Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts

The Colorado Legislature is considering a bill, HB 1102, that would ultimately force pet stores out of business and severely limit the choices and information people have about the pets they bring into their homes.  To add insult to injury, they are doing this under the guise of “consumer protection.” 

As someone who has both adopted a dog from a rescue and purchased one from a pet store, this seems ludicrously ironic and disingenuous. It is not the licensed pet stores that need oversight and additional rules for the protection of both consumers and animals, but unlicensed individuals and groups that portray themselves as “rescues.”

Several years ago, we went to a breed-specific rescue to find a new pet for our family. Having small children and other considerations, we had reasonably specific requirements. The rescue shelter directed us to a dog they told us was a purebred and that had previously been owned by a family that simply could no longer care for it. We were told it was well-trained and great with kids, had no behavioral issues, and that it had sadly been at the shelter for long enough that he was slated to be euthanized. I immediately felt sorry for the dog, so I signed a couple forms, paid $300, and they gave me the dog, telling me his paperwork would be emailed to me later.

The dog turned out to be nothing like what they had told me. He was uncomfortable going through doorways, and within 24 hours he had bitten my husband. I couldn’t trust the dog alone around my small children. As a result, I began to do my own digging into the dog’s history which, given the extremely limited information I received from the rescue, was a very time-consuming task. Eventually I was able to find out that, contrary to what they told me, the dog was not a purebred, but a mix of breeds. That was not a huge issue in and of itself, but it did prompt me to wonder what else the rescue had misled me about. It turned out that, despite what I had been told, the dog was not almost out of time and facing imminent euthanasia but had been at the shelter for barely 24 hours. The previous owners filled out a release paper that clearly stated he was a mixed breed, wasn’t potty trained, and lived outdoors. The “veterinary inspection” was a form with another dog’s name scratched out and this dog’s name written in. 

Contrast this with our experience purchasing a puppy from a pet store. While browsing through a pet store in Fort Collins, I noticed a particularly cute puppy. A few days later I dragged my family in to see this puppy and this time I asked to play with her. The four of us took turns playing with her and we all agreed she’d be a great fit. 

The experiences were night and day. Instead of taking our money, dropping off a dog and wishing us luck, like the rescue, the pet store employee popped over the half-wall of the room we were in with tidbits of information every few minutes. She told us that little dogs really must have their teeth brushed regularly at home and cleaned by the veterinarian and that it could be an added expense. She mentioned that being a smaller breed — a Chihuahua Yorkshire Terrier mix or a Chorkie — she might not be great with smaller children (mine were all grown by this time). She popped by another time to check on the puppy and let us know that little dogs liked to bark. I almost thought she was trying to talk us out of buying the puppy, but by then we knew what we were getting ourselves into, and we asked to buy her.

The pet store provided me all the information I could ever hope for. They gave me details I wouldn’t have even known to ask about — like specific care instructions, vaccination records, what it ate and how many times a day, and how I would need to brush its teeth regularly, and how to do it. They gave me information about the breeder and the registration numbers for the dam and sire. They quizzed me on care and feeding, and where and how I would keep it, all to make sure that the dog and my family were the perfect fit. Instead of a couple of pages of general information I left the store with an entire folder of information specific to that dog. 

All of this is to say that, as a consumer, I do not understand why anyone would be running this bill. What is the problem they are trying to solve? 

The only explanation is one which makes my heart ache, and that is that certain fanatical special-interest groups don’t like pet stores and want the government to use its power to shut them down. The animal-rights activists are going after the wrong people: If there is a problem in the pet industry, it is not with licensed, inspected, responsible pet stores, like the ones HB 1102 are targeting. 

Some families need the experience, and the detailed information and history about an animal they are bringing into their lives, which only a pet store can provide. These are good businesses which do not deserve the misguided legislative assault they are under. 

Kim Roberts is a Colorado native and animal lover who lives in Lakewood with her husband, kids and very spoiled dogs.  

(2) comments

Kim R

This opinion piece offers fertile ground for wonderful learning opportunities! The author claims not to understand the problem HB 1102 is trying to solve. Based the opinion provided, research is not a strength possessed by the author.

