There was one piece of mail that pricked my interest more than the others. It was from the people at Last Chance for Animals ( Los Angeles ), touting their success at convincing a local animal store to turn away from puppy mills and instead showcase animals from local shelters. The store is OrangeBone on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Of course, the idea is worth a try but some questions linger. Anything to undercut the business of the puppy millers is good news. If it catches fire, this new idea could help thousands of shelter animals and nothing more exemplifies working the problem at both ends than a store that showcases shelter animals while animal welfare orgs raid the mills themselves.
At this point, I am under the impression that the store deals with puppies only. But if the idea is to help shelter animals, stores who will adopt this idea will have to deal with older and often larger dogs, or cats, as well. If this breakthrough idea works, then all shelter animals need to be helped.
At first, I thought, what? They’d be selling shelter animals! Well, come to think of it, shelters require some payment too. We charge $130 per adoption at the shelter, and that’s much lower than the $600-$800 range at the pet store. Is that considered a donation or a sales price, and do we really need to be technical about these matters? In order for a business to switch from an outlet for puppy millers to saviours of the homeless animals, there’s got to be something in it for them. A business is a business after all, and it is impractical to expect them to operate on compassion alone. Both store and shelter have bills to pay. So, receiving money does not necessarily constitute a betrayal of our mission to help homeless animals.
The logistics of this arrangement were not discussed, only that it was the culmination of a long effort on the part of LCA. I imagine the store would cycle the dogs and cats between shelter and store to provide maximum chances at adoption. If this proposal was put on the table at one of our staff meetings, I would ask who would be handling our dogs at the store. Sorry, but I do make a distinction between shelter workers and hired help at a pet store. I was trained by a trainer to handle our dogs. Our dog population is usually one third pitbull, and many pitbulls are not dogs that store employees may want to handle. And if we are going to make distinctions as to who goes to the store and who stays at the shelter, that division could seriously harm the adoption of those who remain at the shelter. A “ shelter dog “ might even acquire a new connotation. If after many years, people will be saying “ Well, the nicer shelter dogs are at the store while the tougher dogs are at the shelter, “ then I would be totally against that. Given that we shouldn't close our minds to new ideas, there are underlying concerns at the shelter end of this idea. I wish it success, nevertheless, and whatever kinks there are could be straightened out by good judgment.