Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Primary Bane Against Pet Shops and Puppy Mills

(Picture Left: "Taco" -- 3-year-old, beautiful, but sad Chow now without a home. Taco and former owners victims of puppy mill and pet shop irresponsibility.)

Following the successful adoptions of a couple of our dogs two weeks ago, we briefly had a bit of breathing room.

But, that did not last long.

Boarding spaces were quickly filled with new dog rescues and the other day, I was requested from the shelter to take still another Chow.

"Taco" is a three-year-old, Chow Chow turned in as an "Owner Surrender" for some kind of incident involving the wife in the home.

In one of the rare cases where we actually are able to talk with the former owner, I was given the telephone number upon request.

I called and spoke with the husband, but communication was extremely difficult.

"Carmello" spoke with a heavy Spanish accent and the reception on his cell phone was terrible. It was like trying to have a conversation with a foreign person speaking from inside the Lincoln tunnel.

While I was not able to discern exactly what happened with Carmello's wife and the dog, the gentleman did communicate repeatedly that "Taco is a very, very good dog who we had since he was 8-weeks-old!"

The couple apparently bought Taco from a pet store.

Further information revealed that Taco was good with the family cat, but had not been exposed to much of anything else. The couple have an adult son, apparently don't entertain much at home and didn't socialize Taco with other dogs.

"He scared of other dogs," the man told me in broken English.

I got the feeling that it was the husband who was primarily attached to Taco, as he had fed the dog, walked and cared for him. "I love Taco and would never give him up! But, my wife not comfortable. She scared of the dog," Carmello told me.

Cases like these are difficult for a number of reasons:

First, you have a dog who was purchased from a pet shop at only 8-weeks of age. This means Taco most assuredly came from a puppy mill and was separated from the Mother and siblings too early in life (typically about 6-weeks of age or even younger.)

Cats, dogs and presumably other animals, (including humans) separated from their mothers too early in life tend to almost always have "insecurity" and fear issues, sometimes leading to aggression.

Quite often these animals will only trust one or two individuals. They generally have problems trusting and socializing with strangers and often other animals.

These problems tend to be magnified and/or exacerbated when the animal goes to a home where it is primarily one person caring for the cat or dog and there is little attempt to properly socialize the animal with strangers, kids, family members and other pets early on.

This might explain why Taco was "good with the cat" (who was already in the home when the couple bought Taco as a small puppy) but seemingly nervous and fearful with everything else -- other than the husband who loved and cared for the dog.

Taco's behavior in the shelter was all that we would expect under the circumstances (especially from a Chow):

Scared, wary and guarded.

I could not send this dog to a foster home (even if I had one.)

He needs to spend time with a trainer and get socialized around other dogs and people.

And even with all that, I could not be comfortable adopting Taco out to anything but an experienced Chow home without small children.

The good news is that the couple socialized Taco with cats and already had the dog neutered.

I write about this today primarily to illustrate the folly of ever buying animals from pet stores OR breeders who sell animals BEFORE 12-weeks of age.

One also has to add the same about adopting infant animals who have been separated from their Moms and siblings too early in life.

I realize of course, that in shelters and rescues, kittens and puppies often arrive without their Mothers and the facilities have no choice but to try and place the animals as expediently as they can.

But, those adopting very young puppies or kittens need to recognize the burden and responsibility of properly socializing and handling these animals immediately, as well as exposing them to members of their own species early on. This is why the more knowledgeable and responsible shelters and rescue groups ONLY adopt out small kittens either in pairs or to a home that already has another cat.

Over the years there have been many campaigns attempting to educate and discourage the public from buying animals from pet stores. The focus of these campaigns has mainly been the horrible and cruel conditions in puppy mills, as well as the abomination of adding still more animals to an already alarming pet overpopulation problem that results in millions of "surplus" cats and dogs killed in shelters each year.

But, no one ever talks about the (lack of) trust, confidence and insecurity issues of most infant animals torn from their mothers too early in life and either sold or adopted out to an unknowing and unsuspecting public.

In my early years in rescue, I rescued and fostered many Mom cats and their litters. I never adopted the kittens out until they were at least 4-months of age (16 weeks). By that time, they were happy, extremely well socialized and adjusted animals (with everything) who brought nothing but joy to their adopters.

That is the way animal placements should be done regardless of what the public wants or "demands." -- The public sadly doesn't know better.

The real and biggest weapon against pet shops and puppy mills (in my view) is that the baby animals have almost always been separated from their Moms and siblings BEFORE 8-weeks of age.

That is practically guaranteed to be a recipe for trouble down the line -- unless these animals are fortunate to be acquired by people who understand the socialization challenges ahead and actually take the necessary measures to meet them.

That did not happen with Taco much as his owners might have been caring and responsible in other ways, such as neutering and veterinary care.

We will now have our work cut out with Taco. -- PCA


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