The number of people who own pets in the United States is growing every day. According to National Pet Owner Survey 2019-2020, “about 85 million American families (or 67%) own some kind of pet.” Due to a high demand for pets, the pet and pet care industry has become a huge market. In 2021, the market was worth 232 billion dollars, and is estimated to have a compound annual growth rate of 6.1%. Unfortunately, people are taking advantage of this market and sacrificing safe and ethical animal husbandry to continue making money. Most of these animals end up being sold in pet stores in the United States.
How many times have you walked into a pet store and seen dozens of colorful fish floating around in tiny plastic tubs? If you’ve ever been to a pet store, chances are you’ve witnessed animal abuse, whether you noticed it or not. The truth is that pet stores often don’t care or lack the resources and knowledge to care for the animals they sell. According to PETA“Common problems in the pet industry include the sale of sick and injured animals, failure to provide proper veterinary care, keeping animals in unsanitary conditions, and the use of inhumane methods to dispose of sick animals. or unwanted.”
The provenance of animals in pet stores is also a major concern. Pet stores often get their animals from mills and backyard breeders. The term “mill” refers to the production of any species of animal in large-scale breeding operations. According to PAWS, mills and backyard herders confine animals to small cages and force them to live in filthy and unsanitary conditions. Animals that are no longer usable in their operations are abandoned or killed. Animals raised in these situations often end up with behavioral problems. There is at least 10,000 pet factories operating in the United States today.
Here in Athens, Ohio, stores such as Petland and PetSmart also engage in these horrible practices. PetSmart has been cited several times for animal neglect and animal abuse. Petitions also made the rounds to stop PetSmart from selling live animals in their stores. Petland also faced backlash for being one of largest retailers of puppy mill dogs and often has customers who complain about the conditions of the dogs they received. This company also has a feature film investigative report where 60% of reports were of serious violations of basic animal care regulations.
At both of these stores, students often head for the adorable dogs and cats that seem well cared for. At Petland, they sport clean, white cages with toys, treats, clean water, and plenty of food. However, people often neglect the treatment of their small animals.
In six small bins, they house ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters. Each cage is overcrowded, containing animals that are solitary in nature and overly stressed by their conditions.
The best way to combat the animal abuse that occurs at pet stores, backyard breeders, and mills is to adopt from shelters or even reputable breeders. Adopting from shelters also solves other problems. In terms of finance, shelters cost approximately $50 to $200 unlike stores that sell animals for thousands. Adoption also reduces the number of euthanasia animals and opens up space in shelters for other homeless pets. Instead of perpetuating a cycle of abuse, people who adopt will save money and help more than the animal they give a home to.
When it comes to small animals, including mammals and reptiles, not all shelters will have them. In these cases, it is perfectly fine to contact a reputable breeder. According to Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA, a responsible breeder will be one who is informative, open, caring and loving towards his animals. Large breeders will also request welfare checks to ensure that their animals return to a responsible owner.
A companion cannot be bought. Every animal deserves to be treated with respect and love. Unfortunately, animals have no voice, so it is our responsibility to speak on their behalf and advocate for their better treatment and better quality of life. It’s time to hold businesses and pet stores accountable for the treatment of animals. It’s time for the American people to stop giving money to backyard breeders and animal mills and boycott irresponsible pet stores. We need to stop this cycle of abuse.
So please: Adopt, don’t buy.
Katie Trott is a junior creative writing student at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The post office. What are your thoughts? Tell Katie by emailing her at [email protected].