Sunday, May 15, 2011

Adopt--Don't Shop

I joined Toastmasters a few months ago. It's a group that helps people become better at public speaking. Of the 15 or so members of this particular group--it's an international organization with groups all over--I'm vegan and two others are vegetarian. Still more are dog lovers.

I've decided to share my second speech with you. I gave it a couple of weeks ago. My next speech will be on the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and I'll post that here after I give it.

This speech was titled "Adopt--Don't Shop." Enjoy!

In the first speech I gave at Toastmasters, I mentioned that my husband and I share our home with three dogs. But in my nervousness I forgot to mention that all three of our dogs are rescue dogs. That doesn’t mean that they’re trained to find people in a collapsed building or in the wilderness--or that they’re superheroes. For Poncho, Cooper, and Snickers, work means going outside to use the bathroom. What I mean by rescue dogs is that Keith and I adopted them from animal shelters or rescue groups instead of purchasing them at a pet store.

I'm sure you all know that song "How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?" Well, the actual cost of that puppy at the pet store is higher than the dog's monetary value. Puppies and kittens in pet stores, like Petland, come from puppy mills. At puppy mills female dogs are confined to cages and are kept pregnant, churning out litter after litter, to be shipped off to pet stores. When the breeding dogs' fertility wanes, they're often killed, abandoned, or sold cheaply to another mill to try to get one more litter out of the dogs.

I used to foster dogs for a rescue group, and you would not believe the physical and emotional states of the dogs who came from puppy mills. These were breeder dogs who would have been shot if the rescue group wouldn't have taken them in. The mill owners had used them until their bodies were spent. They were no longer profitable, so they were expendable. Their fur had to be cut short because it'd be matted with urine and feces. They smelled awful. But the worst thing was how afraid some of these dogs were. For example, one of my fosters, who I named
Straggles, was scared to walk outside because she'd never been on grass before. Most dogs at puppy mills spend their whole lives in wire cages. And, of course, she was scared of people. The one bright spot is that, after these dogs are given some love and some time, most make dramatic recoveries. Straggles, while still timid, was adopted by a couple who had another dog whom Straggles took to.

It's understandable why people buy puppies from pet stores. Who can resist a cute, wiggling dog who flashes his puppy eyes at you? Some people also rationalize their purchase by saying that the puppy needed a home just like a dog in a shelter does. But by purchasing that puppy, that person has created demand for another puppy to take its place. So the puppy mill will continue cranking out more puppies. It’s a never-ending cycle unless we stop patronizing these stores.

Animal shelters take in six million to eight million dogs and cats each year, and half of those are euthanized because there simply aren't enough resources to care for them. Most of these animals are healthy and adoptable. But when someone decides to purchase a dog or cat from a pet store, that leaves one fewer good home for an animal who really needs it.

My husband and I adopted Cooper from a humane society back in Illinois. He was 2 years old and housebroken. He's a miniature pinscher/Chihuahua mix. We adopted Poncho--a Chihuahua/rat terrier mix--from a rescue group in Illinois that specializes in placing older dogs and cats. Adopting an older animal was perfect for me because he was past the hyper stage of being a puppy or young dog. He is content to lie on my lap and nap while I read. But if you want a puppy, shelters and rescue groups have those, too.

Like I said, both Cooper and Poncho are mixed breeds. But if your heart is set on a purebred, you can find those in shelters, too. About a quarter of all dogs in shelters are purebreds. Another great place to find purebreds is a breed-rescue group. There are organizations across the country that each specialize in one particular breed. Snickers is a Cairn terrier whom I adopted from a breed-specific rescue. Some organizations even allow you to foster a dog for a while to see if he or she is a good fit for your household.

Older dogs have a more difficult time getting adopted than younger ones. Oddly large black dogs also have a hard time. Maybe it's because they seem scary. Maybe it's because they don’t photograph as well as lighter-colored dogs. Shelters often run one or two photos of their animals in Sunday newspapers.

The same is true about black cats; shelter workers will tell you that the other colored cats get scooped up first. Like black dogs, perhaps black cats don’t photograph as well. Their low adoption rates could also be due to the superstition that black cats bring bad luck.

Keith and I don't share our home with any cats right now. But sometime in the future we'd like to. When we do, we’ll get two of them, so they have someone to play with when we're not home. We’ll adopt them from a shelter or rescue group, and at least one will be black.

It's easy to locate shelters and rescue groups nearby. There are several shelters in the Georgetown area. In fact, you've probably seen two of them at local festivals. The Georgetown Animal Shelter is, of course, in Georgetown, and the Humane Society of Williamson County is located in Leander. is also a great resource to find shelters and rescue groups. Just type in your ZIP code, and you'll be surprised at the numerous organizations from which you can adopt. You can also search by the type of animal, the breed, the age, the gender. It's very user-friendly.

If you want to open your heart and your home to an animal in need, instead of purchasing one from a pet store, please consider adopting from a rescue group or from your local animal shelter.

1 comment:

veganelder said...

Bravo and applause! ...excellent speech/essay...thank you for sharing.