How Much is That Doggy in the Window?

It is THAT time of year. Adorable puppies with red bows tied around their necks leaping about in the local pet store window. Unsuspecting consumers find them irresistible and are eager to pay top dollar for the opportunity to surprise someone on Christmas morning with a cuddly pup under the tree. Sound perfect? The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) says, not so much.?

Two reasons: animals should not be purchased in pet stores; and animals should not be given as surprise gifts. Either way, hundreds of thousands of dogs suffer every year. First, The HSUS warns consumers not to buy a dog from a pet shop or over the internet where the animal most likely came from a "puppy mill"- a mass-breeding facility that subjects dogs to deplorable, inhumane conditions for profit. Mill dogs are more likely to suffer long-term behavioral and physical problems which may not be apparent right away and can ultimately cost the owner thousands of dollars in veterinarian bills, not to mention severe heartache.

The HSUS notes that every year, within a few months of the winter holidays, shelters start seeing the results of impulse buys showing up at their doors. This surge of additional animals makes a shelter’s task of finding homes for dogs that much more difficult.

According to expert Stephanie Shain, Director of Outreach for Companion Animals at The HSUS, "Pet stores – even virtual ones on the internet — cater to holiday impulse purchases, making buying a dog as easy as buying a toaster. Most of the puppies come from puppy mills, where they are generally kept in overcrowded cages with poor quality food, a lack of socialization, minimal medical care, and too many suffer from an array of immediate veterinary problems and long-term genetic problems. Dogs kept in puppy mills are bred over and over for years without human companionship and with little hope of ever joining a family. After they’re no longer profitable – no longer able to produce large litters of puppies — these dogs are killed or sold off at auction."

Second, The HSUS is warning consumers not to give a live animal as a gift. Shain says, "Please think twice before putting a dog under the tree. Animals come with major responsibilities, and the person receiving the ‘gift’ may not be prepared to provide for the dog’s care – financially, logistically and emotionally. Dogs are a very serious, long-term commitment and the decision to include one in your home – and family — should only come after careful consideration, and not as a surprise."

Unfortunately, a dog given as a surprise gift – particularly one purchased at a pet store or online – can ultimately end up being relinquished to an animal shelter due to the recipient’s lack of time or financial resources to raise an animal — sick or healthy. And these returns only add to the overpopulation crisis already existing in our nation’s animal shelters. Roughly 2 million dogs are euthanized every year because not enough people choose adopting a pet over buying one. The answer, according to The HSUS, is to save a life and adopt from your local animal shelter, where many wonderful pets are waiting for loving, permanent homes.

Shain explains: "Even for those seeking a purebred dog, one of every 4 dogs in animal shelters are purebred. People should always check their local shelter. Adopting from a shelter is a win-win because money is not the driving force of the transaction. Shelters put the animal’s welfare and health above everything else and only focus on the best match possible for a dog and family. They will never push a particular dog on you in order to make money."

For those insisting on an animal for a holiday gift, The HSUS recommends a gift certificate covering the adoption fee at a local shelter. Wrap the certificate up with a dog bowl or pet toys so there is something to actually unwrap. Not as cute as the puppy under the tree, but a wiser decision for the animal and the recipient and still exciting to open.

Other options for buying or adopting a dog are purebred rescue groups and compassionate dog breeders. To locate a group that specializes in particular breeds, contact your local animal shelter.

This news story is independently sourced and does not specifically endorse products or services offered by any company referenced in this article, or benefit from any association with any companies referenced.