Everyone had a horror story.
Those who gathered at the Rhode Islanders Against Puppy Mills protest on Sunday at Rumford Pets in Warwick were there to spread a message. “Don’t shop, adopt.”
But why? What’s wrong with buying a cute, fluffy puppy from a pet store? It’s not the act of buying a new dog that’s wrong; it’s what happens before and after the purchase.
After you buy a puppy, another shelter dog loses its chance of finding a forever home. That dog, if left unnoticed, could be put to sleep. Roughly 5 million animals are euthanized every year in the United States, a number that animal advocates cringe to hear.
And then there’s before. Before you buy a dog, the dog must be bred. Commonly, pet stores obtain their dogs from puppy mills, mass-breeding grounds where animals are kept in cages, piled on top of one another, for the entirety of their lives.
On Sunday, protestors handed out pamphlets to interested passersby. The fliers had pictures of neglected, injured, sick and filthy dogs that were being bred for their “purebred” babies. The horror stories were stomach churning. Dogs that had untreated, painful medical conditions; dogs that required c-sections and were instead left to die giving birth to oversized puppies; dogs born deaf and without eyes that were bred for puppies to be sold in pet shops around the country.
Of course there are reputable breeders out there that take care of their dams and sires. But the protesters weren’t there to combat those small, backyard enterprises. They were there to spread awareness about the mass-production of companion animals.
Puppy mills are often USDA certified and inspected, and many dogs from these mills receive American Kennel Club (AKC) certifications for a fee. Protestors say the puppy mills aren’t in it for the health, well-being or safety of the animals, but for a hefty profit.
And it’s the local pet stores that are ensnared in the middle of this hot-button issue. Opponents of puppy mills don’t want to shut down pet stores; they want these shops to sell adoptable animals, and prevent the euthanasia of 5 million companion animals each year. They want to put an end to the ongoing cruelty that these purebred dogs experience.
The photos were heartbreaking and the stories were sickening, but what happens in these puppy mills cannot be ignored forever. Most of the mills operate in mid-western states, but the dogs come here to Rhode Island stores.
It’s possible to make a difference, and the protesters know it. Spread awareness, adopt before you shop and help to make the horror stories come to an end.