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.

Why we are called “Progress Through Photography”

One of the questions I get frequently is “Why did you come up with the name Progress Through Photography ?”

The above infographic shows you the cliff notes: We are in business to achieve a world where every animal has a loving forever home.

Want to learn more ? Click the links below for more information:

Marcel van der Stroom, CPP
Marcel van der Stroom, CPP

Founder of Progress Through Photography

How you can help END for-profit breeding in Arizona.

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

Description of the problem

Part One: We procure our pets from for-profit organizations while millions of animals are in shelters.

Per the ASPCA: According to the APPA, these are the most common sources from which primary methods cats and dogs are obtained as pets (Note: this information was based on a multiple response question, which results in the total % exceeding 100% individually for cats and dogs.  In addition, the ‘other’ category includes all source categories that were reported by <10% of both dog and cat owners):

Animal Shelter/Humane Society23%31%
Private Party12%6%
Table from APPA.

APPA reports that 34% of dogs are purchased from breeders, while 23% of dogs and 31% of cats are obtained from an animal shelter or humane society.

Around 27% of cats are acquired as strays, down from 35% in 2012. (Source: APPA)

If we want to reduce the number of pets in shelters, it makes no sense at all to breed dogs for sale (with the exception of job-specific dog-breeds, e.g. for police work will always be needed)

Part Two: Ethical and Responsible Dog Breeding does not exist.

Per PETA, there is no such thing as a “responsible” breeder, because for every puppy or kitten who is produced by any breeder, an animal awaiting adoption at an animal shelter loses his or her chance at finding a home—and will be euthanized. Breeders kill shelter animals’ chance to have a life.

Part Three: Puppy Mills are profiting at the expense of animal safety.

According to PAWS, Puppy mills are commercial breeding facilities that mass-produce dogs (and cats in cat mills) for sale through pet stores, or directly to consumers through classified ads or the Internet. Roughly 90 percent of puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills. Many retailers who buy animals from such facilities take the wholesaler’s word that the animals are happy and healthy without seeing for themselves.

In most states, these commercial breeding kennels can legally keep hundreds of dogs in cages their entire lives, for the sole purpose of continuously churning out puppies. The animals produced range from purebreds to any number of the latest “designer” mixed breeds. Cat breeding occurs under similar conditions to supply pet stores with kittens.

What can we do to stop for-profit breeding ?

Individual Actions

Let’s start with yourself. Do not buy a dog from an animal store, from a backyard breeder, a professional breeder or a puppy mill. It’s that simple. There are many shelters in Arizona, see a full list here. Our own charity partner, Lost Our Home Pet Rescue is a good place to start. Another useful research is Bailing Out Benji’s map of for-profit breeders and their Facebook group

Support Organizations that are specifically focused on this issue.

There are organizations that are focused specifically on stopping puppy mills or backyard breeding.

The Puppy Mill Project: They educate, facilitate rescue, and advocate for change. Their goal is simple: end puppy mills.

Bailing Out Benji: Bailing Out Benji, which was founded in 2011, is known for being a small nonprofit organization that makes huge waves on a small budget.

National Mill Dog Rescue: To rescue, rehabilitate and re-home discarded breeding dogs and to educate the general public about the cruel realities of the commercial dog breeding industry.

On Arizona State level:

The Arizona State law A. R. S. 44-1799 – 1799.11 comprises the state’s pet shop laws. The section requires that retail pet sellers provide purchasers a notice of rights that includes a statement of good health signed by a veterinarian. Purchasers have fifteen days to return unhealthy or diseased dogs and receive a refund or compensation for reasonable veterinary expenses. Any local law, rule, regulation or ordinance may not directly or indirectly prohibit or be applied to prohibit the sale of dogs or cats by a pet store or pet dealer, expressly or in effect, based on the source from which the animal is obtained if obtained in compliance with § 44-1799.10. See the full section 44 – the pet store regulations start at 1799.1 to 1799.11

On County Level

Due to language in state law: Any local law, rule, regulation or ordinance may not directly or indirectly prohibit or be applied to prohibit the sale of dogs or cats by a pet store or pet dealer, expressly or in effect, based on the source from which the animal is obtained if obtained in compliance with § 44-1799.10

On City Level

Due to language in state law: Any local law, rule, regulation or ordinance may not directly or indirectly prohibit or be applied to prohibit the sale of dogs or cats by a pet store or pet dealer, expressly or in effect, based on the source from which the animal is obtained if obtained in compliance with § 44-1799.10

Latest News on for profit breeding in Arizona.

