The popularity of companion animals around the world has made the pet industry big business. Though global statistics are difficult to acquire, the U.S alone spends 62.7 billion dollars on pets, with well over half of the population owning at least a dog or a cat. Around 28% of dogs are purchased from breeders, and it is thought the figures for other animals will likely be similar.
While companion animals are an integral part of many of our lives, there are problems associated with keeping and breeding such high numbers of animals. Chief among these is the issue of overpopulation; in the U.S, approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter shelters every year. Of these, 2.7 million are killed due to not being adopted, most of whom are perfectly healthy. This issue is caused by three main factors, which are breeders, owners failing to sterilise their pets, and the abandonment of unwanted animals. Often, potential pet owners prefer infant animals to older ones, so they turn to breeders. Owners also often prefer particular breeds, and are willing to pay to acquire a specific pedigree. These same owners often want to their purebred animals to have a litter of their own, either to sell, keep as pets, or in pursuit of show quality animals. These factors all lead to more animals being born than are wanted as pets, which in turn leads to overpopulated breeds and overcrowded shelters.
It is not just families and owners breeding animals; commercial animal breeders are very common, and supply nearly 100% of animals sold in pet stores. More dog mills exist than any other type, with an estimated 10,000 in the U.S alone, with only 3,000 of these being monitored or regulated. Abuses in these breeding operations are commonplace, and pet stores do not have to reveal where their animals are sourced from. To maximise profits, female animals are often bred to exhaustion, and seldom make it out alive, nor do many animals born with physical health problems. Raids on these facilities are uncommon due to cost, but in one particular case, a raid on a kitten mill resulted in the seizure of 323 cats — more than half of which had to be euthanized because of poor health. During the raid officials found a locked room they called a “dead room” that housed sick animals living among the decomposing remains of dead cats. Relaxed legislation and the cost of enforcement often means these crimes go relatively unpunished.
When we consider the millions of healthy animals waiting for new homes, buying an animal or allowing your animal to breed is irresponsible. More than this, the pet trade treats animals as sources of profit and mere commodities, buying and selling intelligent, sentient beings as if they were mere objects. Buying or breeding an animal rather than adopting denies a rescued animal a home, and puts further pressure on what are already overcrowded and underfunded rescue centres. For each litter your animals produce, and every animal you buy or sell, that is one more rescued animal who will not be re-homed. It is far better to instead provide a loving home for one of the millions of animals in need of care, not only saving one life, but freeing up valuable space in rescue centres doing their best to save and re-house abandoned and unwanted animals. There will very likely be a reputable rescue centre in your area who would be more than happy to help guide you through the process.