The author begins by stating she was looking for a purebred puppy for her family. She was upset that the rescue had provided her a “mixed breed” puppy who clearly didn’t meet her expectations. She then went on to pet store and purchased a “Chorkie.” Just a little FYI, a “Chorkie” is not a purebred dog, nor is it a breed recognized by the American Kennel Club. A “Chorkie” is actually a designer mutt, a mixed breed Chihuahua-Yorkshire Terrier. Both her adoption and purchase decision indicate she cares more about having a designer breed than animal welfare. That she did not do her research about the breed mix shows as she described the clerk’s shares of the “Chorkie” throughout the visit. Based on her own description, she was ill prepared for any puppy be it from a rescue or pet shop. With all the complaining shared about the rescue I hope she returned the puppy she adopted to them since it didn’t meet her specifications.

Licensed Colorado rescues are regulated by the state through an agency called the “Pet Animal Care Facilities Act” or PACFA. These regulations govern how animals are treated by animal rescues from the time they enter the rescue until the time they leave. These regulations are available to ANYONE wanting to learn more at the PACFA website.

This author is offers a wealth of complaints about one rescue experience which could have been mitigated by self education. For example, what many do not realize is that when an owner surrenders a dog to a shelter, depending upon the shelter, there may not be a hold period which means that if the shelter fills to over-capacity, which frequently happens in small town shelters outside of Colorado, the owner surrenders are the first to be euthanized for space. It doesn’t matter how cute they are, their age, or their personality. It’s based on who’s been there the longest. This could be why the rescue pulled the dog after one day, to prevent it from the possibility of being euthanized for space. It’s also well documented in scientific studies, available to anyone interested with a quick Google search, that when dogs are placed in a warehousing situation, the local shelter, they become very stressed and can exhibit behaviors due to stress such as biting, lunging at people, growling, etc. These behaviors can land the dogs at the top of the euthanasia list as those behaviors can cause a dog to be labeled “aggressive.” Thus, rescues attempt to remove dogs from these settings as soon as possible to minimize the negative impact the environment may have on an animal.

Another very common phenomenon is that dogs who change living circumstances have the propensity to regress in their behavior this includes house training and confidence levels. One should expect that until a dog is comfortable in her/his new surroundings, which can take weeks to months, issues such as fear and potty accidents can occur and need to be retrained, ideally by someone who has the patience and best interest for the dog. This information is also readily available to anyone seriously considering obtaining a puppy.

As someone who works with the rescue community and who has rescued former puppy mill dams, I found the opinion as it relates to the origin of puppies entering the pet store pipeline to be lazy and validating for passing HB1102. Our former puppy mill breeder is a Westhighland White Terrier, an actual purebred AKC registered female used by a puppy mill for the sole purpose of breeding. When she was obtained by the rescue we adopted from, she was completely matted requiring her to be shaved to the skin in order to move properly, she lacked the necessary vaccinations to prevent her from succumbing to avoidable disease, and had been carrying a dead baby in her uterus for an unknown amount of time, which was found upon veterinary exam and removed with her spay. Since she had minimal contact with humans, she was scared of people, the environment both inside and out, and other animals. This is a dog who had never in her four years of life experienced a warm bed, the loving touch by a human, or a gentle stroll on a lovely day. She winced when touched and had no concept of what it is to be a pet. This is the price puppy mill dams and studs pay so that pet stores can provide puppies to public. While you, the consumer, get to toddle home with your new designer mutt, their parents are left behind to continue to breed in unkempt, unhealthy living situations for the almighty dollar. The puppy mill where our dog originated had 130 adult breeding dogs. Puppies sold in pet stores run upwards of $1000 or more per puppy. Dams can deliver anywhere from three to twelve puppies per litter one to two times per year. I'll let you do the math.

Licensed legitimate breeders do not sell their puppies in pet stores. Why? They don’t have to. The demand is such that they don’t need to pay a broker and the pet store to find homes for their puppies. Most responsible breeders research their breed, the dam and stud, and treat their animals as pets, not relegated to an outdoor kennel with a wire floor and unsanitary conditions. They also spend time during the puppy pediatric period preparing the litter for their new owners by handling them and offering canine enrichment. These are not benefits afforded to puppy mill puppies. Breeders invite potential buyers to visit the puppies in their home, allowing one to meet the mother and father if available. This is not a common practice with puppy mill breeders. .

