Why Pet Shops Deserve to Go the Way of the Dodo
If I were queen of this fair land I would hire animal welfare specialists to enforce the animal-advocacy laws that currently live within our codes — yet are sparsely and witheringly applied in defense of our animals. In so doing, I'd effectively shutter 99 percent of the pet stores in the U.S. Good riddance!
While you may cheer me on in my fanciful musings, I've got more than a few clients who believe pet shops serve a crucial purpose: ensuring their near instantaneous access to "purebreds" at better-than-Internet prices.
So went a conversation last week with one of my less than stellar clients. After she'd spent $1,000 on curing her coughing "schnoodle" breed, which came with a severe overbite (one that that will likely necessitate dental extractions of his mandibular canines so they don't poke holes into the roof of his mouth), she got upset when I tried to reassure her that she was not alone:
"Nearly every pet shop pup offers veterinarians special challenges like these," I said.
She didn't warm to the implication that she'd made a bad decision. Which is why she dug in her heels and offered me this gem: How else is someone supposed to source a purebred puppy and not pay a mint? "I mean, they cost twice as much when you buy them online, and you can't even return the puppy if it's sick," she cleverly retorted.
Not that she was planning on returning her not-so-pristine specimen. She is in for the long-haul — kennel cough, future oronasal fistulas and all. Which is a very good thing, I would agree. Still, I would have been more gratified if she’d redirected some of her moral indignation to it's rightful recipient: Puppies-R-Us.
So I tried it this way:
"Pet shops are chronic offenders when it comes to treating animals like inanimate inventory. Which is why there are laws that will help people like you get some of your money back when the pups you buy are sick.
The more people like you speak out against pet shops that sell sick and genetically deformed puppies, the more regulatory oversight these shops will get treated to. And that can only be a good thing for the welfare of the animals involved in this kind of trade."
This didn't work. She kept concentrating on the words "sick and genetically deformed" and she didn't like them. Not when applied to her pup. Much though I verbally backpedaled when it became clear I was not making myself well understood. (And here I was, thinking my gentle handling of the subject would sway her. I didn't even broach the puppy mill or importation issues!)
Oh well. Win some, lose some. Which got me to thinking that if only all these shops could get shut down I'd never have to have this uncomfortable conversation again. I would never find myself urging my clients to take their pet shop stories to the streets, to the shops, to our legislators and regulators. I wouldn't have to court their displeasure with the insinuation that better choices might have been made … choices that would have meant lots less sickness and suffering.
So yeah, I think pet shops should vanish into the past, much akin to smoking sections in airplanes and child-labor camps. Because much like these examples, nothing good can come of pet shops. For all the extra choices they offer for "sourcing" all those so-called purebred pets, I can think of ten good reasons why I'd rather they didn't exist. Check them out in today's USA Today column.
I'd also like to use this space to offer you the chance to tell me some of your reasons for wanting to see your local pet shops shuttered … or not, as the case may be. Tell me what's good about them, if you'd like.
Dr. Patty Khuly
Pic of the day: Cavalier King Charles Puppies at the Pet Store in Astoria 2 by ChrisGoldNY