Where to learn more:

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

American Pet Products Association

The National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy (NCPPSP)

The American Veterinary Medical Association


Bailing out Benji

Arizona State Legislature Webpage

On Twitter:

10 gorgeous pet pictures you cannot create with a phone camera.

You may wonder how to take the best photos of your dog or cat. This article explains why taking pictures with your phone camera is not a replacement for professional pet photography.

Marcel van der Stroom
Marcel van der Stroom

Founder and CEO of Progress Through Photography. Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) and graduate student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism / ASU.

Why cellphone cameras are not the answer for all photographic challenges

There is some common wisdom in the fact that “the best camera is the one that you have with you”. While it is certainly true that you can’t take photos with a camera that you left at home, the quality of the photos taken with cellphones is often less than desirable for use other than sharing on social media.

In this article I will make the case for professional photographic equipment (and a professional using it) – by listing 10 things that are simply not possible with today’s cellphone cameras.

The history of cellphone cameras

But first, let’s take a step back. According to an article in digital trends – the first cell phone with a built-in camera was manufactured by Samsung and released in South Korea in June of 2000. The SCH-V200 flipped open to reveal a 1.5-inch TFT-LCD, and the built-in digital camera was capable of taking 20 photos at 350,000-pixel resolution, which is 0.35-megapixels, but you had to hook it up to a computer to get your photos. The camera and the phone components were essentially separate devices housed in the same body.

Anno 2021, some phone cameras have sensors with specs similar to professional grade DSLR’s and mirror-less cameras – or even more – but megapixels are only part of the story – more on that below.

The pro’s and con’s of cellphone cameras

You can take pretty good pictures with a phone camera, but it is not a replacement for a dedicated camera or studio. There are many pro’s and cons of cellphone cameras vs. professional grade cameras. This article does a pretty good job summarizing it. Cellphone cameras aren’t always bad, but they lack certain characteristics that you need to create professional level portraits of your pets.

What can you control with professional grade equipment ?

While there are always coming more apps on the market to control your phone camera, the level of control you have with a professional grade camera body, optics and lighting is far superior.

Things you can’t achieve with a cellphone: Shutter speed control

1. Show off your pet’s athleticism in running pictures:

Dogs just love to run. It must be so much easier, and so much more fun with four legs. With control over your shutter speed (in the picture below 1/800th of a second) you can freeze the motion and show off the joy of your dog.

running dog

2. Show their craziest faces during playtime:

Get one of their best buddies, a few toys and a yard and you have entertainment for a while. Dogs and cats just love to play. Unfortunately, they do it so fast that we miss most of it !

3. Show their skills catching treats:

Catching treats is fun – for you and your dog. It builds a bond and it helps develop motor skills for your dog. Just don’t overdo it – you don’t want to end up with a fat dog!

Things you can’t achieve with a cellphone: Aperture control

Yes, there is a portrait mode on most cellphones nowadays, which simulates the large apertures and creates a ‘bokeh-like’ blurring effect. But there is more to aperture than that .

4. Use a small aperture to capture all details.

Your pet is awesome. So why not capture some of their awesomeness on photo. By choosing the aperture wisely, in combination with the right lens and lighting, you can capture the smallest detail of their fur, their eyes and other features.

5. Use a large aperture to create gorgeous blur

As we mentioned above, some cellphones mimic this effect trough software, but it doesn’t come close to the real thing. Below is a portrait shot at an F/2.5 aperture which shows how beautiful a blurry background can be.

Without light there is no photography. But not all light is created equally. While all cellphones have additional light built-in (the flash), using on-camera flash can often lead to unflattering results.

6. Use a powerful off-camera flash to shoot into the sunset

Who doesn’t like a gorgeous sunset with your favorite hiking buddy. The gorgeous light of a setting sun can create a powerful glow but can also lead to your dog looking like a silhouette. Adding off-camera light that can light up your subject from the front, while maintaining the sunset feel is the answer.

outdoor pet portrait

7. Use off-camera flash to create moody low-key portraits

With the right placement of lights and correct choice of shutter speed / aperture, you can create gorgeous moody portraits that portray the true spirit of your pet.

8. Use off-camera flash to create bright and clean studio portraits

If you light up the background and the subject, you can create a clean, sharp portrait with that you can use online with a nice clean white background.

