By Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor
You might have seen the story circulating around Twitter recently about a girl who stole 24 dogs that were about to be euthanized from an animal shelter, was arrested and then was released with clearance to keep the dogs.
That story would be pretty awesome – a heroine for poodles and pit bulls everywhere – if only it were true. It turns out that the story was fabricated online as a prank and never actually happened.
But, it still brings up an important issue that should be discussed, especially as the holidays are nearing and parents or friends are deciding whether to select a wiggling, fuzzy friend as the perfect present. According to Learning to Give, out of the nearly 165 million cats and dogs that shared our homes in 2008, only 35 percent of them were adopted from an animal shelter. This statistic hasn’t changed much up to today, where the Humane Society says only 37 percent have been adopted or rescued from a shelter.
According to the same Humane Society survey, the rest of the canines and felines prowling our homes and napping on our beds were acquired from either corporate pet stores or high-end breeders. Considering that American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) states that there are over 7.6 million companion pets entering the shelter system each year, we should shift our buying habits and open our hearts to these wagging tails first.
A major reason why potential pet owners browse pet store aisles or call expensive breeders rather than opt for rescuing is because they are looking for a specific dog breed that they believe will fit their family or lifestyle the best. To be fair, there aren’t a lot of Goldendoodles or Puggles running around Animal Friends.
However, this doesn’t mean that adopting from a shelter isn’t worthwhile. In fact, rescuing a four-legged friend is going to have a much more substantial impact on everyone than picking up a kitten from the pet store would.
According to the ASPCA, the majority of the 13,600 animal shelters across the United States are severely underfunded, and purchasing a pet from a place like the Humane Society would not only help support them financially, but it would also free up space so that other dogs could have a chance at finding their forever homes, too.
While shelters like Animal Friends here in Pittsburgh and the Humane Society are considered “no-kill,” where animals are not euthanized to make space, 2.7 million cats and dogs are killed each year at other shelters simply because there isn’t enough space for them all. If everyone picking out a pet for their loved one this holiday season chose rescue over retail, that number could be slashed significantly.
Not to mention, a larger influx of monetary support to animal shelters across the nation would also help to eradicate the number of puppy mills popping up across the nation. The Humane Society states that there are currently over 10,000 puppy mills operating in the U.S. – that’s just a handful away from the number of shelters there are.
Puppy mills are defined by the Humane Society as “inhumane commercial dog breeding facilities that may sell puppies in pet stores, online or directly to the public.” They are known for their cruel treatment of dogs and their general disregard for the animal’s health, both physical and emotional. Puppy mill dogs are often sold to places like Petland, where they are resold to consumers oftentimes for over $1,000. In comparison, rescuing a dog from Animal Friends ranges from $75 to $125, depending on the age of the canine.
If you’re looking to pick a pooch with which to surprise someone under the Christmas tree this year, please adopt from a local animal shelter. If you’re not looking for a new companion but still want to support, consider donating or volunteering.
Either way, the animals will thank you, one wet nose at a time.