BY REBECCA BINE
To all of us animal lovers out there, we know that we adore our pets. They are our companions who listen to us without judgement and provide an unparalleled sense of love and devotion. There’s no doubt that we dote on our pets, dressing them in outfits, giving them treats and table scraps when no one else is looking, and treating them as if they were our very own babies. This kind of love is not limited to cats and dogs. Nowadays, people are smothering exotic animals in the same affection as they would traditional pets. However, as a self-proclaimed animal lover, what would you do if you found out that your companion spent the beginning of his or her life locked up, miserably, in dirty and small cages? Animals bred for sale are often seen as products rather than as living and sentient creatures, and as such are often treated as mere objects. Any person who truly cares about the well-being of animals must boycott pet stores and help a friend truly in need of a home by adopting.
Pet stores may be seen as a haven for animal lovers. With cute puppies, chirping birds, and hopping rabbits, there seems to be a new creature around every corner. Ferrets, lizards, and turtles, oh my! But do the animals living here experience the same joy as the people walking in? The sad truth is that most of the time the answer is no. No one likes being crowded in small cages without even a breath of fresh air, but the torture begins even before many animals reach the store.
According to a report by an ABC news affiliate, approximately 90 percent of dogs in pet stores were bred at puppy mills. The essence of puppy mills is profit; animal welfare is the least of a puppy “farmer’s” concerns. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) describes dogs bred in puppy mills as living “ in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization. Puppy mill dogs do not get to experience treats, toys, exercise or basic grooming.” In addition, the dogs often spend their entire lives outside, forced to withstand the elements, and in metal cages, which often causes paw injuries. While the puppies may appear as cute and cuddly, inside they are miserable and often in poor health . Buying from pet stores only supports the cruelty of puppy mills.
Animal breeding leads to even longer lasting consequences. Though these effects are not limited to just dogs and cats, these domesticated animals provide a particularly clear example of the issues of overpopulation due to breeding. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that there are over six to eight million cats and dogs in shelters. Of those, nearly half end up being euthanized. How did this overpopulation problem occur? While there are many reasons, such as lack of spaying or neutering and owners’ inability to care for their pets, the cycle is only worsened by the continual breeding of animals for sale in pet stores.
Other, more exotic creatures are facing similar negative consequences. However, instead of ending up in shelters, many are set loose by owners who cannot care for their specific needs. Snakes, iguanas, and many other reptiles often fall victim to this. Owners don’t realize the true work that caring for such a pet entails and end up abandoning them in the wild. Some die, some reproduce and end up becoming a threat to native wildlife, yet, these creatures continue to be bred on a massive scale for sale in pet stores.
The true question is why buy when you can adopt? There are animal shelters such as the Humane Society all over the country. The animals in the shelters are young and old, they are big and small, they are sleek and scruffy, and they all have their own personalities. But the most important thing is that they all desire a home, a person to love and be loved by. They are facing loneliness and euthanasia if no one adopts them. And while they may not all be purebred or puppies, there are upsides to this. They tend to have fewer health problems, some extent of training, and are used to being around people. For more exotic animals, there are places such as the Wildlife Care Center (WCC), which rehabilitate injured wildlife. If the animal is not native to Florida or cannot be released because of injury, they are often put up for adoption. From pigs, bunnies, prairie dogs, hedgehogs, reptiles, and more, you can choose the animal perfect for you while making their lives exponentially better.
Often, shelter animals have faced abuse, injuries, and loneliness, problems which can only be cured by a human companion’s love. If these animals are not adopted, they face lives of unimaginable misery. Rather than buying animals from pet stores, where they are bred in cruel conditions and mass produced to the point of overpopulation, look past the storefront windows and see these stores for what they truly are: operations of cruelty and torture. Now, if you truly want to call yourself an animal lover, do the right thing and adopt; the animals will thank you for it.