Pet Sourcing Kaylin Ro & Shelley Wang

Where Mounds View Students Get Their Pets

High school students are the leading generation of ethics and politics. From personal diet choices to student activism, Mounds View High School students have increasingly displayed an on-pour of both political and self-awareness. Among that concern arises the judgement of ethics over sourcing their very own household pets. A topic often glossed over, Mounds View students often make the decision to source their pets from either shelters, large chain pet stores, or breeders.

The common consensus amongst students is that shelters and the Animal Humane Society are the most ethical choices to adopt a pet from. “I prefer to get animals from a shelter because that way you are actually saving animals that would maybe not have a home in the future—whereas maybe if you're getting it from a breeder, sometimes that can be a really bad source of getting an animal, especially if they treat animals really poorly,” said Ming Shen, 11. That mindset is reflected across the general population, as over 96 percent of the animals that enter the Animal Humane Society find a home. Others follow a similar route, taking in stray animals. “One of my cats—we picked up as a stray. He literally came to our door and he hung out with us,” said Ian Boyles, 11.

Large chain pet stores, like PetSmart and Petco, pose a similar, but marginalized debate. As the primary location for owners to purchase smaller pets, like rodents and reptiles, many do not bother to conduct any background research into where these smaller pets are raised. While some sources say that these chain store suppliers store their pets in inhabitable habitats, there is little to no proof on whether these allegations are true and consistent. Like most large chain stores, these pet stores remain the leading suppliers of small animals. Therefore, students almost exclusively source their small animals from large chain stores.

However, PetSmart often partners with local animal shelters to provide homes to cats. Shen favors shelter-adopted pets, as she has had positive experiences with them. “We got it from PetSmart when one of the shelters was there—I think it was called St. Francis… We knew that it was a shelter so we were fine with that,” said Shen.

Moreover, many smaller pet shops source their animals from puppy mills, and do not provide humane living conditions for their in-store animals. For example, the HarMar pet shop closed down soon after the Roseville city council became the first Minnesota city to rule that pet stores are no longer allowed to sell cats or dogs. It is important to realize that although some animals may seem happy and healthy in-store, they come from a history of health issues and forced breeding.

Breeders pose the highest controversiality. Whether or not an individual chooses to be a loving caretaker in their own home or if they do just enough to pass the American Kennel Club breeder certification is completely up to their own choosing. However, for students with allergies, breeders are one of the the best ways to find a hypoallergenic dog. “We got our dog from the breeder because my family is allergic to most dogs, so we had to seek out specific hypoallergenic breeds to accommodate. Otherwise, I think we would’ve looked into adoption or rescue dogs,” said Lauren Lee, 12. While some breeders can be inhumane, many are trustworthy.

The Humane Society of the United States recommends that owners who choose to source their pets from a breeder do some background research, check the breeder’s papers, and visit the environment in which the animals were raised. This is exactly what Lee did. “We found the breeder online, and we went to their farm and noticed that all the dogs got plenty of space and time to run around and play outside, not cooped up in cages,” said Lee. There are many resources online to help identify a responsible breeder versus an irresponsible breeder.

Overall, Mounds View students are fairly conscious of where they are getting their pets from. Even so, Boyles reminds that all animals are made equal. “Like it doesn't matter where you get an animal from, you can't say you only want from one end of the spectrum and not the other,” said Boyles. Wherever students adopt their pets from, they definitely give their pets the utmost love and affection.

"...if you're getting it from a breeder, sometimes that can be a really bad source of getting an animal, especially if they treat animals really poorly."
Survey of 35 students


Ian Boyles, 11

  • Q: What kind of pets do you have?
  • A: I have two cats and a fish.
  • Q: Where did you buy them?
  • A: One of my cats we picked up as a stray he literally came to our door and he hung out with us. The other one we got from a foster and I don’t know where we got our fish.
  • Q: Did you look into the background of each source?
  • A: For the foster we did, and the other one was just a stray. I think we just contacted the foster and they said they just had a bunch of cats and we went over and picked one out.
  • Q: Do you value where you source your pets?
  • A: I don’t really know. Like it doesn't matter where you get an animal from, you can't say you only want from one end of the spectrum and not the other.
  • Q: Have any health issues arisen?
  • A: No, not really. They're all vaccinated we got the stray’s claws removed.
  • Q: Where do you recommend other students get their pets from?
  • A: Go to like a shelter or go to like a foster care center. If you buy like an animal from like a seller—well like I'm saying you shouldn't like say animals from establishments are worth more—I support shelters, I’m not supporting puppy mills.

