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Humane Education Leads to Progress
For Informed Dog Owners

Vision Statement: We envision a society free from discrimination, where responsibility, education, love and compassion allow humans to fully respect and understand man's best friend.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gift-wrap that sweater, not a puppy

The holiday season is upon us yet again, and everyone is shopping for the perfect gifts for their loved ones. Many times, people make the mistake of giving a dog (or other pet) as a surprise gift, thinking how cute it will be to have the puppy in a box, wrapped up in a bow like that scene from Lady & the Tramp. But this is not a good idea. If the person receiving your furry present is not ready for a dog, financially or otherwise, or if the particular breed you chose for them is not a good match, it can spell disaster. Adopting a dog is a big decision, and the person who will be responsible for caring for the animal should be involved in every way. If the dog will be a gift for your own children, it should be a family event to make sure the dog is a good fit for everyone, including existing pets! Too many times when parents give a puppy as a gift to their kids, the excitement wears off, puppyhood becomes a reality, and there’s a dog that no one wants to take care of, no one wants to train. Before you know it, your sweet little puppy-in-a-box is in a shelter by St. Patrick’s Day.

Since individual breeds are so different, it’s important that the potential owner researches breeds before deciding on one; everything from size and temperament, to energy levels and health issues needs to be considered to ensure the dog matches its owner’s lifestyle. Instead of actually presenting the dog as the gift, you may want to purchase dog supplies or some dog books to give to the person on the big day. Then your loved one can find the dog best for them, or you can go together to adopt.

A word about puppy mills...

In addition to not giving a dog as a surprise holiday gift, PLEASE do not buy a puppy from a newspaper ad, on the Internet, or from a pet store!! The newspaper/Internet ads are almost always puppy mills advertising to sell animals directly to the public, and pet stores usually obtain their puppies from puppy mills as well. Pet stores will try to assure you that they only get the puppies from responsible breeders, but don’t be fooled. NO reputable or responsible breeder would sell to a pet store.

As you may know, puppy mills are commercial dog breeding operations that focus primarily on profit rather than the welfare of the animals in their facilities. Dogs in puppy mills live in unsanitary conditions, have inadequate food, water, shelter, and veterinary care, suffer overcrowding, and receive virtually no human companionship. In puppy mills, females are bred as frequently as possible and will likely never live life outside of a puppy mill. Many times, the puppies aren’t even purebred, and if they are, the quality is poor. Genetic testing for temperament and health issues is rare, and many of these puppies not only end up with kennel cough and chronic ear and eye infections, but also have serious genetic health problems that don’t show up until later. Despite the owners spending thousands of dollars on vet bills, these dogs often die an early death.

Don’t fall into the guilt trip of “Oh, I need to SAVE that puppy in the window!” Pet stores and puppy mills can only stay in business if you give them your money. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

If you are looking for a purebred dog, try your local shelter. 1/3 of the dogs in shelters are purebred, and many are young, contrary to popular belief. You could also find a breed-specific rescue group. Remember that while puppies are adorable and fun, they also take a TON of work and time. An older dog is often already housebroken and trained, and is just waiting for a loving home to share! Adopting a dog through rescue is also much less expensive than the hundreds or even thousands of dollars you would pay a breeder. Usually spay/neuter is even built into the relatively low adoption fee. If you MUST buy a puppy and haven’t found one through rescue, please make sure you choose a responsible, reputable breeder, and NEVER buy from a pet store.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!


What's In My Yard? said...

I completly agree. I jusr recently adopted a basenji mix puppy from the animal rescue leage of western pa. I have only ever rescued pets. There are plently out there to be rescued so no one needs to go buy one from a store. If you like to see pictures of him. you can at www.whatisinmyyard.com

Heather M said...

Thank you for this great article! My kids want to have a dog pet, but I know it's great responsibility! Your advice are very helpful.

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