If there's one thing I have a passion for, it's animals (and Ben Affleck -- he is a god), and with the recent hurricane that has displaced many of them, they are on my mind. It may be concern that I’m feeling, but it quickly turns to anger.
It always starts innocently enough. I scroll through my Facebook updates to see what my friends are up to, I see a photo of an adorable puppy, read the description, “Just picked up this cutie from the breeder” -- and then it happens. My face gets hot, my stomach drops and the rage begins. I am judging that person for buying their dog.
While my love for animals guides my opinions on several topics (eating meat, wearing fur, etc.), I am generally pretty calm about other people's beliefs. But it’s the willful ignorance toward dog breeding that sends me over the edge.
Conversations with others usually start in agreement when someone says, “Puppy mills are the worst. It’s pure torture, and you’re a monster if you buy from them.” But inevitably, it follows: “I mean, it’s only OK if you’re buying from a legit breeder who is nice to the dogs.” No. No, no, no, no, no. NO!
To me, the only acceptable form of becoming a dog or cat owner is through adoption (or divine intervention). It's not that I think all breeders are out to hurt dogs (although most purebreds come with a list of health problems), I just don’t see how someone can feel good about buying or selling furry family members when there are so many out there who need good homes. Here are some of the reasons I have heard for buying pets:
1. I grew up with a [specific breed of dog], and I really want one now.
Fantastic! Go adopt one! Even a quick trip to PetSmart on Saturday will show you that every once in a while a purebred will come through. Another option is to find a rescue group for a particular breed you're looking for. Puppy mills continue to be shut down, and as a result, those purebred pups need a home.
2. I want a puppy that I can start training from a young age.
Puppies are adorable. But for similar reasons listed above, this doesn't mean you can't use a shelter in your quest for the perfect pup.
3. I want to know what kind of personality I will get.
Well, friend, that's just not going to happen. Sure, you can get a sense of what a particular breed has historically been known for, but it doesn't always work out that way. Furthermore, most shelters want you to love your dog and are willing to let you have a trial run with them before fully committing.
4. My friend once adopted a dog, and it was aggressive.
It's very true that some of the dogs that come through shelters have been abused or put in situations that have turned them aggressive. But isn't that sad? Not only have they had shitty lives, but now it's a reason people use to not bring them into their homes. I'm grateful to organizations like Pets Alive and Best Friends Animal Society that rehabilitate aggressive animals.
5. I want to breed my dog with another, so I can sell the puppies for money.
Well then, you are an asshole, and I have no use for you.
Part of the reason I feel so passionately about pet adoptions has to do with the sad stories I come across. I once passed a shelter that had a 13-year-old beagle up for adoption. I asked the adoption counselor what his story was. "His family gave him up. They had him his whole life but his old age started affecting his bladder, so they decided to get a puppy." It's in moments like this that I wish bodily harm on others.
As a bona fide cat lady (I have three cats, which equates to 20 when you live in an NYC apartment), I can tell you from experience that adopted pets are some of the most loyal family members you will ever come across. My cat Supertramp (named for Chris McCandless, NOT the band) has become my protector. Even when my husband and I are joking around, if he so much as raises his voice to me, she will run over and start climbing up my body to get my attention until I tell her it’s okay.
So, if you or anyone you know are looking to add to your family, think of adopting. And if you’re in the New York area, please help these animals who are in urgent need.