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Having a dog is a great joy. Although there are a lot of responsibilities to having one, we humans tend to grow overly attached to our furry friends. We even become depressed when they pass away and we somehow regret all the times we complained about the inconveniences of having a dog. Given the choice, we’d clean up their poo a million more times just to see them again.
But, have you ever thought of the origin of your beloved pet? More importantly, are you aware of how your local pet shop operates? In this article, I will be covering the whole process of how a pet shop acquires its product (the dog), and what happens during the course of business. Please read this article all the way till the end as what is written in the second half of this article is something many are unaware of.
I had the opportunity to speak to the owners of some local pet shops in Singapore and they were not at all secretive about how they ran their business. Before I continue, I will have to mention that I do not speak for all pet shops. However, the logic behind what I am going to write about makes me feel that all of them operate the same way. It is up to you to come up with your own conclusion.
Where do the Dogs Come From, and How Do They Operate
This is something most of you might already know, but I will still write about it in order for this article to be a complete story.
Most (if not all) of the dogs from your local pet shop come from puppy mills. Puppy mills are no different from a factory producing products to be sold. After all, dogs are products of pet shops. The main aim of a puppy mill is to breed and produce as many cute puppies as possible, with the shortest amount of time, and at the lowest possible cost.
They basically do so by getting a beautiful and pure bred adult female to go through continuous cycles of pregnancy and birth. This is usually done until the mother dog dies of exhaustion or illness. It is also done with the hope that the puppies will inherit the good aesthetic qualities of their mother.
That being said, reputable breeders still do exist. They are not as profit driven and they do follow a certain set of standards.
Maintaining a Low Cost
Just like any other factory or retail shop, managing their expenses and overheads are also a priority for puppy mills or breeding farms. Therefore, the dogs they breed are given little to no care or medical attention. They also do not see a need to maintain the cleanliness and hygiene of the mill as it will be an extra cost that is very significant. Having the dogs live and sleep with their own poo and pee will be a common sight. As a result, these dogs suffer and die from various illnesses very easily.
What Happens After Birth
A female dog typically gives birth to a litter of puppies. The rut of each litter is usually put to sleep or left to die because it is seen by the breeder as defective goods. The remaining puppies that are born healthy and fine will be put up for sale to the pet shops. For those that cannot be sold, they are also usually left to die or put to sleep as well. Reason being, keeping them alive means they have to be fed and looked after, which is a cost to them.
At the Pet Shop
Now, here comes the interesting part that I think many of you are not aware of.
Upon Arrival at the Pet Shop
Many years ago, puppies from Australia were very popular among Singaporeans. Local pet shops could charge a significantly higher price for puppies that were bred in Australia. They have a more admirable coat of fur and usually looked cuter than the locally bred ones.
The Australian breeders would send images to the Singaporean pet shop owners via e-mail, who will then reply them with what they have decided on. The selected puppies are then imported to Singapore, and delivered to the shop.
Most of the pet shop owners I spoke to mentioned that there were times whereby the puppies delivered were not cute enough. This problem of inaccuracy soon became a big problem and they decided to purchase their puppies locally to minimise the risk of not being able to sell the puppy. This way, shop owners could exercise greater control by visiting the farm to physically view the puppy.
Puppies That Cannot Be Sold
Just like any other product, puppies do become obsolete too. This happens when they are of a certain age that will deter customers from purchasing them. Would you pay S$4,000 for a 9 month old Golden Retriever? I think we all know the answer to that question. Customers will only purchase puppies that are at a maximum age of 6 months old. The younger the better.
According to the pet shop owners I spoke to, they usually slash the price each time the puppy becomes a month older. By the time it is 9 months to 1 year old, the poor puppy will be seen as an obsolete product, unwanted by any buyer.
Every additional month that the pet shop has to maintain and feed the puppy is not only regarded as a cost, but is highly labour intensive too. By the time the puppy reaches an age of 9 months, the money they had invested in it would probably be equal to or more than the amount they are selling it for.
So, what happens now when the puppy is unwanted by both shop and buyer?
It is sadly put to sleep. Can you imagine how many puppies are put to sleep every single time an inaccurate order comes in from Australia?
Q: Why put them to sleep? Can’t you just have it up for adoption or sell it at a loss? It beats paying more money to end the lives of beautiful living things that can bring joy to families and even singles.
A: They could have it up for adoption, give it away, or sell it at a loss. However, if members of the public become aware of this practice, no one will purchase a puppy from a retailer anymore. They will just wait for a few months, and adopt it F.O.C. These pet shops also usually have a special rate with the vet when they have to euthanize their puppies.
Being an owner of a pet shop seems stressful. One of the shop owners I spoke with told me that she is already numb when it comes to putting puppies to sleep. She used to feel horrible initially, but as the years passed, it just became something she had to do. She now does her part by only choosing to sell extremely cute puppies that she is absolutely certain of selling.
This problem will always be present as a pet shop is nonetheless a business and it will always operate like one. The least we can do as dog lovers is to adopt instead of buy, and create a voice to proclaim that we do not appreciate such practices. I am currently doing a mini project on how we can find out whether or not the puppy came from a reputable breeder who makes it a point to emphasise the minimum standards of care for their puppies. If this can be established, we can still happily purchase pure bred puppies from retail shops.
A good next step would be to encourage pet shops to purchase their dogs from breeders who observe acceptable practices. I can understand their unwillingness to do so as to them, there is no point in purchasing something that has a higher cost price.
Thank you for reading this article. Do stay tuned for my next article whereby I will create a list of dog shelters in Singapore, and also share with you a story of a particular shelter that I am very fond of.