In support of the amendment to prohibit the sale of puppies and kittens at pet stores, a speaker at the recent Cobb Board of Commissioners public hearing quoted a Centers for Disease Control report linking the 2019 outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant strain of Campylobacter to pet store puppies. Four cases were reported in Georgia, including a teenager who was hospitalized after contracting the disease while working at a Georgia pet store. Per the report, the “(e)pidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicate that contact with puppies, especially those at pet stores, is the likely source of this outbreak.”
In response, Commissioner Keli Gambrill posed the following question: “The next time we have a lettuce outbreak of E-coli or Listeria, are we going to ban the sale of lettuce in grocery stores?”
I appreciate the question and have given it some thought. Yes, an analogy can be made between the retail lettuce and puppy industries. Mass-produced lettuce is harvested, packed into crates and shipped cross-country in freight haulers for sale at grocery stores. Similarly, most pet store puppies are mass-produced at out-of-state high volume commercial breeders (aka “puppy farms” or “puppy mills”), placed in stacked cages and transported in trailers to stores where they are sold for profit. Both “products” are susceptible to contamination and can transmit serious diseases to humans.
That is where the similarities end. Lettuce does not experience fear, pain or suffering. Lettuce does not need care, food, water or medication during travel and no harm comes from picking lettuce too early. Most pet store puppies are taken from their dam before the recommended minimum age of eight weeks, require extensive care in transport due to weakened immune systems, and all puppies experience pain and fear. Finally, farmers who grow food are generally subjected to heightened inspection, regulation and enforcement compared to the commercial dog breeding industry.
National retail chains such as PetSmart and Petco don’t sell puppies and kittens, and most local pet stores don’t either. Mom & Pups, The Good Dog Co. and Top Dogs, for example. These stores provide the example we should embrace and promote. I recommend rescuing a kitten or puppy or purchasing from responsible local breeders, who welcome buyers into their homes and are proud to show off their property and the puppies’ dam and sire — like three breeders in Georgia where I buy gun dogs and bird dogs for up to 80% less than the cost of a typical pet store puppy.
Cynthia L. Patton