Whew! What a weekend!
It was so great to see all of the support Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) received at the adopt-a-thon this weekend. The petition got a lot of signatures, we sold some t-shirts, and we got a lot of offers from people and businesses interested in helping out, which was always welcome.
Like I said earlier, this is my first experience on the front lines of any sort of “activism”. And I will be the first to deny I am a “people person” in any way, so it was quite something to be striking up conversations with as many strangers who walked through the door as possible, seeking support for the cause and a signature on the petition. I know our petition requires an address, but take it up with the Municipal Government Act (Alberta) – I promise we won’t turn it into a mailing list of any sort!
It was also a great learning experience and good practice for more events to come in the near future. For example, next time we will have additional signage: sorry folks, the stickers are actually for sale.
And best of all, it was a great gauge for public reactions to the Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) campaign. Of course, being at an adopt-a-thon, an overwhelming majority of people were decidedly in favour of a retail pet sale ban for Calgary. Some of my favourite comments over the weekend were:
– I read about you in the Calgary Herald and came down to sign!
– I wondered when Calgary was going to do this.
– It’s about time!
– I’m so glad to hear someone has started this.
– I won’t even buy poop bags at a store that sells live animals.
– I got my dog from a pet store – never again.
– I only adopt rescue animals.
– Let me know how I can help.
Definitely the bulk of people, when asked to sign the petition, would simply say “of course” or “that’s great” and happily sign away. A smaller group of people would gladly sign after getting more information and learning exactly what ASLC was all about. Here are some of the common questions we were asked:
“I live in Okotoks, can I sign? Can my kids sign?”
Unfortunately, the legal requirements of the petition mean only signatures of electors of the City of Calgary are valid. Which is very unfortunate, because we had to turn away many people who wanted to be counted. I encourage these individuals to lobby for a similar ban in Okotoks, Airdrie, or where ever you’re from!
“So where will I get a dog then?”
This one kind of made me giggle (no offence). We were in the middle of an adopt-a-thon that had over 100 dogs and cats up for adoption; they just had to turn around and look. The removal of commercial pet sales is not going to result in a pet shortage. I assure anyone with this concern that they will still be able to find dogs and cats at shelters and rescues, and with reputable breeders.
“Shouldn’t we regulate breeders?”
ASLC is focusing the initiative on the sale of dogs and cats on public and commercial properties only, and the petition wording concerns only that. This will end the retail pet sales that promote a pets-as-commodity perspective, and prevent puppy mills and backyard breeders from distributing and advertising on public and commercial properties such as roadways and parking lots. Commercial sales are the most visible sales medium of substandard and unintentional breeders. The truth is, reputable breeders would never surrender their puppies or kittens to a pet store for sale. The Canadian Kennel Club prohibits pet store sales, and reputable breeders want to ensure themselves that their animals go to good homes.
“What about the pet stores that feature rescues?”
They will not be affected. We would love to see more collaboration between big retailers and rescues to get adoptable animals showcased. Adoptions in these instances still need to go through the rescue organization, but the store serves as a way to introduce the public to the other options out there.
“But I just like to go to the pet store to play with the puppies for a little while and nothing else.”
Don’t worry, if pet stores opt to feature rescues (and some already do), you can still go in for an hour of socialization. You can also go to places such as the Humane Society, where you can meet the animals, or even volunteer to walk the dogs and play with the cats. If you’d like a slightly longer, but still not permanent, commitment, offer to foster for one of the rescues. And many of the pet stores I know that refuse to sell animals still have the employees’ or owners’ dogs or cats in the stores most days to visit with.
“What about my breeder – are you going to shut them down?”
No. Well, as long as they are responsible and reputable, we aren’t. We would like only the responsible, reputable breeders to be the people you go to when you have a particular breed of dog in mind (well, them and breed-specific rescues). Reputable breeders are those who put the health and care of the animals – both the offspring and the parents – first. They do not breed females every heat, or often even yearly. They do health and lineage checks. They will provide you with lifetime support and advice, and will offer to re-home your dog for you if circumstances change and you can no longer care for them. They will also put you through an extensive adoption application, usually requiring in-person meetings to see how you interact with their dogs before they determine you will be a suitable guardian. They will also often contractually require you spay or neuter your dog by a certain age unless there is an alternative breeding agreement in place. And when they say their animals come with “papers” and pure bred registration, that means the CKC. I will again note that the CKC prohibits its members from selling their dogs to pet stores. ASLC has already had some great feedback from breeders in support of a pet store ban.
And, of course, we did get a small number of people – no more than half a dozen all weekend – who did not sign the petition or agree with the ASLC cause. As they say, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – and that includes opinions.
For example, there was one couple who seemed personally offended by the cause because they had bought their dog from a pet store (actually, their teenage son did, and they inherited the dog when he moved out). I understand that reaction, especially if they did not have a particularly negative experience, and because they could view the ASLC cause as telling them they got their pet the wrong or uneducated way. Indeed, we are saying that and I stand by it, but I do hope they went home and looked into the concerns about pet store pets a little more and give the issue some serious thought.
However, for a very small group of nay-sayers, there was a much larger population of whole-hearted support, which was certainly encouraging.
Thank you, Calgary, and everyone at the adopt-a-thon, for a successful launch!
Keep an eye out for more ASLC over the coming weeks, and check the website for locations if you’d like to buy the merchandise or sign the petition.
This is Kiwi. She was at the adopt-a-thon with AARCS, and was one of many dogs and cats who found a forever home over the weekend.