For the Love of Pets, Give Consumers Choice
By Ed Sayres, PIJAC President & CEO
As of today, bans of pet store sales of dogs and cats that come from commercial breeders have been enacted or are pending in 77 municipalities and states around the country. As well intended as most of their advocates are, pet store sales bans are not the answer. These bans do nothing to significantly affect their intended target – unscrupulous breeders who mistreat animals – and they limit consumer choice, making it more difficult for people to find the right pet for their families.
It is true of course that some commercial and hobby breeders do not take proper care of their animals. While these sub-standard operators represent only a very small percentage of all breeders, they are giving the entire pet industry a bad name. The truth is that most breeders are getting it right. Many are not just meeting but exceeding humane standards of care with state-of-the-art facilities where puppies get the best veterinary care, a healthy diet, clean, spacious kennels and safe, comfortable transportation. These breeders are leading the way, serving as a model for others to replicate and educating their fellow breeders about how to adopt their best practices.
Given that fewer than 10 percent of all dog owners buy their dogs from pet stores, restricting pet store sales will do little to address the underlying problem of sub-standard breeders. Instead of putting the burden on small business owners who make up a significant portion of pet retailers, we should focus on breeders themselves to ensure that all of them are adhering to high standards for humane care.
Pet stores are good for consumers. The overwhelming majority of people who choose pet stores bring home a happy, healthy pet and are highly satisfied with their pet store experience. Almost all pet store puppies originate from USDA-licensed breeders who are regularly inspected and found to comply with appropriate care standards. By contrast, many of the dogs and cats from other sources, including back yard operators, one-off Internet sales and swap meets, do not come from licensed breeders.
Pet store puppies are as healthy as any others and typically receive more frequent veterinary care than puppies from other sources. In most states, consumers already enjoy far more protection under the law for the animals they get from pet stores than from any other source. Twenty-one states have pet warranty laws on the books that apply to animals purchased in pet stores but do not cover animals purchased from shelters or rescues.
In acquiring a pet, consumers should be able to choose among several reliable, quality sources, including pet stores. Because pet store sales bans limit where and how people can get a pet, they make it more difficult for them to find the pet that is the best fit for their family. As demand for pets continues to grow, consumers want to have choices – in terms of breed, size, age and other characteristics. Without a reliable, quality supply of pets subject to strict regulation and sourcing transparency, prospective pet owners will be driven to unscrupulous sellers of pets who are not licensed and are unconcerned about compliance with animal care standards.
Shelters can be an excellent source for pets, but it is not at all clear that pet store bans will lead to more shelter adoptions. As vital a role as shelters play, they alone cannot meet the increasing consumer demand for dogs. With three times the U.S. market share of pet stores, shelters naturally have a rather limited selection of puppies, especially small and hypoallergenic breeds that have become more popular. With different reasons for choosing the animals they do, families should have the greatest possible choice and not be denied the opportunity to find the pet that best fits their family’s requirements.
Despite all of the good intentions behind them, pet store sales bans are not the solution. To serve the best interests of both pets and people, we need to enforce standards that ensure the safety of animals, give consumers the choices they deserve and support the growth of responsible businesses that serve pets and their owners.