Sticker Shock. A Dog for the Holidays

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(By Isabelle Wells) 25 years ago my husband and I got our dogs from three pet shops in Ft Myers and Bonita Springs. There were no private rescues at that time. The price for our Yorkshire Terrier or our Chihuahua was under $1,000.00. Our Papillon was $1,100 and we gladly paid that, not knowing, at the time, what puppy mills were.

I wanted to go back and see what changed. I visited the same shop (which is a chain), and couldn’t resist looking at the puppies and asking questions about where they came from. The young lady, who was reading from a tablet, wasn’t used to getting so many questions.

Most people are so taken by puppies they forget everything else. I was there at dinner time and many of the puppies were 4 to 5 in a cage. Twice during my visit I heard fights over the food. The cages aren’t really that big and keeping an Akita Puppy with 2 other dogs isn’t a good idea.

When I made the remark about the fights, I was told “Wow Puppy,” like it’s just a play thing. To that I answered: ‘Well if you didn’t feed them in the same cage it wouldn’t happen.’ I’m not sure if the dogs are left in the same cage during the night. Accidents happen and more dominant breeds should not be left with other dogs.

I asked the employee where the puppies came from. Not surprisingly, she told me they were from breeders not from Florida (land is too expensive) but from up north. Then I asked what the least expensive dog they had for sale was. Remember this is not an adoption, but a sale for profit. She showed me a Labradoodle puppy — cost $5,500. I then asked about the price of a Labrador puppy — $7,500.

Yes it’s that expensive.

So, what do you get for your $7,500? A puppy with a warranty and a new one if this one isn’t healthy. Of course you would have to go to their veterinarian only. At the end of his life, you can get another one, apparently for free. Now remember, by that time you would need to show that you took care of the dog. I would be very curious about the fine print.

I was wondering what would happen to the puppies that are getting bigger and can’t be adopted. She said they would be taken to another store in Florida owned by the same person.

The pet industry and pet stores exist to make money or they wouldn’t be in business. A puppy for them is a puppy. It is like an “it,” a thing. I know that because for the past few months I entered the world of backyard breeders and puppy mills. Getting a puppy for life looks very attractive. Yes, they are cute. However, the thought of the mother who was caged for years and never checked by a vet, ate bad food which could give her rotten teeth and kidney stones, a hernia and who’s nipples rub on the floor is upsetting.

The agony those dogs go through, like the 2 girls I had in our house, is sad. Zoey and Flo went through being caged in a dark garage. That should be unacceptable in our society. All of that for a cute puppy is completely against our philosophy of respect and protection of animals.

We’re entering the Holiday seasons and I hope you will think and decide to adopt and not shop.

Isabelle Wells is the owner of Findahomegiveahome on Fort Myers Beach. She can be reached by e-mail at pets@findahomegiveahome.com. To make a donation to the organization, GO HERE.