Things you can’t achieve with a cellphone: Purpose specific lenses

9. Ultra Wide-angle shots to create the funniest faces

Choosing a low camera view point and using a very wide focal length (~20mm or less) you can create a funny perspective that makes your pet look so cute !

10. Super-telezoom shots to go full pupparazi and capture your pet off guard

The advantage of telezoom lenses go beyond wildlife photography. If you are looking for something that does not feel ‘staged’, a long lens can be useful to capture your pet in his/her most natural state. Extra bonus: the long focal length creates gorgeous blur !

So, all I have to do is buy expensive equipment and that’s it?

Unfortunately not. There’s much more to it – knowledge of composition, light, color combinations, perspective, editing, printing.

But the good news is that we offer photography sessions starting at $89 – you can learn more about our pricing and book a shoot here.

5 examples of great social enterprises that have changed the world.


Progress Through Photography is not a charity, but a social entrepreneurship. For who is unfamiliar with the concept, a social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to support a social goal – rather than maximizing profits for external shareholders.Our core mission is to help combat animal homelessness in Arizona and create a world (but let’s start with a state) where EVERY pet has a loving forever home. We see ourselves not as a photography business or digital marketing agency, but as a social change agent. We fund this through our services and products, ranging from Pet Portraits to Social Media Strategy services for business in the pet industry.

“When people who do good are also able to do well financially, the world will become a much more sustainable and happier place”

Marcel van der Stroom, Founder & CEO Progress Through Photography.

What is a social enterprise ?

Without re-inventing the wheel, I think Wikipedia says it best:

A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in financial, social and environmental well-being—this may include maximizing social impact alongside profits for co-owners.

Social enterprises have both business goals and social goals. As a result, their social goals are embedded in their objective, which differentiates them from other organizations and corporations. A social enterprise’s main purpose is to promote, encourage, and make social change. They are sustainable, and earned income from sales is reinvested in their mission. They do not depend on philanthropy and can sustain themselves over the long term. Their models can be expanded or replicated to other communities to generate more impact. As a social enterprise, Progress Through Photography is dedicated to the goal of eliminating animal homelessness in Arizona. We do this by focusing on the underlying reasons for animal homelessness – the big picture

What are the differences between a charity and a social enterprise

social enterprise

What are some examples of successful social enterprises ?

La Gattara Cat Lounge

La Gattara Cat Lounge & Boutique in the Phoenix Metro area is a relaxing place to hang out with some cool cats, play cards, cats, listen to music, cats, use free wifi, cats, read books, cats, play a board game, cats, paint a cat, cats, and yoga with cats! Did I mention hang out with cats? You can learn more about them here.

Animal Mama

Animal Mama is a passion project that aims to provide unique, holistic, healthy, affordable and personalized pet services to animal lovers in Cambodia. As Veterinary Hospital & Animal Welfare Center it offer medical veterinary services, pet boarding, animal daycare, socialization, hydrotherapy, doggy pool & homemade holistic food and treats. Founded by the animal lover, long-time animal welfare activist and a businesswoman, Yulia Khouri, the proceeds from this project fund the on-going rescue/adoptions/health services for the street animals as well as the country-wide education about animal welfare to public. Because Animals are People too.

The Circle Society

It’s a self-sustaining social enterprise that empowers at-risk, emancipated foster youth to lead productive lives through a dynamic housing model aimed at healing several broken aspects of society. We provide former foster kids with the critical resources, sense of security and life coaching they need. In the same setting, senior citizens find renewed purpose in helping these kids realize their vision for successful lives. The rescue dogs help bond the two generations together with a mutual interest they care about. Learn more here.

Canine Perspectives

Canine Perspective CIC was established in 2014 due to the success of a teen fiction novel, Reggie & Me, written by Marie Yates, one of our humans. The book explores the journey of a teenage rape survivor and the impact of her rescue dog, Reggie, on her recovery. The relationship and the principles behind the story led to requests for support from survivors and those living and working with them. As a result of this, Canine Perspective CIC was created. All of the profits from Canine Logic, Canine Progress and Love Learning from Dogs, funds our Canine Hope programs. Learn more here.

