Ac­quire dogs, cats re­spon­si­bly

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION -

We don’t take plea­sure in the clos­ing of Pet­land, a re­tailer that sold dogs, cats and other pets. The busi­ness was a fran­chise of an Ohio-based chain, but it was lo­cally owned. When it shut it doors ear­lier this month, about 20 peo­ple lost their jobs, ac­cord­ing to store of­fi­cials, and those folks now must seek work in a down econ­omy.

But there is a sil­ver lin­ing: Two years of protests of the store by some Austin res­i­dents helped fo­cus at­ten­tion on the in­hu­mane prac­tices of puppy mills. Ear­lier this month, the Austin An­i­mal Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion voted to ask the Austin City Coun­cil to ban sales of dogs and cats in stores be­cause of con­cerns that such an­i­mals come from puppy mill op­er­a­tions. Pet­land, which would have been the only store af­fected by the pro­posed ban, had said it bought only from breed­ers who met USDA stan­dards.

The clos­ing of Pet­land has the po­ten­tial to boost adop­tions at the Town Lake An­i­mal Cen­ter. Now that Austin has passed an or­di­nance that bans the prac­tice of eu­th­a­niz­ing healthy an­i­mals, we urge Austin res­i­dents to turn to the shel­ter as its first choice for get­ting the fam­ily pet. We also rec­om­mend other non­prof­its, such as the Austin Hu­mane So­ci­ety or Austin Pets Alive, as good or­ga­ni­za­tions from which to adopt dogs and cats.

Those who pre­fer to do busi­ness with work­ing breed­ers would be wise to do their home­work and buy from those that are af­fil­i­ated with the Amer­i­can Ken­nel Club (AKC) so as to avoid puppy mills.

If the Austin coun­cil mem­bers ap­prove a city­wide ban on re­tail sales of dogs and cats, Austin would be­come the largest U.S. city to ban such sales, Amer­i­can-States­man writer Clau­dia Grisales re­ported in story pub­lished in the July 18 edi­tions. In do­ing so, Austin would join West Hollywood, Calif.; Fort Laud­erdale, Fla.; Al­bu­querque, N.M.; and Lake Ta­hoe, Nev.; which have sim­i­lar bans in place. El Paso and San Fran­cisco also are con­sid­er­ing bans, ac­cord­ing to David Lund­st­edt, vice chair­man of the an­i­mal ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion.

Pass­ing such an or­di­nance is a good step in ad­dress­ing the prob­lems of puppy mills, of­ten a source of dogs for re­tail­ers. The Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for the Pre­ven­tion of Cru­elty to An­i­mals de­fines a puppy mill as any “large-scale com­mer­cial dog breed­ing op­er­a­tion where profit is given pri­or­ity over the well-be­ing of the dogs.”

Be­cause the fo­cus is on vol­ume and the mo­tive is profit, cor­ners are cut. M.A. Crist of the Depart­ment of Small An­i­mal Clin­i­cal Ser­vices at Texas A&M Uni­ver­sity’s Col­lege of Vet­eri­nary Medicine said the in­dis­crim­i­nate breed­ing that oc­curs at puppy mills makes an­i­mals more prone to hered­i­tary health prob­lems, which can in­clude par­vovirus, ken­nel cough, mange and fleas. Also, dirty, crowded ken­nels and other in­hu­mane con­di­tions cre­ate be­hav­ioral prob­lems for pup­pies that aren’t well so­cial­ized, and pups re­moved from their moth­ers and lit­ter­mates too early can de­velop to bit­ing prob­lems.

Again, we’re not cel­e­brat­ing the loss of a lo­cal busi­ness. Those em­ploy­ees have valu­able skills, and we hope that Austin com­pa­nies will hire them. But the an­i­mal shel­ter and non­profit cen­ters that care for stray and home­less dogs and cats are still open for busi­ness.

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