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Letter: Better to get pet from shelter than a pet store

12:08 PM EDT, March 20, 2012

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So you want to get a puppy. Great! Now where should you go and what should you do?

I would imagine that the owners of the new store in Columbia called "Charm City Puppies" would want you to immediately walk through their doors. Or the folks who manage "Today's Pet" would want you in their store. But are there other, better options?

If you were to ask me the question of where you should get your puppy, my answer would be to head to Columbia's animal shelter — the Howard County Animal Control and Adoption Facility (HCAC) — or go to your computer and log in to http://www.petfinder.com and search through all the puppies available for adoption at shelters and rescue groups in our vicinity. But, I admit, I have a bias. I have been involved in animal rescue for many years and I'm a volunteer at HCAC.

I think adoption is a better option than buying a dog or cat. There are many reasons but the most important one is that there are so many furry, four-legged bundles of joy that need you so they can live, thrive, and provide you with unconditional love. Many rescue groups and shelters get the dogs and cats they offer for adoption from people who no longer wish to keep their pet (surrenders) or the dog or cat was wandering the streets (strays). But, many groups and Howard County Animal Control and Adoption Facility arrange for shelters (mainly in the south and west but also in rural parts of Maryland ) that have overflowing numbers of puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats to transport these furry kids to HCAC and local rescue groups so that we lucky people of Columbia can save their lives and be rewarded with all the doggie kisses and cat meows that we can handle.

Where do stores that sell puppies get them? They say from breeders. Where are these breeders located and how do they conduct themselves when it comes to the dogs? We don't know.

The stores say that the breeders are "award-winning," "small-scale," "a committed team of over 14,000 breeders from over 27 states." But what does that really mean? I don't know.

So, you want to get a puppy. Great! Now make a choice to save a life by adopting a puppy. You get the puppy you want, you save a life, and you have told the stores that sell dogs that you won't take a chance of being a small part in the much larger problem of puppy mills.

And, to the stores that sell puppies, there is another choice you can make. You can change your business model and offer the public puppies and kittens from rescue groups. Many stores have switched to this business model and have found that their sales have increased. I would be happy to help you make this change.

Judi McCormick

Columbia