked over: shelters. Shelters have been unfairly stigmatized as gloomy places where sick and abandoned dogs have been left to be put down. If someone does dare risk adopting a dog from a shelter, they are usually a “mutt” and “dangerous” due to their unknown history. This preconception shows in adoption trends, too. According to the Humane Society, a mere 30% of animals in American homes are from rescues or shelters. The lack of interest in these dogs has a devastating consequence. Over 3 million animals are euthanized every year, 2.7 million of which are adoptable. Shelters are left unable to feed, care for, and fit every animal into their buildings. The idea that shelter dogs are always unadoptable is blatantly wrong, and I can speak from almost a decade of owning my own shelter mutt.
Earlier, I referenced stories of dogs that shelters might pick up on the streets. Those were the stories of two real dogs. The pregnant dog gave birth to eight healthy pups, one of which caught our eye. Her name is Molly and she is the dorkiest and most loveable dog. We don’t know her exact lineage or even her breed, but we do know that she loves the snow and she gets way too excited when she meets strangers. We didn’t pay thousands of dollars for her or keep her in a sparkly bag, but we do take her to her favorite river where she never fails to get muddy. She has been the perfect companion to grow up with, regardless of where she came from. Without the kindness of the shelters, she probably would never have survived to know what a loving family is.
Shelters, especially no-kill shelters, are struggling. They are overflowing with animals they are unable to afford to take care of while puppy mills force dogs to birth litter after litter. The American pet owner is not doing it’s duty, as this trend is a reflection on it’s habits. These mills have been allowed to thrive because of the demand of cute puppies. Puppies that eventually grow into adults and get sick or pregnant and end up dumped for shelters to pick up. It is a sick cycle that must be stopped through the education of the consumer. If more dog-owners are aware of the lies that so many pet stores feed them, they would be able to make decisions more beneficial to themselves and their dogs. If there is a person looking to adopt a dog, there is one thing they can do that will demonstrate their dedication and respect to the animal above all else. It is not preparing a fancy meal everyday, or hand crafting a tiny house for them. It is doing the research beforehand. It is selecting an supporting a store or shelter that prioritizes the animal over the dollar signs.
Cecilia Cantu is the Opinion Editor for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl. Molly had almost nothing to do with the writing of this feature outside of her obvious photogenic nature.