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ADOPT OR SHOP
You've Decided to Get a Dog and Now The Question is Where.
If you've given careful thought as to what type of dog you want for your family, now is the time to decide where to get it. Most people make this decision with less thought than they would give to buying a new phone, yet it is a life long commitment that will not only affect the pet that you bring home but the family that it comes home to. Here are some options available to you and some things to think about before you commit.
Adopting a dog from a shelter or a rescue group is a great way to bring a new pet into the home. Our shelters are overcrowded and every dog (or cat for that matter, but that is a topic for another post) that is taken out of a shelter is a life saved. We were overwhelmed by the public response when we held our adoption event, "Project Puppy" last year. These were puppies that we rescued from a shop that was closing it's doors and we did not want them to move into the already crowded shelter population here on Long Island. Over 120 families submitted applications for the 23 puppies that were available for adoption and all went to good homes within a week of the event. What we learned was that there was a huge demand for specific breeds of puppies, and less of a demand for others. This is the challenge that faces the adoption process in the New York Metro area. While many people want to adopt or rescue a dog, they have a specific breed, gender, or age pet in mind and the shelter population does not always meet that demand. In fact, while there are many puppies and young adult dogs available in the shelters in Nassau County, many of the dogs offered for adoption are older, large breed dogs that potential adopters find less desirable. This is why they turn to purchasing dogs rather than adoption. Adoption and rescue groups have tried to accommodate demand by bringing more "desirable" pets into the area for adoption from out of state. This doesn't really solve the problem of the local mismatch between dogs in shelters and homes without dogs. In addition, many of the pets brought up from the south carry diseases such as Heart Worm that need to be treated before these dogs can be adopted, an additional expense for local groups and an added risk for pets in the area as these parasites are spreading into our local pet populations.
A quick search on line will give you an idea of what types of dogs are available for adoption in our area. In addition, you should visit the Town of North Hempstead Shelter in Port Washington, The Town of Oyster Bay Animal Shelter on the North Service Road of the LIE, and The Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter in Wantaugh. They have many dogs of all shapes and sizes that need homes. It is not uncommon for dogs coming from the shelter to have some health issues that need to be addressed and the town shelters will give you a list of veterinarians that will donate a free first examination to get you off on the right foot.
Purchase From A Breeder
If you want a specific breed of dog, then a breeder may be your best bet. The best way to select a breeder is to find a hobby breeder that breeds and shows dogs with a goal of improving the over all quality of the breed. Recommendations from local breed clubs or the AKC may help you to narrow down your choices. Stay away from back yard breeders that purchased two cute dogs from somewhere and think that they can make back their money by breeding them and selling the cute puppies for a profit. Make sure that you get recommendations from someone that has purchased a puppy from the breeder in the past. The parents and the litter should have complete medical records available for your inspection. If the breed is predisposed to particular genetic disorders such as hip dysplasia or ocular abnormalities, the parents should be screened and that should be documented. Be wary of breeders that have more than one breed for sale or have many litters available. Also, if the parents are not available for you to meet it is a red flag. Mixed breeds like Maltipoos, Yorkie poos, and Bi Cais, like my own rescued Bella should also alert you to proceed with caution. Any puppy purchased should come with a health warranty and you should get the new puppy checked by your veterinarian with in 48 hours to make sure that there are no issues.
Purchase From A Pet Shop
We have worked with several shops in the past and have seen it all from the good to the bad and ugly. It is important for consumers to understand the retail pet trade because it I believe that it is not through legislation and regulation, but rather through market pressure that we will be able to reform this system. The majority of puppies offered for sale at pet shops in our area come from commercial breeders. These dogs are sold at a young age to a broker that collects dogs from several breeding operations and offers them to the pet shops for sale. The broker will use one or several transport companies to ship the dogs across the country to your local shop. The label "Puppy Mill" is not an exact one, and although has come to be applied to all commercial breeding operations and all puppies offered for sale, it should be reserved for those that operate under despicable conditions of filth and abuse. Unfortunately, a puppy purchase is often an impulse buy and people go out and buy a puppy with less thought than they spend buying a pair of shoes. It is the pet owner's responsibility to educate themselves and choose responsibly bred dogs, putting pressure on the Puppy Mill breeders to either change the way they raise their dogs, or go out of business.
Local laws require that pet shops offering dogs for sale post the breeder and any medical records for every dog. You can also probably find out who the broker was and the transport company. If you are interested in a particular puppy, get this information. Then a quick google search will let you know if this is a USDA registered breeder (all commercial breeders are required to register) and if there are any violations outstanding. You can probably also get information on the broker and the transport company. In addition, it will have the address of the breeding facility. Then go to Google Earth and look at the facility. If you see a single home with a picket fence, then you probably are dealing with a small, family breeder. If you see outbuildings that look like they are long barns or kennels, especially with what looks like metal roofing off to the sides to cover the pens, then you are looking at a large breeding facility, quite possibly a puppy mill operation.
Next look at the medical record. Has the dog been on several courses of antibiotics? Is it on medication in the shop, has it been over vaccinated? These are all questions that your veterinarian should be able to help you to answer. If you do not have a veterinarian, many will be happy to help you evaluate this information prior to purchase. There may be a fee associated with this type of consultation but that will vary from doctor to doctor and possibly depend on how much time is involved.
Puppy lemon laws in NY State are designed to protect the consumer from the purchase of sick puppies. Have your pet examined by a veterinarian within 2 weeks of purchase. Most shops will recommend a veterinarian that will give you a free examination. Take advantage of this offer but if the dog needs antibiotics, even for a minor respiratory tract infection, it is legally unfit for sale. If you do not like what the pet shop veterinarian is telling you, seek a second opinion.
It is important that your puppy receive the remainder of the vaccinations, and preventive care that it needs to keep it healthy and protected from infectious diseases. Do not let the shop or breeder tell you what shots are needed, that is a recommendation that should be made by your veterinarian. Equally important, you should discuss spaying or neutering with your veterinarian so that we can do our part to decrease the number of unwanted litters.