Does the Source of the Pet Truly Matter?

One of the first questions a potential pet owner must consider is where they plan to adopt or purchase an animal—oftentimes a deceivingly simple question that lacks a correct answer. From animal breeders to puppy mills, pets can be sourced from a variety of locations. Most pet owners will say that there is no right source to adopt an animal from, but consequences regarding health and behavior can be associated with different sources.

Animal breeders generally consist of some of the most reputable sources for adoptable pets, most commonly dogs and cats. What makes someone a breeder is the controlled reproduction of a certain breed or species of animals to produce healthy offspring for sale. The options are not limited to cats and dogs—fish, snakes, birds, and rodents are quite commonly seen in the community. Most citizens have come across the page for dogs and cats up for adoption from breeders in their local newspapers, a method as to how breeders advertise their pets, but the internet offers an abundance of local options for the more exotic species.

While it is frequently safe to assume that breeding practices meet standards, it is important to verify that they have a reputable history is important. A good sign is if the breeder has registered with the American Kennel Club where they are expected to follow regulations established by the AKC, such as watching for health issues, temperament, genetic screening, and placing their animals in responsible homes. The benefits of breeders are that owners who do adopt from AKC registered breeders can rest assured that their dog will meet basic health expectations. They also get a glimpse as to how the animal they adopt will behave as it ages, since most breeders allow potential adoptees meet the parent pets, and understand the genetic lineage. According to the AKC, “breeding dogs must be done responsibly and with the purpose of preserving the breed’s characteristics.” Maintaining breeding standards not only serve to produce healthy results, but also keep a certain breed’s genetic lineage as preserved as possible. Any mixing with other breeds will create unwanted mixed breeds, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Comparatively, shelters do not offer the same benefits as breeders. Unlike breeders, their lineage is virtually unknown and many are mixed breeds with the exact genetic makeup of breeds often uncertain, as well. Similarly, the behavior and temperament of the animal in the future would be difficult to predict.

However, shelters offer other advantages in adoption and the pet industry. Local shelters fight the overwhelming population of dogs and cats in the United States. The local Animal Humane Society shelters located in Minnesota states that “every animal adopted from AHS is sterilized, the only permanent and most effective way to stop unwanted animals from being born.” Thus, inhumane sources, such as puppy mills or irresponsible breeders, go unsupported. “These factory-like facilities will continue to operate until people stop supporting them. Choosing to adopt makes the world a more humane place for animals,” claims the AHS on their website.

The Animal Humane Society does support reputable breeders and the responsible breeding of companion animals. Since poor breeding facilities do exist, the Animal Humane Society encourages those looking to adopt to exercise caution when purchasing animals from breeders and to “diligently research potential breeders to ensure they’re not supporting inhumane and inadequate breeding practices,” says the AHS on their position of breeding and companion animals on their website. Though shelters may contribute more to the general welfare of pets in the United States, it all comes down to the preference of the potential owners where to adopt their animal.

Whether a shelter or a breeder is one’s choice for adoption, puppy mills are considered the poorest options. Not only do they breed dogs in large, uncontrolled quantities without genetic screening or veterinary check ups, they exhibit inhumane practices and further cause the population of unwanted dogs to rise. However, almost all states have regulations enacted to prevent puppy mills and inhumane treatment of pets, though many exist undercover. Organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States and the American Kennel Club advise against adopting at pet shops because most pet stores source their puppies from mills, not breeders. The Humane Society of the United States says that “truly responsible breeders do not sell their puppies to pet stores, they want to meet their puppy buyers in person and do not sell their puppies to the first person who shows up with cash in hand.”

Whether a family decides to adopt an animal from a shelter or a breeder, the long-term effects of the source of the animal do not seem to affect the overall happiness of the pet. The main responsibility of the owners, as many organizations claim, is to adopt from responsible and reputable sources that indicate a healthy breeding or adoption program. Pets remain an integral component of millions of American families and the source of the animal fails to define the future joy it brings home.

Survey of 35 students

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