California sets an example for pet policies

Christopher Perez/Guilfordian

For as long as I can remember, people have always told me to adopt from animal shelters or rescue centers rather than purchasing a pet from a pet store.

I was told to avoid supporting the poor treatment of animals and the inhumane conditions in “puppy mills” and “kitten factories” by purchasing the expensive, pure-bred animals that play in the small windows of the pet store.

I’ve had three cats in my lifetime, all from an animal shelter. Two were rescue kittens, and one was given up for adoption by her owner. A large part of my decision to adopt from the shelter came from the adamant advice I’d heard all my life.

California has just become the first state to pass a law requiring pet stores to only sell rescue pets, meaning it is illegal to purchase from animals from private breeders. When I first heard about the law, I was excited. Rescue animals, like the pets I had loved so much, now had a better shot at finding a forever-home.

Beginning in January 2018, California pet stores will only sell rescue pets. If North Carolina were to pass a similar law, then perhaps the 70 percent euthanasia rate would decrease. More animals could find homes instead of graves.

At the Guilford County Animal Shelter in Greensboro alone, there are currently 825 animals in the system. 484 of those animals are in the shelter, while the other 341 of them are in the foster care system of the animal shelter.

Those 825 animals have a much harder chance at finding a home because of the stigma that comes with shelter pets.

Potential pet owners wonder why original families gave up the animals in the first place, and they tend to assume in the worst. In reality, the reason could range anywhere from being unable to financially support the pet or not being able to have animals in a new home environment.

There’s also a negative view on stray animals or animals in general, dogs especially, that are older. Strays are portrayed as violent, unsafe for children or ungroomed and untrained. Older dogs are used, no fun to play with anymore.

As someone who has been to the animal shelter many times, I know this to be untrue. On my most recent visit, a sweet, four-year-old dog named Willy stole my heart.

He was a large, white pit bull who had been surrendered by his owner. As a pit bull, Willy may be expected to be violent and lash out at people, but when I approached him, he instantly came up to me and put his body against the cage, eager for me to pet him.

Yes, animals that come from professional breeders are likely just as sweet and deserving of a home. However, with the professionally bred animals still legal for purchase by individuals, they are just as likely to find a home as they would be if they were sold in pet stores.

I believe North Carolina and states all across the nation should implement a law similar to California’s. More animals, just like the ones we have in our own homes, would have a much better chance at finding their own family.

We cannot control the fact that these animals wind up in shelters, but we can control their chance at finding a better life in the homes of people who love them.