The laziness and ignorance displayed in this opinion piece indicates we still have a lot of work to do with regards to educating people about puppy mills. Ignorance is not bliss, as evidenced by the health and well-being of the dams and studs relegated to overcrowded, outdoor wire floored crates, with minimal space to move around, lack of loving human interaction and food, and unhealthy sanitation practices. Just because one turns a blind eye away from the issue because one wants a purebred dog from a pet store does not mean the issue doesn’t exist. HB 1102 would allow Colorado consumers to become educated as to where pet store puppies originate in order to make an informed decision. Sadly, “animal lover” and “animal advocate” are terms used by some in Colorado who choose to continually disparage the rescue community’s efforts in saving innocent pet animals from unsafe, unhealthy, and deadly situations while supporting the puppy mill to pet shop pipeline.

Gina H

I understand this is an "op-ed" piece, but, WOW. This is a very poorly researched and irresponsible statement from a person who clearly has no idea real experience or education on the subject. The fact that this woman's voice is being published is incredibly disturbing - she is not involved in this industry in any way, shape or form - just a consumer who has had two unique and isolated experiences obtaining a dog. This is the reason I don't participate in social media - why are we listening to the opinions of people who are completely uneducated and inexperienced in the subject matter they're speaking to?!

As a person who helps to run a (legitimate) rescue organization in Colorado, I do have experience in this subject matter and I'd like to poke some holes in her statements.

To start, HB 1102 is not "limiting information" provided to adopters/buyers of dogs, and I question if she's even read the bill. Go ahead and give it a glance, and you'll know what I mean. Absolutely nothing in her statement even addresses the things the bill is written to regulate - which, by the way, actually severely limits what RESCUES can do with difficult medical and behavioral cases, requiring euthanasia instead or rehabilitation efforts.

She mentioned that not all rescues are legitimate businesses - in Colorado, all legitimate rescues are licensed by PACFA. So are pet stores, for that matter, and breeders. If you want to know if the rescue you're dealing with is legitimate, you can check their PACFA status online with the click of a button. There's also this thing (maybe she's unfamiliar?) called "google" where you can search for reviews by other consumers. Rescues follow PACFA regulations which require them to disclose a long list of information about an animal before they're adopted - medical records, source or how acquired, breed/age, etc. They have to be transparent with their information or they risk their license to operate.

Rescues are most often volunteer run and information on surrenders, breeds, history etc can be lacking. When my rescue pulls from euthanasia lists in shelters out of state, they don't have the same records requirements as Colorado, and we often get no information about the dog except a health certificate Yes, rescues should be upfront about what they do/don't know but dog behavior can change once the dog is adopted and transitions to a new home - we encourage everyone to read about the 3-3-3 rule and decompression for rescue dogs. We have certainly had dogs be great with kids in a foster home, and then not with the adopter's kids. They are animals, FFS, and we do our best to predict behavior but there are no guarantees. But to assert that a Pet Store gave an accurate history for the dog they're selling is ludicrous. Google "puppy mill" and then tell me that you think the pet store is describing THAT scenario as the dog's background and history. Any reputable, safe breeder does not sell their dogs to a pet store. They will want to meet the families and interview them to assure their dogs are going to safe, appropriate homes. They have waitlists and charge lots of money. It's the breeders who don't want families seeing their breeding facility or asking questions about parents, health testing, or how the puppies are raised who sell through pet stores. The pet store she references does buy their dogs from puppy mills, some of which have been shut down for gross safety and neglect violations.

The author closes with this statement: "Some families need the experience, and the detailed information and history about an animal they are bringing into their lives, which only a pet store can provide." And I will reiterate, this is NOT something pet stores are providing nor is something legitimate, licensed rescues DON'T do their best to provide adopters right now. Not only because it's important to them to make successful matches for their rescued dogs, but because PACFA requires them to. The pet store has never seen the puppy in a home, around other dogs, around children/cats/etc. They have no clue how that dog is going to behave once it leaves the store. The only benefit they have is that it's a young puppy, so why would it act like anything other than a puppy? However, that rescue dog has likely been living in a foster home for a while and that foster definitely knows more about that dog's behavior, personality, needs, etc than any $12/hr pet store employee ever could about that puppy living in a 6x6 glass box.

Shame on this publication for posting something that is so flagrantly inaccurate. And to the readers - please do your own research before regurgitating this outlandish opinion to your friend who's looking for a new, furry family member!

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