Animal shelters across the country are gearing up for the first "Clear the Shelters" event Saturday as NBC and Telemundo stations team up with shelters to help find homes for pets in need.
Thousands of animals in the Philadelphia region are awaiting new homes in shelters, although people continue to frequent pet stores when looking for a new addition to their family. Many pet store puppies come from large pet breeding operations or puppy mills, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
We spoke to New Jersey veterinarian, author, and avid animal rescuer, Dr. Judy Morgan about the benefits of adopting an animal.
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How does the owner benefit from rescuing an animal from a shelter?
"Animals coming from a puppy mill also come with a number of medical issues. They suffer a lot of orthopedic and immune system problems. When you get a dog that’s been rescued, nine out of 10 times their medical issues have been taken care of from the rescue group and they’ve already been spayed or neutered. When you buy animals born in a puppy mill, none of their issues have been addressed.
"Also with a lot of the small rescue groups, those dogs have spent time at a home, so you have a clue of what you’re getting. The shelters will also test the animals’ temperaments, so they aren’t going to put an aggressive dog up for adoption. I’ve had 8-week-old puppies come out of a pet store already aggressive, which could be genetic or due to mistreatment. These animals come out fearful because they’ve never been socialized. Shelters and rescue groups try to match the owner to the pet because they don’t want the pet coming back to the shelter."
What is your past experience with puppy mills?
"I’ve come across a lot of puppy mills in Lancaster, Pennsylvania run by Amish people who use it as a great moneymaker. Not to say there isn’t a number of other puppy mills in different locations that can be run by anybody. Once when investigating a puppy mill, I came across 160 dogs in a single-wide trailer. Through a GoFundMe page we were able to raise half a million dollars, then at an auction we saved almost 1,000 dogs from a top breeder. Breeders normally go in over their heads when breeding dogs, which results in horrible animal mistreatment."
How are the animals being sold in pet stores affected when coming from a puppy mill?
"I see too many puppies with health problems coming from pet stores. Some of these puppy mills have 500 to 1,000 dogs, so there’s no way the dogs are getting veterinary care. They have never been groomed, never had dental care and never been outside. They don’t know how to walk because they’ve never walked in their entire lives. These are the reasons why people need to rescue these animals. It doesn’t matter what their medical issues are, they deserve a chance."
Do puppy mills face certain regulations that prevent abuse toward these animals?
"A lot of states don’t regulate puppy mills because cats and dogs are considered livestock. Most of the dogs in puppy mills spend their entire lives in cages. These cages are normally up in the air, stacked on one another, which is worse because then these animals defecate on the cages below them. I always ask pet stores “Why don’t you put rescue pets in your window?” and you can still charge a fee for adopting, instead of supporting the puppy mills."
Help "Clear the Shelters" by adopting a pet at your local participating shelter on August 15.