A large part of the animal welfare community’s mission is to educate the public about irresponsible, unethical sources of companion animals like puppy mills and roadside vendors (which are usually two branches of the same tree).
Harris County, Texas, banned roadside pet vendors not too long ago. It was a great step in the right direction, but unfortunately most of the vendors just moved elsewhere. Many of them moved up the road to Montgomery County, and we don’t want them.
Roadside vendors sell animals to make money. They do nothing to ensure good homes for the animals. They do nothing to verify that the person with cash in hand is a good pet owner. To the roadside vendor, animals equal cash. And that is WRONG.
From the purchaser’s point of view, buying an animal off the side of the road is a BAD IDEA. First of all, many, many of them are not going to grow up to be the animal you thought you were buying. Just today, a rescuer was telling us about a dog who was sold roadside as a “designer” Chihuahua/Rat Terrier cross. When he started growing, and growing, and growing, he ended up unwanted by the purchasers. He was lucky; he ended up with rescue, where he will be safe until the right home comes along.
Most are not so lucky. Ask any shelter employee.
Other problems with roadside vendors include:
- sickly animals
- poor socialization of the animals due to puppy mill conditions
- puppies for sale that are far too young to be weaned
- genetic problems from inbreeding
- invalid registration papers
- disappearing vendors
- false vaccination records
This weekend, a group of rescue workers spearheaded by protest coordinator Rosanna Russell held a protest on 2978 across from the puppy seller corridor. Two vendors promptly packed up and left. We know they probably just moved a few miles down the road. Dealing with roadside puppy sellers is much like dealing with drug dealers or prostitutes. You run them out of your neighborhood, knowing that they move to the next one. The hope is that eventually enough neighborhoods will chase them away and they will give up.
One of the roadside vendors (the unhappy woman in green holding the tiny puppy) marched over to confront the protesters. She accused them of being un-Christian for trying to run the sellers out of business (as if the mistreatment of animals were the hallmark of a good Christian). She complained that the protesters were keeping her from making money off the animals. (Well, yes, that was the plan.) She also informed the protesters that no purebred animal ever goes to a shelter.
If this woman really believes this, she is painfully ignorant or totally deluded. But given how many thousands of breed rescues exist, I don’t know how she can truly be that ignorant.
My own two babies are purebreds from kill shelters. Hundreds of beautiful purebreds end up in kill shelters every single day. The lucky ones get adopted or go into rescue. Not all of them are lucky. Any vendor who claims that it would be impossible for their “products” to end up in a shelter needs to be forced to spend a few days in a county or municipal shelter to face the facts.
But I’m really not worried about rehabilitating roadside vendors, because I think most of them can’t be fixed. My goal is to see roadside sales of animals banned – first in Montgomery County, then statewide.
There have been several attempts to ban roadside sales in Montgomery County; so far they’ve been unsuccessful. That doesn’t mean we give up. It means we still have work to do. The Woodlands Dog Park Club (www.thewoodlandsdogparkclub.org) has been one of the organizations leading the push for the ban. If they offer you a petition to sign, please do!
The Texas Humane Legislation Network (www.thln.org) is promoting a bill in the state legislature which would ban roadside animal sales statewide. I would LOVE to see that happen, and I think public awareness of this issue is beginning to be broad enough to make it possible. If you would like to read more about this bill, please visit their website. They also have links through which you can contact your state representatives to express your support for the bill.
Meanwhile, the protests will continue on the corner of Woodlands Parkway and 2978 until the puppy sellers goes away and don’t come back. I’ll be there. Will you?