Charlie didn’t have to die. He died because he was used as a commodity – the means for someone to make money. Whenever animals are bought and sold, they are vulnerable to abuse. Charlie’s story serves as a warning to anyone wanting to purchase a pet. Please adopt – never, ever buy animals. There are thousands of cats and dogs available through shelters and rescue groups. Every time a puppy or kitten is purchased from a pet store, an internet ad or a breeder, usually because someone wants a particular breed or size of animal, a homeless animal goes without a home. As long as there are homeless pets available for adoption, the Vancouver Humane Society feels that it’s unethical and cruel to breed more.
Charlie was purchased on the Internet, which is now the most common way that people obtain pets. His guardians were grieving the loss of a dear relative and thought that getting a puppy would help them heal. They looked on the Internet and found a breeder with a litter of 10-week-old puppies and they said they were healthy, with papers to prove they had their first vaccinations. Once they arrived and saw Charlie playing in the yard with his brothers and sisters, they joyfully paid for him and took him home. By the time Charlie’s guardians called VHS a few days later, he was a very sick little guy. They had taken him to an animal clinic because it was immediately obvious that he had a serious worm infestation. The vaccination documentation they had received from the breeders was fake, according to the doctor.
The kind veterinarian told them to watch carefully for signs of illness, as it was obvious to him that the puppy had not had his protective first shots, and he was having trouble fighting off the large number of worms in his digestive tract. Two days later, they rushed Charlie back to the clinic. During the night, Charlie had begun vomiting. The vet hooked him up to an IV, and tests were done. The news was bad – Charlie not only had a damaged kidney, but he had the dreaded Parvo virus. Parvo, short for parvovirus, is one of the most serious illnesses a dog can get, and Parvo in puppies is especially deadly. It was likely that all the puppies as well as the mother were seriously ill. His guardians were devastated. They called the breeder and left message after message, but their calls were not returned. By now, they were not only running out of hope, they were running out of money. That’s when they called VHS in desperation. That’s when VHS stepped in to try and save Charlie’s life. There is no cure. Veterinarians can only treat the symptoms which include severe vomiting and diarrhoea. In spite of every possible intervention, he passed away just short of his 12-week birthday. The growth of the internet has caused a proliferation of ads selling pets. Some of them even offer to bring the animal to you.
After watching Charlie die, this makes all of us at VHS sick at heart. What kind of person sells an animal and delivers it, like a piece of furniture? We look forward to the day when no animal is bought or sold. But it won’t stop as long as there is a demand. Please adopt, don’t buy. A life just may depend on it. (The Vancouver Humane Society does not operate a shelter. We work on the underlying problems of animal abuse and assist in practical and positive change. )
Buying animals on the Internet Charlie’s story is a sad example of what can happen when people try to buy animals on the Internet. The Internet provides backyard breeders and puppy mills with anonymity and allows them to avoid accountability when they sell sick and mistreated animals. They are in it for profit and only care about selling their “product” quickly. There are no laws regulating who can breed or inspections of breeding facilities. Online sellers will sometimes pose as Good Samaritans trying to find homes for animals; they will say that the animals have health certificates and kennel club registration papers; they will say anything to encourage an impulse purchase. Don’t be fooled. Buying an animal online not only puts you at risk of being sold a sick animal, it helps an immoral industry that causes widespread animal suffering. And remember, the risk doesn’t just apply to buying puppies. All online animal sales are unregulated, including, kittens, rabbits, hamsters and most exotic species. (The same applies to sales in newspaper classified advertising.) Here are some examples of what can happen when people buy animals on the Internet:
Buying animals from pet stores Many pet stores also obtain their “stock” from puppy mills and other unregulated, uninspected sources where animals may be suffering. It is virtually impossible to trace these sources to check on the conditions the animals are raised in. The stores rely on impulse buying, showing cute puppies in the window that will instantly appeal to animal-loving consumers, especially children. CBC Television’s Marketplace program exposed the truth behind animal sales at pet stores. The pet trade is a huge industry in North America and around the world. Breeders often supply the animals to “brokers” who warehouse the animals before shipping them to retailers. An undercover investigation by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) exposed the cruelty of one such broker. When you buy an animal online or from a pet store it’s likely you’re supporting this cruel trade. Only adopt from shelters and rescue groups. When you buy an animal instead of adopting one, it means another homeless animal remains languishing in a shelter. While it may be tempting to buy from a breeder, remember that there is no regulatory system to guarantee “reputable” breeding. There are no independent inspections of breeders and being registered with a kennel club only ensures a breeder has agreed to a members’ code of ethics. If you are determined to adopt a specific breed of dog you can contact a number of rescue groups that specialize in particular breeds. The quickest way to find a companion animal is through Petfinder (The inclusion of any facility through this link does not imply endorsement by the Vancouver Humane Society.)
Purebred dogs While there is no guarantee that any dog will be completely free of health problems, there are some particular concerns with purebred dogs. Pedigree dog breeders use a “closed studbook” system, which requires that only the descendants of an initial “founding” population of dogs can be bred. This inevitably involves inbreeding that increases the risk of inherited diseases and defects caused by recessive genes. As a direct consequence of this system, more than 500 inherited diseases have been identified in modern dog breeds. Some breeds are genetically predisposed to more than 90 diseases. In addition, pedigree dog breeders compete to produce animals that conform to certain “breed standards” for dog shows. These standards focus on desired appearances, often at the expense of the health and welfare of the dog. For example, English bulldogs, which have been deliberately bred to have large heads, must give birth through caesarean section because the puppies’ skulls will not fit through the mother’s pelvic canal. A BBC documentary exposed the suffering caused by pedigree dog breeding.
Animals as gifts Remember, animals are not merchandise. They should never be given as gifts, as the recipient may not have considered the responsibility of animal guardianship. Providing an animal a home is a huge responsibility, in which space, time, financial resources, and many other considerations must be taken into account. No reputable shelter or rescue group would make animals available for gifts at Christmas. Some groups, like Petfinders, the online adoption service, offer gift certificates. These allow the recipient to make their own choice of an adopted animal at a later date.
Who is Punky?
Many of you have asked about Punky, the cat to whom our bus ad is dedicated. Jamie Lee gave us permission to share Punky’s story in the hopes that others could learn from her mistakes. As a young university student in the 1980s who had never had a companion animal, Jamie knew nothing about being a responsible cat mom. Her first mistake was buying Punky from a pet store, where she was given no information about spay/neuter or vaccinations. (Never buy from pet stores!) She then took Punky to a vet, who treated her for ear mites, but like the proprietor of the pet store, didn’t advise her to spay and vaccinate Punky. Jamie then discovered that she could not have an animal in her university dorm, so she had to find a temporary home for Punky with a friend. Things continued to get worse – Punky didn’t get along with the cat who already lived there, and she somehow got outside and ran away. Having to survive outside, Punky became very aggressive. She would return to the friend’s home for food, but Jamie knew that being outside unvaccinated and unspayed exposed Punky to too many dangers. She managed to catch her and took her to a shelter. To this day, Jamie does not know if Punky ever found a home, or if she was euthanized. Jamie has never forgiven herself – every time she thinks of Punky, her heart aches. She shares the lessons she learned with anyone who will listen. In her constant quest for knowledge, she has learned about the other ways that animals are exploited in our society – for food, in zoos and in entertainment. She shares her knowledge and compassion whenever possible. Jamie never wants to see another animal suffer because of ignorance. That’s why she sponsored our ad, and that’s why it’s devoted to a little cat named Punky. And please remember – don’t buy – adopt, and spay and neuter!!