Q: I’ve read that you disagree with buying puppies at pet stores because they’re sometimes unhealthy and usually come from puppy mills, but how do you keep your friends and family from shopping there? My cousin recently bought a puppy at a pet store who was healthy at first but eventually died. It didn’t help that he neglected her. Same old story.
Since then, I’ve realized that almost everyone who buys pets at retail shops, especially during the holidays, is an impulse shopper. Is there anything that can be done to keep people from buying a living creature on a whim because they think it’ll look cute under the tree?
I’m thinking of a mandatory waiting period like they have with gun laws. Is that too extreme?
A: Extreme? More extreme than neglecting a pet so much that it dies? I don’t think so. But then, I’m in the minority. I’m also, however, in a unique position to observe, firsthand, the ravages of pet shop-related mistreatment and disease, not least of which occur when impulse buyers fail to meet their responsibilities as a result of poor preparation for the rigors of pet keeping.
Though it may be unpopular to say so, as a professional observer, it’s my impression that pet shop purchasers are far less prepared for pet ownership than shelter rescuers, Internet buyers or those who deal face-to-face with purebred breeders. In my experience, even those who find strays on the street and take them into their own homes tend to make better animal caretakers.
In fact, it’s undeniably obvious that irresponsible ownership is directly related to pet shop purchases. The convenience and attractiveness of foot traffic-friendly locations is certainly a factor, but as you’ve astutely pointed out, the holiday thing figures prominently (especially in the last week or two before Christmas). Impulse shopping is higher during this time of the year than any other.
So what’s a concerned observer to do after the fact? As a professional observer, it’s my job to instruct, not condemn. After all, it’s way too late once the puppy’s been sprung, beribboned, from the box. What’s more, if they make it to the vet’s at all (many don’t!), they’ve shown they’re willing to do things right going forward.
What should you do? Explain (calmly) where they went wrong (and why), and point them in the direction of your trusted veterinarian. That’s all you can do.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.