In today’s Sydney Sun-Herald, is a series of articles about the RSPCA and other animal welfare group’s efforts to have the sale of pets through pet shops banned.
> 250,000 healthy cats and dogs killed each year
> No homes for them
> Pet industry ‘needs regulation’
Tighter legislation is needed to regulate dog and cat breeders to stop the slaughter of more than a quarter of a million healthy animals in Australia each year.
Animal welfare groups backed by Sydney lord mayor and NSW independent MP Clover Moore blamed commercial breeders for producing too many animals, and pet shops for the unacceptably high death rate.
Working on the project Where Do Puppies Come From? I know there are enormous problems with the modern pet production industry. Companion animals living in a battery situation is not only wrong on animal welfare grounds, but because it sets dogs up to fail in their future lives as family pets. I get that puppy farms are a repulsive industry that needs to be booted into the history books. I really do.
But the idea that we can wipe out puppy farms through some inventive law, totally oversimplifies the issue. Certainly we can restrict the people who can breed pets, and we can ensure that the farms are clean, rather than dirty (see a related post ‘Should there be a ‘breeder permit’ system?‘), but the idea that banning pet shops sales will somehow lead to less pets killed in shelters, is simply false.
Banning the sale of puppy-mill dogs from pet stores will not stop people from buying puppy-mill dogs. It’ll just send them to the internet where the puppy mills have even less accountability (if that’s possible). Or to the newspaper to buy poorly-bred dogs that way from someone who won’t ask too many questions.
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Until we are in a position to compete with pet shops in their own market – genuinely taking a share of their business – we cannot even begin to offer an alternative to pet shop purchases and this business will simply move from pet stores to internet and newspaper traders.
Pet shops are located in convenient places, where people go. Being visible the community attracts potential customers, while the animals are presented in clean, well lit and well ventilated enclosures, all at eye height to maximise impact.
They offer convenient opening hours, 7 days a week 9-5. The offer a ‘late night trading’ nights where they stay open 7pm and later. These extended hours attract customers who work, who have families (and money to pay for lifetime care!) and who are looking for a pet.
Staff greet visitors to the store when they enter, helping to determine the reason for the visit and offer assistance. The friendly, upbeat atmosphere and ‘regular customer’ discounts build a relationship that attracts repeat clientele, until eventually the person either returns to purchase a new pet, or simply can’t resist and takes a particular pet home.
500,000, or half a million, puppies are estimated to be sold in pet shops each year. The idea that there aren’t loving families looking for pets (overpopulation), is blown out of the water, when you consider that there is a constant stream of homes available to these pets. Even in the face of high pet shop prices ($400 – $1,500).
Savvy shelters are realising that they have to adopt some of the retail smarts of pet shops. The RSPCA NSW have built the ‘RSPCA Care Centre’ a customer focused retail space to promote adoptions, while the RSPCA QLD have built a mobile adoption van, to get their pets out into the community. The AWL Queensland use 8 ethical pet stores to help them give their pets exposure, while foster care groups are able to join the PetRescue in-store adoption program.
So while advocates complain that pets shops sell too many pets, while pounds are killing theirs – of the thousands of pounds and shelters across the country, only a handful do much to try and offer an equally attractive level of service to potential clients.
If pet shops stopped selling pets tomorrow, this would be how puppy farmers would continue to represent their pets to the public;
And this would be how pounds show their available pets;
Or you might see one of these pics on their website:
Now might be a good time to point out that a photographer would often lend their time for an incredibly low rate, while a student photographer can often be sourced for free; so it’s not cost interfering with this process. There’s no excuse for every shelter pet not to get a gorgeous, engaging photo. Especially when it might save their life…
When you consider the hurdles to adoption, the out of the way locales of most pounds, the inconvenient opening hours and the difficulties in getting pounds to work with their communities, rather than against them – it’s a wonder that any pets get adopted at all.
But they do.
Thousands of people hit PetRescue each day, hoping to adopt a pet. The Million Paws Walk sees 60,000 pet owners bring their pets to over 70 events around the country and raise over $1 million dollars for the RSPCA. Pounds who take the time to ask their communities for help, are overwhelmed with offers of assistance. And Facebook groups for animal shelters are becoming one of the most popular and effective on the web.
Shelters need to stop worrying about ‘overpopulation’ and work on the real solutions to the homeless pet problem. Getting as many pets adopted as possible, educating the general public so that they understand the benefits of carefully researching your pet acquisition decisions and assistance in finding advice when faced with the realities of owning a pet.
Shelters need to be networking with like-minded local pet businesses, supporting our public, effectively promoting our pets and helping people adopt. It’s only when we stop complaining that pet shops are ‘out-selling’ us, and start taking responsibility for giving the pets we have the very best chance of finding (and keeping!) a new home, that we can finally start to address the real causes of shelter killing.