It's that time again to hear from readers, and you do have a lot to say! Keep those emails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org.
READER COMMENT: Puppy mills are deplorable. I'm glad to see so many cities banning pet stores from selling dogs and cats from these places. I own a pet store and I know where most of these animals come from; most store owners want nothing to do with selling them. Offering pets from shelters, however, is a great idea. Congratulations on your advocacy for this in Chicago. I'm sure other cities will follow suit. -- B.D., San Diego, CA
MY REPLY: You're referring to Chicago's new ban on the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of animals currently sold at pet stores come from puppy mills and other commercial facilities. I have no issue with responsible breeders who go through an approval process for potential buyers -- something that never happens when animals are sold at pet stores.
While industry groups such as the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and American Pet Products Association (APPA) are opposed to such legal restrictions on pet store sales, their members generally feel as you do. According the 2013-2014 APPA Pet Owners Survey, only three percent of dogs are purchased from pet stores, but that still represents thousands of animals. Only one percent of cats are purchased from pet stores, and seven percent of rabbits.
For decades. the U.S. Department of Agriculture has allowed puppy mills to survive, even thrive. The hope is that with fewer outlets for sales, they will ultimately go out of business.
Of course, I always support pet adoptions, and if pet stores become another outlet, all the better.
Regarding Chicago, the Puppy Mill Project, Chicago aldermen and Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza merit credit.
READER COMMENT: Your response was excellent when a reader complained about people spending $100 on dog collars. I'd like to point out one more thing, however: That $100 doesn't just vanish. The retailer keeps part of it, pays his employees and pays rent to the landlord. The manufacturer makes money, and that company pays its employees. Any of the people in this economic chain could very well be contributing to children's welfare, among other causes. The pet industry, in general, is a part of the economy. -- C.C., via cyberspace
MY REPLY: According to the American Pet Products Association, nearly $56 billion is spent on pet care and assorted pet supplies annually. That's more than the dollars contributing to sectors as large as hardware and jewelry. Since the pet spending figure was first tallied in 1994 (when it was $17 billion), it has jumped each year, independent of whether the U.S economy has grown or not. And you're right; pet spending plays a significant role in the U.S. economy.
READER COMMENT: Hey, since you're among the loons who believe pets are fur kids/four-legged family members, do you also believe that pets should have health insurance? Should pet parents be forced to get a health plan for their "furry babies"? Should Obamacare cover gerbils, hamsters, cats, mice, dogs, cats and rabbits? -- C.C., via cyberspace
MY REPLY: Haven't you heard? The reason why the Affordable Care Act website wasn't working early on is because a gerbil got into the computer at the White House.
While I'm unsure about the value of pet insurance for gerbils, hamsters and mice, rabbits, dogs and cats live longer and can benefit. When one of these pets gets sick or falls victim to an accident -- such as being hit by a car -- pet insurance can prevent economic euthanasia. That's when pet owners feel forced to have a pet put down because they can't afford treatment. Call me a loon if you must, but I'm generally a fan of pet insurance.
By the way, let the record show, I don't typically refer to companion animals as "fur kids."
READER COMMENT: I recently adopted a dear cat whose life-long owner went into a nursing home; the cat had nowhere to go but a shelter. Please let your readers know that they can easily make legal arrangements for the future of a pet. I legally specified my wishes for my cats, giving copies to my veterinarian and close friends. This could mean the difference between life and death. -- L.R., St. Paul, MN
MY REPLY: Congrats on adopting your cat. And proactively making arrangements for our pets is indeed the right thing to do.
READER COMMENT: I enjoyed your piece about Kathy Ireland getting involved in the pet world. After reading the column, I was inspired by her ability to say, "I'm going to be successful on my own terms." -- C.V., Brooklyn, N.Y.
MY REPLY: Kathy Ireland's Worldwide brand is now the 25th most powerful brand in the nation, topping $2 billion in licensed products in 2013, according to Forbes Magazine. Her Loved Ones collection includes pet beds and all sorts of accessories like leashes and collars. Learn more at http://www.kathyireland.com.
READER COMMENT: I realize that this warning may affect only a few people, but if I can save one family from the devastation my family is feeling, it will be worth it. Our beloved Golden Retriever, Casey, loved to go with my husband, especially when he was driving a tractor. Casey would happily run alongside, and would pout all day if he didn't get to go. He did this for nine years without incident.
Yesterday, Casey must have seen something and crossed in front of the tractor. My husband stopped the tractor, but could not avoid hitting the dog, which caused internal bleeding. We couldn't save Casey. Please, people! You're the ones responsible for the health of your pet. Take control! If we had, we'd still have Casey. -- B.D., Medina, NY
MY REPLY: I'm so sorry for your loss. I admire your effort to speak out and warn others; it's quite unselfish, and very admirable.
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)
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