By Kevin and Arden Townsend
Do Rescue Organizations Encourage Puppy Mills?
(Daisy Grace and Precious’ Pawrents)
Well, Duh. Everyone knows the answer is “no”. All of our pawrents are aware that these organizations actively campaign against the mills and lobby for legislation protecting animals. Many of our pawrents do outstanding work for these organizations. These groups take in animals, care for them – often at great expense – and work diligently to find them good, loving fur-ever homes. For little or no material reward they save countless numbers of animals. They should be applauded and they deserve our full support.
Millions of unwanted dogs and cats (including purebreds) end up every year in animal shelters or with rescue groups. And yet mills still pump out puppies (and kittens) for the pet shop trade. Without these stores, the financial incentive for puppy mills would disappear, and the suffering of these dogs would end. The best way to find an animal companion is through an animal shelter or rescue group. There are also plenty of reputable breeders that a person can go to. In theory, there should be no reason for these stores or the mills that support them to exist. In theory that sounds good. So we can definitively state that rescues do not encourage puppy mills. Can’t we? And yet… Reality is not theory.
About a year ago the question was asked whether or not we believed these worthy rescue organizations inadvertently support these mills. More specifically, do their stringent rules often leave those persons wanting a fur-baby no choice but to go to a pet store? The debate about rescue organizations came up about a year or so ago when Ellen DeGeneres adopted a small terrier mix named Iggy. When Ellen’s family cat and Iggy had a severe personality clash Ellen found a family who was willing to take Iggy into the home. The match was well made and the family and Iggy quickly bonded. But when Ellen notified the rescue, they seized the dog from the new family. Their rules stated that if the adoption did not work out in the home then the dog had to be returned from where they got it. They did not give the new match a chance.
There are other examples. Before our pawrents got Daisy, daddy had looked on line at a few rescue sites but soon discovered him and mommy were not fit pawrents – they both worked! (Mommy had not yet had to take a disability retirement.) Daisy came from a pet store, albeit one our vet said was good – but a store none-the-less. We dare anypawdy to say they are not good pawrents.
It is, of course, natural (and desirable) that these agencies determine whether a home is fit for an animal before they allow an adoption. Nopawdy wants an animal to end up in a situation just as bad if not worse than the one it had come from. Most of their rules make pawfect sense. Others pawhaps not so much… It’s not unusual for shelters, rescue groups and breeders to require that potential adopters or purchasers have a fenced yard, keep the dog indoors unless supervised, attend training classes, and even feed a particular type of diet. They often require that the animal be returned to them if the adoption or purchase isn’t successful. Some places will say “no” to placing a dog in a home if there is not someone home with the dog full time or if the family works 8 hours a day. Other places say no if they have children under the age of three. Yep, you read that right. If a person works to support their family, or if they have children, they are not fit pawrents for a furbaby. Seems to us those are exactly the kind of families they should be looking for!
When this happens and people really want a dog in their family they turn to breeders and pet stores. Unfortunately, reputable breeders often have long waiting lists and command top dollar. For many families this leaves pet stores as the only option – the very stores that support the mills. Studies show that about 10,000 dogs a year are bought from stores that get their animals from mills. We found a very disturbing statistic when researching this editorial. When poled why they bought a dog from a store about 2/3 of people said they did not qualify as a good dog owner because they did not meet the rules of the rescue groups, and they still wanted a dog in their life. (Note that this statistic came from only one source and we weren’t able to independently verify it. While our hearts tell us it may be somewhat inflated, our little brains tell us it was just what we expected to find.) These are not evil people, and many of them were not aware of where the store got the puppy. Most of them are probably good pawrents to their new baby. Sadly, not all matches work out. And when these store-bought animals no longer work in the home (for whatever reason good or bad), families have no alternative but a shelter.
So, should rescue organizations take pains to ensure the animals are going to a good home? Duh. We all know the answer is “yes”. And we thank them for what they do. But are the rules of many animal shelters/rescue groups too strict for the average American family to meet? Sadly, we believe the answer to this question is also “yes”. Should they say “no” to a family who wants to adopt even if they have children or work full time? These are the types of families they should seek out! Many of you know that Precious came from a puppy mill rescue. But did you know that if mommy had still been working they would have turned us down. Our lives are much richer because of Precious.
In an ideal world, shelters and rescues would soon put themselves out of business by saving all the needy animals. But we don’t live in an ideal world. In their well-meaning effort to do the absolute best for their animals, many of these groups may be unintentionally contributing to the problem. Maybe instead of working to find the absolute best, they should work to find the adequate? In extreme cases, some shelters will deny a family and then later put that dog to sleep! Where is the sense in that!? Do we choose a satisfactory-but-less-than-perfect house or should we choose a death sentence instead?