Impulsive Pet buying and the problems of returned pets.

For the other underlying reasons, go to Seven reasons for animal homelessness in America

Some nuance to the issue.

First off, it’s important to understand that the majority of pet parents are responsible, loving and committed pet parents that treat their pets as kids. That said, any pet that is returned after having lived with a family is one too many as the emotional impact on the pet can be huge. We understand that in many cases, there is also significant hardship on the pet parent, and in some cases there are many mitigating reasons for their decisions.

Part One: Our culture has a love for impulse buying.

According to Ian Zimmerman, PhD, in this article for Psychology Today, “our culture of consumption enables us to succumb to temptation and purchase something without considering the consequences of the buy”. While the consequences of this behavior might be limited when we buy a can of soda, a pair of jeans or even a new TV, there are real complications when pets are involved.

Per Statistica, ~ 40% of purchase decisions are a result of impulse buying.  

Part Two: When the reality sets in, pets are returned to the shelter or breeder.

When everyone was working from home during the pandemic, shelters saw a huge increase in adoption requests. Now that life is returning to normal, some first-time dog owners find out that their dog might behave destructively when suddenly their pet parents are not home as much as before. Rather than spending time with the dog and train them to improve the behavior, the approach is to return the dog to the shelter where he or she came from. Per Eric Rayvid, Director of Public Relations of Best Friends Animal Society: “Pet owners need to work through possible separation anxiety issues, prepare pets for time alone, and look into hiring a dog walker if the dog needs to go out during the day. It was common to have pets and full-time jobs before the pandemic, so there’s no reason people going back to work can’t successfully keep their pets, with some adjustments and planning,” Rayvid said. “Our pets have been there for us and provided companionship and comfort through an extremely difficult year, and we should honor the commitment we made to them through adoption.”

Part Three: For profit-breeding is still a common occurrence in Arizona and beyond.

Buying a pet a store comes with a certain expectation of the ability to return (just like anything you buy). For an in-depth look at for-profit breeding, look at our blog post from earlier this year.

What can we do to limit the number of ‘returns’.

Individual Actions

Let’s start with yourself. Be honest – are you really ready for a long-term commitment ? There is a helpful checklist from Petfinder that goes through the countless things you need to think of before adopting a pet.

Actions by the shelters:

Most shelters do a great job in screening the adopters and have a good feel of the commitment level of the new pet parent. At Progress Through Photography, we would love to see a formal certification to become a pet parent, similar to a food handlers card. Given the responsibility you have towards another being, we feel it is important that new pet parents have the appropriate knowledge. We do strongly believe that pets should be accessible to everyone, independent of their socio-economical class.

  • The issue of retuning pets for convenience is an ethical one it is not covered extensively under state law. However, AZ law 44-1799.01 does specifically discuss the topic of returns due to contagious illnesses.
  • While the law discuss the topic of returns due to “unfit for sale” cases extensively, nowhere does it mention the responsibility for the breeder to screen their customers to ensure the pets find a right home. While we want to see a complete abolishment of for-profit breeding in Arizona, until that time it will help to embed language in 44-1799.01 that puts some level of accountability on the seller and buyer of the pet.
  • As mentioned earlier, we support the use of background checks and proof of a basic level of knowledge by pet parents (let’s call it a “good pet parent certification”). In addition, we believe Arizona should create a registry of ‘serial returners’ to avoid adoptions to people who have shown that they do not have the long-term commitment that is needed.

Latest News regarding this issue.

Where to learn more:

There are many larger organizations that have excellent education resources on this topic.

The Animal Foundation

A helpful questionnaire to determine if you’re ready for a pet.

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