Potential pet owners have a lot to think about before they commit to bringing a new furry, fuzzy or feathery friend into their family home. One of the most important things to pay mind to, especially in recent years as “puppy mills” have been exposed, is where you are purchasing your pet. The retailer or establishment that is selling or placing a pet with you can determine a lot about the animal that can have a lasting effect on their health, how it fits into your home and how you will need to care for it.
Determining whether or not you want to buy or adopt an animal comes first. Both processes have pros and cons, so the option you choose depends on your priorities. Many people prefer the idea of adopting an animal because of the number of animals who already do not have homes – stray cats and dogs that have litters out in the streets, lost or abandoned pets are forgotten and so on. Some people feel it is responsible to adopt these animals rather than continue to support the breeding of animals for retail. While adopting is a wonderful option, there are potential issues that make others reluctant to adopt through shelters. For instance, in a lot of cases, the animal has a history the pet owner cannot predict and may not be able to adequately prepare for.
Though shelters often keep good care of animals they are in charge of, there is not a way for them to fix certain behaviors the animal exhibits because of where it was before the shelter. Perhaps the dog or cat was mistreated or neglected, and it is now a biter, hider, runner, barker, anxious sleeper or accident-prone scratcher. While these things are not the animal’s fault, it takes a patient and understanding owner to work with an animal through these issues, or to ultimately accept the less dangerous ones. Some people have never owned a pet before and are hesitant to commit themselves to one who needs an amount of attention they are not sure they can provide. Maybe the animal never had a home and was born and grew up on the streets. That environment, even for a shorter time, can affect how the animal behaves, too. To some people, that uncertainty is enough to make them hesitant about adopting.
Buying your pet from a breeder or pet retailer is another option. This is the path people take when they know they want a specific breed of animal. Maybe they always had golden retrievers growing up and they want one of their own. Or, maybe they have allergy issues and they need to have a hypoallergenic or hairless cat or dog. Some families need a specific breed of dog because its typical temperament fits best with their family. If someone wants a bird or small rodent, they may have to go to a pet store to purchase the animal since shelters and adoption opportunities for these species are not common.
Having a guaranteed breed of animal is a big pro for many people getting a pet, and a major reason why pet retailers are still around. But there are other factors that have made the experience a negative to some. For instance, the price. Pet breeding is an expensive business, and the price of the animal is going to be much higher than what you might pay at a shelter to adopt. Also, the existence of puppy mills – places that treat dogs extremely poorly with no real care for the animals themselves, with only the thought of having more puppies to gain more money through selling to pet retailers – deters some from purchasing through a pet store. Families do not want to contribute to a harmful establishment, so they do not want to purchase an animal that was attained through a puppy mill. Not only that, there is the fact that animals from such places can come from less than healthy conditions. Pet owners do not want to be sold a sick or dying pet, especially without being told so before purchase. An experience like this could be traumatizing for children or first-time pet owners.
In the past, people have raised concerns about the transparency between pet retailers and potential owners, about the animal’s past, where it came from and what its health records were like. In Frisco, specifically, people have been bringing concerns of this nature before the City Council for at least a few years now, according to Deputy City Manager Henry Hill. Frisco has come a long way in its regulations and standards for the pet retailers in the area in response to these concerns. As the city really began to grow and develop, the first step taken in this direction was to move Animal Services out of the city’s Development Department and into the Police Department in order to offer more active supervision of dealings with all animals in the community. After considering information from surrounding communities, Frisco put a number of rules and regulations into place to better control the situation.
Then, last summer, things came to a head when an incident with Petland Frisco (could not be reached for comment) became known to the public, and people who had already been raising concerns were joined by more voices. “At this point in time, the City Council asked the City staff and the Police Department to review the ordinance we already had in place and come back with recommended changes based on what issues had been brought forward,” says Mr. Hill. And, then, thorough work was underway – months of gathering information, input and veterinary expertise in order to come up with the most comprehensive and effective changes to the ordinance already in place. The changes the City staff sought to make had both the animals and people of Frisco in mind, aiming to protect both parties from any less-than-ideal transactions.
“We specifically made sure we met with, on a number of occasions, and encouraged input from groups that had been raising concerns even before the issue with Petland ever happened,” elaborates Mr. Hill. “We shared drafts with them as we were developing the ordinance. They made suggestions, a number of which we were able to incorporate into the ordinance. We wanted to make sure those people were very engaged and included in the process.”
In January of this year, after the final draft of the ordinance was complete, Frisco adopted the new regulations, and they went into effect March 1. These regulations largely seek to increase transparency between pet retailers and pet purchasers, especially where the treatment, health and medical history of the animals is concerned. Steven Lerner, the Animal Services supervisor, explains that the new regulations give Animal Services more tools to enforce these rules and make sure they are being followed. “Before, we could only issue a citation to a pet store that was not in compliance with the rules we had in place,” he explains. “Now, we are able to suspend or even revoke their license to sell animals, depending on their violation.” This will ensure greater adherence to rules that have the animals’ health and safety in mind. Other rules retailers must abide by include required weekly veterinary visits, complete medical records and general history of every animal – even down to how they were transported to the pet store and the breeder’s information – to be given to the pet owner at time of purchase, signed acknowledgement that the animal is healthy at the time of purchase and more. “The biggest thing is this amount of transparency that is now required, and I think it is going to help a lot, across the board,” Mr. Lerner says.
So, whether you choose to adopt or purchase a pet in the future, you can rest assured that the treatment of the animals in the Frisco community, including their health, safety and happiness (and the well-being of the public), are all top-of-mind. The steps taken in the past few years have been hugely positive ones, and in the future, will be even more so.
Dru Bickham is a writer who enjoys reading, stimulating and lengthy conversations and pursuing her passion for publishing and the written word.