I love animals, pretty much any animal that you put in front of me I will hold, pet and love on! Our daughter loves animals too, dogs are her favourite and every animal that she sees ‘woofs’ apparently. But it can be a common question among people trying to live as kindly as possible, is it ethical to keep pets? This answer varies based off of where exactly you are getting this creature from.
Sadly, many times animals come from breeders, where the goal is to sell as many animals as possible, in order to create the most profit. They do this in a few ways:
- The animals are kept in cages that are far too small and crowded, the more animals they can cram in, the more babies to sell.
- The cages are filthy, as cleaning that many crowded cages takes time and money.
- Often the animals are fed very little food and what they are fed is very poor quality and tends to not be a wholesome, breed specific diet.
- Because of the overcrowding, animals become sick and injured quite easily, but are very rarely (if ever) given vet care, as that would put a dent in their profit.
- Taking babies away from their mothers far too young is a common practice, as the smaller/fluffier/cuter the pet, the quicker and more likely they are to sell.
Regrettably, many years ago I worked in a Pet Store, before I knew any better. Although, I believe that working at that pet store is what opened by eyes to the cruelty that goes on behind closed doors. Very quickly after I started that job, I learned about the breeding industry and the fact that the pet store itself has profit at the top of their priority list. It wasn’t a surprise if when breeders brought animals to us, one or two mice or hamsters had died during transport, they were simply thrown in the garbage. It was common for dozens of fish to die per day, they were flushed or thrown in the garbage along with the fish that looked like they weren’t going to make it, but were still alive.
One time the store had a very sick hamster that the staff were told not to take to the vet, because it was too expensive, no one was even allowed to take him to be humanely euthanized. Instead, an employee of the company put that sick little hamster (that was still alive) into a plastic bag, placed him in the parking lot and ran over him with their car. The other way in which the employees would terminate sick animals, was to put them in a bucket of water with a lid and wait. None of these instances happened while I was working, and I felt sick when I found out what had happened. I was constantly feeling like I needed to work all day, every day, in order to make sure the animals stayed healthy and safe. Often, I would bring sick animals home with me and nurse them back to health, on my dime and on my time.
After seeing what went on in the pet sale industry, my mindset quickly changed and I dove head first into volunteering for animal rescues in my area. I would say that purchasing any animal or any pet supplies at all from a pet store that supports the breeding industry is NOT ethical. Even if the store only sells fish, those fish came from a breeder and studies show that fish in fact do have feelings and pain receptors, just like humans and other animals. Be wary, as some branches of certain pet store brands (such as Bosleys or Pet Valu) do not sell animals in every one of their stores, but some of their stores do sell animals and they are all owned by the same company. Also, do not be fooled by stores such as Pet Smart that have a ‘cat adoption center’, this is nice and everything, but have you seen all of the small animals and birds that they are also selling from breeders? Instead, go straight to the animal shelter itself to adopt your pet.
Adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue would be the only ethical way to keep a pet, as you are not supporting breeders and are giving a home to an animal who has been let down. Adopting has many benefits:
- The shelter staff become familiar with each animals personality, and can better recommend the perfect addition to your family.
- All animals are already spayed or neutered, up to date on their vet checks and microchipped or tattooed (in case they get lost).
- Shelter staff with keep in touch with you and are there to answer any questions or help in anyway, if needed.
- An adoption can cost as low as $10 for a small critter and range up to $200 for a dog (the above notes are included in the adoption price). Whereas purchasing from a pet store/breeder, you are paying $30 for a small critter and dogs can be well over $1000 (and you are financially responsible for having them spayed/neutered, checked over by the vet, they are not guaranteed to be healthy and you cannot seek out help from the provider if there is a problem).
- Approximately 1.5 million animals in the United States alone are euthanized each year, you are helping to save two lives by adopting; the animal you took home and the animal the shelter is able to rescue with the empty space you opened up.
- The best benefit is that you are opening up your home and your heart to an animal that was abandoned by their family, through no fault of their own.
I have fostered dozens of rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters, and I currently have two rabbits that I adopted, one from each other the rescues I volunteered for. I cannot tell you how helpful it is to the animal shelters to have people fostering! If you cannot afford to adopt, or are not 100% sure that you can commit to 10+ years with an animal, but have so much love to give and a cozy home to open up, I highly suggest fostering. It’s important to not only foster the young, cute and social animals, those are the ones that don’t have a problem getting adopted. Consider the older animals, who maybe have health problems (when fostering, the rescue pays for the vet bills and medication) and are a plain ‘boring’ colour, as these are the animals far less likely to be adopted. There are so many shelters with a variety of animals, there are even breed specific rescues and purebreds, all it takes is a little bit of searching and asking around. Look on www.petfinder.com to seek out an animal in need, you can even filter the options to be more specific.
Next time you are thinking of adding a new member to your family, or hear of someone who wants to purchase an animal, please be an advocate for those animals locked away in shelters and let down by humans. Don’t breed or buy while shelter pets die, opt to adopt.