Have ‘Mommy Wars’ Given Way to ‘Pet Wars?’
Pet store protests, online jabs, puppy mills—it’s tough out there.
Are pet owners, activists and business owners increasingly at odds over how we acquire our pets? Like the 'Mommy Wars' that have spurred headlines for years, it could all be part of a big culture clash.
The options are seemingly endless: breeders, rescues, animal shelters and the Internet. In recent years, discussions over how we obtain our animals have morphed, at times, to online controversies, pet store protests and increased regulations on the pet store industry.
“I think nurturing in general is getting a lot more divisive,” said Greg Ealick, a philosophy instructor at UMBC. “The increasing hostility we see in pet rearing is an echo of the increasing hostility in child rearing.”
That more divisive culture of nurturing has also manifested itself in the ‘Mommy Wars,’ where it’s debated whether breastfeeding is best, whether it’s ok in public, and how to tend the young in general, he said.
“At least part of what’s going on--we’re thinking about pets, but we’re thinking about pets as metaphors for children," he said.
Much of the public scrutiny in recent years has been centered around pet stores, some of which are accused of acquiring puppies from puppy mills or disreputable breeders.
In Columbia, an online debate has flared over the new business, Charm City Puppies, which sells luxury dog items, as well as puppies.
Animal advocates online said that reputable breeders don’t sell puppies to pet stores and instead prefer to screen potential buyers to ensure puppies go to good homes.
Catonsville readers sounded off on this issue in a previous article, which you can read here.
Charm City Puppies owners have not commented, but national pet industry groups say that in reality quality pet stores and breeders are the norm.
Puppy store protests don’t just occur online.
This week, police were called to a pet store protest outside a store in Orland Park, a suburb of Chicago, that sold puppies, according to the Southtown Star.
Police arrived after “words were exchanged” between a woman and a protester, the Star reported.
Kristel Masengale, a sale’s associate at Today’s Pet in Elkridge, said she has been in the pet store industry for 10 years—and it has changed dramatically with more regulations and laws regarding store operations.
“As long as the business is doing things right—the animals are well taken care of, the breeder are licensed and trusted, typically they’ll do ok,” she said.
There is no question it’s become more difficult for the pet industry, said Michael Maddox, vice president of governmental affairs and the general counsel for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, which represents the pet industry.
“We think pet stores and breeders should be subject to high standards of care,” he said. “Unfortunately, you have certain elements who really are anti-pet. They don’t like the idea of people buying pets at all. They’ll picket stores, seek legislation banning the sale of pets. .. We think it’s a very good thing for people to own pets.”
Maddox pointed to legislation two years ago in Maryland (that stalled in committee) that would have banned the sale of puppies in retail pet stores.
This year, legislation has been introduced in the Maryland House of Delegates and the Senate that would require pet stores to reveal the origins of the puppies they sell and reimburse customers for vet costs if the puppy they buy becomes unexpectedly ill.
Advocates for animals said pet owners have become more aware of their choices, but aren’t necessarily becoming more divisive about what is right and wrong.
Aileen Gabby, executive director of the Maryland SPCA, said pet owners today are less judgmental—but they have more pride in their choices.
“It’s not shaking your finger, ‘You should do this,’ it’s, ‘Hey, I did this. I got a shelter pet, and he’s great. You should do that, too,’” she said.