(BPT) - You bring two types of cupcakes to your first-grader's school party - chocolate and vanilla. The chocolate cakes are gone in minutes, while the vanilla ones linger. Next time, you'll probably just buy chocolate cupcakes. Supply and demand is a simple economic principle even the youngest consumers can understand, and it's the key to ending two industries that animal advocates would like to see go out of business forever - shelters and puppy mills.
"Each year, approximately 10,000 puppy mills across the country produce hundreds of thousands of dogs to be sold online and in pet stores throughout the nation," says Elizabeth Oreck of Best Friends Animal Society. "Meanwhile, approximately 3 to 4 million animals are killed in animal shelters annually as a means of population control. It's a sad illustration of the concept of supply and demand. If people would stop buying pets produced in puppy mills, and start adopting from shelters, we could put this industry out of business - and save every last homeless dog."
Every year, despite increased public awareness, puppy mills continue to produce dogs for retail sale. Consumer demand drives this supply; people want animals of a certain breed or size, creating the demand mills fill. Yet adoptable shelter pets could easily fulfill this demand, too - at a lower cost to families and more humanely for the animals.
"Everyone has the ability to help turn this situation around," Oreck says. "If every person who's thinking of buying a puppy online or from a pet store this year would instead choose to adopt from a shelter or rescue group, puppy mills would see demand dry up. Eventually, shelters would see their supply of homeless animals dwindle, too."
The animal advocates at Best Friends offer these tips for how you can help change the supply-and-demand equation in the animal industry:
* Adopt a pet from your local animal shelter. If you're looking for a specific type of dog, Best Friends has a huge, searchable directory of pets available for adoption, including Best Friends locations, local partnering rescue groups and shelters plus AdoptAPet.com. Here you will find photos, videos, information about adoptable animals, and the location and contact information for adopting them. Visit the Best Friends website for a list of pet stores that offer rescued dogs for adoption. You can also use the Internet to look up a breed-specific rescue group in your area.
* If you are intent on purchasing a specific breed of dog, do your homework about the dog's origins before you buy, to be sure you are not purchasing a puppy from a mill. Beware of websites that sell dogs, especially if they say they're willing to ship the animal to you. Ads that list several breeds of puppy for sale should raise a red flag.
* If, despite your best efforts, you find you've bought a sick puppy, and the seller is not cooperating, check to see if your state has a pet lemon law. To help prevent this sad event from happening to others, alert the Better Business Bureau, your state attorney general, and local animal control agency. If your puppy has American Kennel Club (AKC) registration papers, you can also file a complaint with the AKC about the breeder.
* Do your part to reduce shelter animal populations. Have your pets spayed or neutered, and always keep an ID tag on your pet, or have him microchipped so that if he ever gets lost, he can be returned to you.
"The simple economics of supply and demand are key to ending the tragedy of puppy mills and shelter killing," Oreck says. "Puppy mills are in business because people are buying what they're selling. If Americans seeking pets would simply opt to adopt, rather than buy, we truly could save them all."
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