By: Melissa Kolmar, CPDT-KA
It’s National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day! The day was created as a way to raise awareness for thousands of pets that are patiently waiting for a loving home. This is an important day for me for a few reasons.
On a personal level, I adopted Chupacabra from a shelter nearly ten years ago (we found Wolfie wandering the streets so she was a rescue of a different kind). Those of you who know me, know that Chupacabra is my heart dog and my absolute match. When I saw her in the kennel, I knew she was the one for me and that remains one of the best decisions I ever made.
I’ve been volunteering in shelters since I was twelve, so I always knew how awesome rescue pets could be. But it wasn’t till a few years ago, when I worked with the ASPCA on a puppy mill cruelty case, that I saw first-hand the dark side of irresponsible breeding. Disclaimer: I know there are many responsible breeders out there who do right by the dogs and the owners. I am not disparaging those breeders.
Puppy mills are high-volume breeding facilities that often sell to puppy stores or online. According to ASPCA, the adults are “bred for profit and kept in tiny, filthy cages. These dogs don’t receive any affection, exercise or proper veterinary care. And when they can no longer produce puppies, they are discarded.” There is no regard to breeding proper genetics (either for behavioral or medical considerations).
I saw this first hand on my deployments. ASPCA, along with local law enforcement, confiscated the dogs from the breeding facility and took them to an undisclosed emergency shelter. That’s where I met them. They came in filthy and riddled with diseases. Some dogs had severe medical issues. Nearly all were under-socialized. These dogs had one purpose in life before being rescued: to breed.
As we know, dogs are a resilient bunch and this group was no different. The ASPCA medical team treated their medical issues and the behavior team helped them to learn how to exist in a world they had never seen (most breeding dogs stay confined to small cages or pens). They were transferred to shelters where they were able to find loving homes. It was heartening to see what they could overcome.
Yet another reason why this day is so important, is our work with SPCA Tampa Bay. Nearly two years ago, SPCA Tampa Bay purchased New Dawn Animal Behavior Center. It has been a wonderful relationship! Now, all of our proceeds go right back into the shelter to help animals in need. We are happy that our work helps not only our clients but the animals at the shelter as well! I also get to teach a Shelter Dog Manners Class every week. Volunteers bring in some of the adoptable dogs and we work on manners training to increase their chances at adoption. The dogs AND volunteers do a great job!
On National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day, there are so many things you can do. Donate your time, money or resources to your local shelter (local peeps: consider SPCA Tampa Bay). Foster for your local shelter. Speak out against puppy mills and sign pledges to support bills banning them. If you have a shelter animal, spend some time together today and be grateful you found each other.
If you’d like to learn more about puppy mills and how we can shut them down, please visit this link: https://www.aspca.org/barred-from-love/puppy-mills-101