"How much is that doggy in the window?" isn't the only question prospective puppy buyers should be asking.
What conditions was it raised in? How many times has its mother been bred? Has she ever walked on grass?
Those are the really important ones to insure getting a healthy animal bred under humane conditions, said Kenn Altine of the Sacramento SPCA.
However, the prevalence of puppy mills can make it difficult for people to get answers to these questions. A bill up for vote by the California Senate this month aims to shut down puppy mills (or bunny or kitten mills) and fling open shelter doors.
The recent discovery near Fresno of a moving van stuffed with more than 1,000 small animals and birds offered a sobering glimpse into the underworld of brokers who deal in animals with little regard for their welfare.
“An unmarked truck, stuffed full of animals in the heat – it brings this all together,” Altine said. “(Brokers) ship animals, often in horrendous conditions like we just saw.”
Assembly Bill 485 would prohibit commercial sales of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores. It would not affect reputable AKC breeders, which is where many people already get pure-bred dogs, Altine said. He sees the bill as the best way to “reduce the avenues people have to acquire animals cheaply, no questions asked.”
In fact, a business model placing shelter animals via retail stores has already been demonstrated as viable in 31 California cities that already have similar statutes, Altine said.
Although many people associate buying a puppy from a pet shop with a higher quality 'product' than adopting one from a shelter, this isn't necessarily the case. In fact, choosing a puppy based on its cuteness can lead to a disastrous experience.
Case in point, the male husky.
"There is nothing cuter than a husky puppy," Altine said.
But a year in, when that adorable bundle of fluff has morphed into a whirling dervish of destructive canine energy, its cuteness might wear thin. Altine knows this because of the number of 1-year-old male huskies that find their way into the shelter.
One of the advantages to a shelter animal is that experienced shelter workers have evaluated and spent time with them, and are there to help find a good animal-human pairing.