Wednesday, January 20, 2010

One Step, One Voice, One Message: STOP PUPPYMILLS!

by Shantay Shahbaz, Paws and Learn Humane Teen Member

How can we be friends to man's best friend? It's a question, it seems, that a lot of people don't think about.

But Best Friends thought about it. Most definitely. The Puppies Aren't Products campaign, simply put, rocks. I'm especially proud to say I've joined in on the action. January 16th of '10 was my first day as an official volunteer, being at an educational tabling event at the Northridge Fashion Center. Our goal? Educate the public. Urge them to boycott the pet store in the mall because they get their dogs from puppymills, mass breeding facilities in which dogs are subjected to sickening conditions simply for the profit of their “greeders.” In fact, no good breeder would give their dogs to a pet store. Good breeders want to evaluate potential clients, not blindly pass their puppies out to strangers!

The pet store in question had a banner up: “HUGE SALE! Up to 50% off STOREWIDE.” We felt as though our campaign was getting to them. What made us laugh was the fact that their discounts may still not even compare to shelter dog prices. My dog? Twenty-three dollars at the city pound, house broken, microchipped, neutered, and ready to go. However, our pity was strong for the puppies in the store. Two German Shepherd puppies were growing rapidly in the small cells at the store. They barely had any mental stimulation or room to play. I wondered why people would help these businesses at all, even after seeing the deplorable conditions in the pet store itself. You cannot “rescue” a pet store dog by buying it, you're only giving more money to the source of the abuse and neglect.

As I sat at the table, I watched the oncoming people. Many stopped by with great interest, gathering our informational sheets enthusiastically, and asking questions. Some even told us they were looking for a dog, in turn receiving a list of local shelters and animal rescues they should consider; they were enthralled by the news. Others signed our petition, asking the store to go humane.

Stop selling puppymill puppies! The message rang strong and true. With confidence I can say the majority of our passers-by were positively affected by our signs and literature. For the nay-sayers that doubt the existence of puppy mills, we gave video links showing what some people found when they took undercover trips to mills. As gruesome as it sounds, it is true, and very, very sad.

It made me happy to see younger generations like myself come to the table. “What are puppymills? Where can I get a dog, then?” were among the myriad inquires we got. With a smile, we gave honest answers, and I'm sure the youth were satisfied to learn what happens behind closed doors, because they now know not to contribute to it in the future.

After a couple dirty looks, it was then I realized what a bad stereotype must be looming over animal welfare activists. They must be crazy. They must be out to brainwash our children to be crazy like them. But the truth is: We're not. We are normal people simply trying to spread the word of compassion towards animals.
I'm sure anyone with a heart would agree puppymills are a bad thing. No one profits but the “greeder” and pet store. All the buyer gets is an overpriced, poorly-bred dog, and a dead dog in the shelter. It's truly unfortunate.

I noticed that some parents would lead their children away from our booth, despite their kids' asking to see what we were all about. It's not propaganda. We don't bite! We're friendly! Honest! I wanted to tell them in response to their hesitant expressions. But I know they'll come around. Everyone eventually does. Or, I hope, at least most of them do.

After my two hour shift, a wave of satisfaction passed over me. I talked to people today. I can make a difference. We can all do our part to help animals, especially the pet store victims; it just takes one step, one voice, one message: STOP PUPPYMILLS!

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