In the USA, there are 45 times more cats and dogs than humans born. And of these, if lucky, 1 of 10 dogs and 1 of 12 cats will ever find a home. EACH HOUR, 800 cats and dogs are being killed in US shelters due to overpopulation, typically 4-5 million destroyed per year. And in the UK, the RSPCA alone euthanized around 53,000 animals last year. So why is it that I keep hearing about people who want to buy new cats and dogs from breeders, pet shops and advertisements in the local paper? What is it about these pure breeds that make them so much more appealing than saving the life of an innocent cat or dog?
Unknowingly, every time someone buys a puppy from a pet store, they are supporting puppy mills. Puppy mills – often referred to as puppy farms in the UK (yes we do have them too) – are large scale, profit driven, breeding operations. The dogs are often kept in wire cages where they have never seen the outdoors, never felt grass and have never been hugged in a way that shows them they are cared for. Often this lack of socialisation makes them more difficult to train as they have less desire to please new owners. Commonly cages in puppy mills are stacked on top of each other with nothing between allowing urine and faces to fall through to the animals below; this can cause acid burns and skin lesions, they are not treated for medical conditions. Often the dogs are debarked by ramming a rod down their throat to rupture the vocal chords. Less well known, these mills also exist for kittens. Mothers being forced to breed in every heat cycle with multiple males until they no longer can, at which point they risk being destroyed or dumped. Buying a new pet over adopting one encourages this type of animal abuse and adds to the overpopulation problem.
Many consider that shelter dogs are all mixed breeds and therefore, in order to get that ‘perfect’ pure breed, they need to go elsewhere. In fact, around 40% of dogs – adopted from shelters or bought from breeders – will end up in a shelter. Whether or not a dog is a purebred, does not change those statistics. We live in a society now where we have come to except engineering the birth of our children… and pets, people are looking for perfect, and unfortunately for them that does not exist.
Keeping it in the family is never a happy ending! To create a purebred puppy, you need two dogs from the same gene pool. As the gene pool is limited, many breeders will use dogs from the same family gene pool = INBREEDING. Far too often pure bred dogs suffer from the effects of inbreeding as their gene pools are limited or closed, with the risk of genetic defects significantly rising with each successive pair. These defects include higher risk of cancers and tumors; eye, skin and heart disease; joint and bone disorders; immune system and neurological diseases; and epilepsy. The risk of these defects is much higher for a pure bred than it is for a mutt.
There are millions of excellent, friendly, playful cats and dogs in rescue centres, of all ages and breeds (pure and mixed). These animals are not ‘rejects’, but are animals who unfortunately fell into the wrong hands – the hands of people who did not want the responsibility, who did not research the pet they were getting, who did not treat their pet as an animal, but rather a human. And for this reason, they are at the risk of living out the remainder of their lives in an isolated cage with little or no interaction, if not already destroyed.
People may be wary about behaviour issues of shelter cats or dogs. Luckily, shelter workers want what is best for the animal and do not want to see them mistreated, in an uncomfortable living environment, or to be returned back to the shelter, and will therefore be very honest about the behaviour of each of the animals.
There is nothing better than looking at your pet everyday knowing you have saved a life.