Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Looking for a new furry family member? How to be prepared. Pt 1 - Making the decision

The Holidays are a time for the celebration of personal culture via the practice of giving gifts.  Each year many homes hope to make their households brighter with the addition of a furry friend.  Whether the new family member is for a child or an adult; a surprise gift or a planned addition, it is important that potential new pet parents consider some questions before they start their search for the perfect furry friend.

The first question you must ask yourself is whether everyone in the household is on board for the new pet.
Giving pets as gifts is so fulfilling.  There's nothing like getting that surprise pet you've always wanted.  But it is also important that everyone in the household from Mom to Dad to the oldest and youngest sibling agrees that the new pet is a good idea.  Sadly, rescues take in gift pets on a regular basis because one or half of the household wanted that precious furry friend, but the others in the home weren't happy with the idea.  Soon resentment can set in and the pet is being sent away for one of a plethora of excuses.  Our rescues are already too full.  Please make sure everyone wants and will love that pet so you aren't the one sending your gift to live in a rescue.

The second question is whether you are going to purchase or adopt your new pet.
As a fervent rescue supporter, I have to say that I hope you choose to adopt.  I'll delve further into why below.  But as an American who is very proud of my right to choose, I do realize that not everyone wants to adopt.  Some people prefer purchasing a puppy or kitten from a breeder.  And because of that, I will also discuss the items to consider when a family wants to purchase a puppy or kitten.  I find it even more important that people who purchase their pets are informed of the pitfalls and expenses of buying without doing some research.

Adoption vs. Purchase
What is the difference between adopting and purchasing from a breeder?  There are vast differences.  When you adopt, you can always have the piece of mind that you have saved a life.  Even when you adopt from a no-kill shelter or rescue, you are assuring that some animal somewhere wasn't euthanized for crowd control in a city shelter.  How is that possible?  Well, when you adopt direct from a "kill" facility, you are tackling the problem directly by making room for one more soul.  But did you know that many rescues receive their adoptable animals from city shelters ready to euthanize?  Yes.  There are groups of people out there who walk city shelters to choose animals to save on a regular basis. There are also city shelters who post their scheduled euthanasia lists for rescues to come to their facility and take however many they have room for.  Sometimes, when transportation is available, animals from city shelters are even sent across the US to safety.  So you see, even when you are adopting from a no-kill rescue, you are still making room in a city shelter somewhere for another pet to live and find a forever home.  In part two of this series, I will offer some tips on where to look and what questions to ask a rescue when looking for an adoptive family member.

When you purchase from a pet store, you are more often than not paying for a manufactured pet.  There are always exceptions, but most of the stores who offer puppies for sale receive their stock from distributers.  Distributers purchase their stock from Puppy Mills.  These Puppy Mill breeders may very well be USDA approved, but they are not regulated very well and they are filthy operations.  It has been proven that Puppy Mill dogs are less healthy due to the breeding and raising conditions.  Recent claims have come to light that certain chain pet stores have knowingly sold sick puppies to the public.  And claims have been made that the AKC registration papers that come with those puppies are fraudulent.  Several states are beginning to enact legislation against Puppy Mill breeders due to the horrific scenes so familiar with raids on these kinds of operations.

The Today Show ran a brief informative story about why Puppy Mills are so disliked.  Some of these images are very sad, but you should see them if you plan to purchase a puppy.

For a more frank video on the conditions of Puppy Mills, please watch the HSUS's video Puppy Mill Rescue in Tennessee.  The animals in this video were bred and produced puppies to sell through the newspaper or over the internet.  It is very possible you will be purchasing a pet bred in these conditions when you answer that Craigslist ad for either kittens or puppies.

And lastly, the most recognized pet store to have known Puppy Mill associations is Petland.  There are many other pet stores who sell in this same manner, but Petland is the largest chain known to purchase puppy mill animals at this time.  One of Petland's former employees discusses his issues with their practices in this interview.  Earlier this year Animal Planet produced an investigative report on Petland.  Below is a video precluding that broadcast.

It is true that you will likely adopt a puppy mill animal from a rescue anyway, but you can be assured that the rescue will be up front with you about the origins of the animal, and it will have received proper medical care before being put up for adoption.

Purchasing from a Breeder isn't a guarrantee that you'll be sold a healthy pet either.  There are responsible breeders out there who will never sell you a sick pet, but more often than not, the breeders you will have easy access to are not those responsible breeders.  I will discuss how to go about purchasing from a responsible breeder in Part 3 of this series.

Adoption vs. Free
You've seen advertisements for free puppies or kittens on Craigslist or you've seen someone giving them away out of the back of a truck in a parking lot.  But is free really free?  Not so fast.  In Part 4 of this series, I'll break down some of the costs of veterinary care and do a side by side cost comparison between Free and Adoption.