As someone whose work includes promoting pet-friendly communities and the care and well-being of the people and pets who live, work, and play there, I need to speak out in opposition to this partnership announcement between a community shelter, a puppy store owner, and a puppy broker/wholesaler.
An animal shelter partnering with a puppy store and a puppy broker is not how a responsible pet-friendly community operates. Animal welfare is about standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and battling practices that put animal lives at risk. A partnership such as this serves to perpetuate an industry that appears to show little regard for the health and well-being of innocent animal lives, treating them as products to be sold. It also puts older, larger dogs and breeds that are often discriminated against at risk of euthanasia because they appear less appealing and remain in shelters longer.
This announcement has brought swift and strong reaction at the local, state, and national level. My hope is that the shelter’s leadership team, board, and their ambassadors will reconsider their decision to join this partnership as swiftly as the animal loving community has reacted to it.
This is not a case of “if you can’t beat them join them.” Reform is needed but this is not the way to do it. Animal advocates across the country are making progress through legislation that is shutting down such practices. Seven states have already done it.
No decision happens in a vacuum. In developing this partnership the SPCA of Tampa Bay is putting a lot of people who are trying to do the right thing for animals in our communities – civic leaders, animal advocates, community partners including myself, large and small donors and contributors, other animal welfare groups and shelters, their own staff, and more -- in a position to have to once again oppose and even justify our stands on an issue that has already shown itself to be detrimental. It's like stepping back in time.
Our time should be better spent focusing on how to improve the welfare of animals in our community, keeping people and their pets together, reducing euthanasia rates, and finding shelter pets homes. The focus of the community should be on things like promoting pet inclusive housing, improving access to pet supplies and vet care in underserved communities, helping domestic abuse shelters welcome and protect their guests seeking safe haven with their pets, and work with homeless shelters to ensure that they are all pet-friendly, to name a few.
It is important to note, there are good people working at the SPCA of Tampa Bay who are trying to do the right thing for the animals in their care. Decisions made at the leadership level should not be reflected on them.
Sometimes things happen that push us out of our comfort zones and into the arena and this is one of them for me. If you are in a position to help affect positive change, I hope you will, too.