We are often confronted with ideas and concepts that sound good when first heard. Then we start to think things through a little, letting some logic creep past our initial, often emotional reaction, and suddenly we realize that—wait a minute—maybe it’s not such a good idea after all.
We have all been in that position. I am one of the great gut-reaction people, and I have fallen into that trap enough to have finally installed at least a rudimentary filter. Taking a breath and thinking things out all the way to the logical conclusion is important. Unintended consequences are everywhere.
Most of you are way too familiar with some of the nice-sounding legislation that is currently being proposed at a rapidly increasing rate around the country. Animal rights activist groups keep selling the idea that the way to get rid of sub-standard breeders—I refuse to use the pejorative term puppy mills—is to simply ban the sale of puppies, which in many cases, for simplicity, just morphs into banning the sale of all pets.
The logic they put forward is that sub-standard breeders sell predominantly through pet stores; and since it is hard to actually go out, identify sub-standard breeders and then put them out of business, if you eliminate the source of their sales, then you will get rid of them. Sound logical? Well, regretfully, to an ever-growing number of state and local legislators who don’t seem to spend a whole lot of time thinking critical—unless of course it will lead to larger contributions to their campaign funding—it does.
Let’s dig just a little bit deeper and see where following the trail of passing such legislation logically leads. So, we ban the sale of dog—let’s not even go to the effect of a total pet sale ban—in pet stores. For the vast preponderance of quality pet stores that currently sell puppies, there is little to no involvement with sub-standard breeders. It is not at all in their best interest from a purely business and financial perspective. Nothing can be more fatal to a store than to be handling inferior animals. With the pervasive nature of social media, a smart store owner knows that selling poor quality puppies will kill his business—and quickly. People have shown little reluctance in spending whatever it takes to get the dog of their choice, so the need to get and sell cheap animals is not strong enough to overcome the potential harm to the business.
Since quality pet stores are almost exclusively using breeders that are supplying quality animals, it stands to reason that banning the sale of puppies in pet stores will have the largest impact on quality breeders, rather than sub-standard breeders. So, more quality breeders will close up shop, increasing the percentage of sub-standard breeders.
People are going to acquire dogs. According to the latest APPA National
Pet Owners Survey, almost 10 million dogs are acquired every year. Many come from friends and family. An increasing number come from shelters. But a lot still come from breeders—whether through pet stores or directly from the breeders. As more of the quality breeders close up their operations, it will not deter people from getting a dog.
Shelters alone are not the answer. In a recent study, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) indicated that about 1.6 million dogs are euthanized a year by shelters. Not all are healthy and adoptable, but assume for this argument that they all are. According to the latest APPA survey, 33 percent of dogs are acquired either through purchase at a pet store or directly from a breeder. That is about 3.3 million puppies. If quality breeders are knocked out of business, the current number of euthanized dogs will only replace half of this. Thus, if every dog possible in a shelter were adopted, there would still be a shortfall of almost two million dogs—every year.
If we continue to have legislation driving quality breeders out of business, where do you think the shortfall of new puppies will come from? It will come from sub-standard breeders, overseas illegal importation and the Internet. Somehow, this doesn’t sound in line with the “logic” being put forth by the animal rights activists driving misguided legislation around the country. Maybe it is time we started to help legislators and regulators start thinking things through a little bit and have them use logic and reason rather than just falling for what sounds good.
Bob Vetere is president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association. APPA is one of the organizers of Global Pet Expo (March 12-14, 2014 in Orlando, Fla.), the largest annual pet industry trade show in the world.