There are not nearly enough shelter pets for everyone in the U.S. who plans to get a pet this year. This is ok because some owners, about 1.5 million, are already set on an alternate source (a breeder usually) for the new pet they plan to get within the next year. I appreciate the fact that some people want a specific breed of puppy or kitten with a documented pedigree, a known health/behavioral history and a written performance guarantee. For those people, I recommend they contact a breed rescue or a responsible breeder (generally someone who breeds occasional litters at home, screens the parents for health and temperament, screens potential buyers for the best possible match between pet and person, and offers a safe place for the animal to return for life, if ever it is needed).
There are about 5 million people determined to adopt the pet they will be getting this year. Since we have an estimated 8 million pets entering shelters in this country every year, we have plenty of animals for these 5 million owners to choose from. But there is a third group of people, about 17 million, who are planning to add a pet to the family within the next year and haven’t yet decided on a source for that animal. We have only about 3 million shelter pets left in the total estimated population who are healthy/treatable and available for adoption. As is plain, if we were to convince even half of these 17 million homes to adopt from a shelter, we would be coming up short by millions of animals. So again, the fact that some people want to buy from a responsible breeder does not condemn shelter pets to death. Shelter pets are dying because shelter directors are killing them instead of doing their jobs to get them into homes, of which there are plenty.
One of the groups that has traditionally looked to responsible breeders for their dogs is law enforcement. But that is not always the case. In fact the BBC recently ran a story on a shelter dog in the UK who was adopted for use as a police dog and successfully completed his basic training. Here in the States, rescued shelter dogs have fought crime in New York, Chicago, and many other cities.
But I was disappointed to see a photo on Twitter today that appears to depict someone from the Jasper County Sheriff’s office in Missouri (that’s what the sleeve insignia looks like to me anyway) buying a puppy at a pet store. The photo was contained in a tweet from the Hunte Corporation, “the largest distributor-wholesaler of puppies in the United States.”
The Hunte Corporation buys puppies – not from responsible breeders, who would never allow a broker to determine where their puppies end up – but from puppy mills. They truck the puppies, whose parents are left to suffer at the puppy mills, to pet stores all over the country. Why a law enforcement officer would want to purchase a puppy from a pet store is a mystery to me. The benefits that law enforcement normally receives from buying from responsible breeders – a puppy with a known pedigree whose lineage is likely to contain successful law enforcement dogs, a health and temperament guarantee and a safe place to return the puppy if the training doesn’t pan out – are all non-existent with a pet store purchase. Furthermore, by purchasing a pet store puppy, the sheriff’s office is helping to keep puppy mills in business, which is tragic.
I hope the Jasper Co Sheriff’s office will reconsider buying pet store puppies to work with its law enforcement officers. There are plenty of responsible breeders with puppies available and there might even be some excellent candidates sitting in the local shelter. Law enforcement should be setting a good example for the community, not supporting animal cruelty by buying pet store puppies.