Swipes for the Homeless

Swipes for the Homeless is an organization founded by college students who wanted to give back to their community. Now, Swipes has grown to include multiple US colleges including Berkley, UCLA, and Northwestern University. Students have the opportunity to donate their leftover meal plan points to local homeless people. Since its inception, Swipes has donated 330,000 pounds of food

Conclusion – and how you can help

At Progress Through Photography we believe that a social enterprise model is more sustainable than a nonprofit organization as it generates revenues without relying fully on donations. Charities are extremely important in solving social problems, and we work together with a great team of charity partners, but we feel we can make a bigger impact and have a higher degree of flexibility as a for-profit organization. During our journey to profitability, we do rely partially on donations and grants to keep this business running and growing. If you are able to help financially, we greatly appreciate it and you can do so here.

What do you think ?

Do you know of any social enterprises that need to be recognized ? Leave a comment ! We would love to hear from you !

Seven reasons for animal homelessness in America

The main, structural reasons for animal homelessness in America.

There are many different reasons for animal homelessness, but there are some major, systemic issues that need to be addressed. Visit our PTP Academy to learn more about the underlying reasons and what you can do to help.

1. Despite millions of homeless pets, for-profit breeders are allowed.

2. Pets are often ‘acquired’ based on impulse and returned later.

3. The cost of medical care for pets can be very high.

4. There is a huge need for foster parents to provide temporary homes for pets.

5. We have allowed to many animals due to lack of neutering and spaying.

6. It is difficult to find affordable rental housing which allows pets.

7. Some pet owners are not capable / willing of taking care of their pets.

Important – The 3 Major National Parties views on Animal Homelessness.

Marcel van der Stroom
Marcel van der Stroom

After 20 years in the high-tech industry, Marcel founded Progress Through Photography with the mission to combat animal homelessness in Arizona.


At Progress Through Photography, one of our goals is to educate the American public on the underlying, systemic reasons for animal homelessness. With the election only a bit over a month away, we want to explore what the major parties say about the issue of animal homelessness and the underlying, systemic issues that contribute to the problem.


Too busy to read it all? Based on the research we have done, the Green Party is the only national party that has any significant content in their platform on animal homelessness issues.

Why are the national party’s positions important ?

While a lot of political decisions are made on the State, County and City level, the national policy makers can often impact them. Major decisions on related topics like housing, homelessness, medical care and animal abuse legislation are made on the highest political levels. In subsequent blog posts, I will dive into the Arizona ballot in detail.

How did I do my research ?

I start with looking at the Party’s platforms, which are public. Here you can find the 2020 Democratic Platform, the 2016 Republican Platform (there is no updated platform) and the 2020 Green Party Platform.

  1. I looked at the table of content of the platforms for a section on animals, pets or animal homelessness.
  2. I searched the platforms for occurrences of “animal”, “pets”, “cat” and “dog”
  3. I searched Google on “Democratic / Republican / Green party policy on animal homelessness.

In a future posts, I will search the platforms for occurrences of keywords related to the 8 reasons for animal homelessness: “housing”,”abuse”,”medical care”.

So, with that out of the way, let’s start looking at the results.

US Democratic Party

Platform Search Results:

No topic on animal homelessness found.

Direct Search: Animal, Pet, Cat, Dog

Related to farm animals: “We will also review federal guidelines to improve workers safety at facilities that raise and process meat for consumption, and use the federal government’s procurement power to incentivize the humane treatment of farm animals in accordance with commercially-recognized animal welfare standards”

Related to animal transmitted diseases: We will reinvigorate and build upon the North American Plan for Animal and Pandemic Influenza launched under the Obama-Biden Administration and work with our partners to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused the biggest economic decline in history across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Related to big-game hunting:Democrats will recommit to the Obama-Biden Administration’s National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking and ban importation into the United States of hunting trophies from Africa’s iconic and endangered big cats.

Summarized, there is no significant content in the Democratic Party’s 2020 platform regarding animal homelessness issues.

US Republican Party

Platform Search Results:

No topic on animal homelessness found.

Direct Search: Animal, Pet, Cat, Dog

Related to wildfires: “The increase in catastrophic wildfires has been needlessly killing millions of animals and destroying homes and watersheds for decades in the western states.”

Related to wounded veterans: “More than ever, our government must work with the private sector to advance opportunities and provide assistance to those wounded in spirit as well as in body, whether through experimental efforts like the PAWS (Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemen) program for service dogs or through the faith-based institutions that have traditionally been providers of counseling and aid.”

Summarized, there is not significant content in the Republican Party’s 2016 platform regarding animal homelessness issues.

US Green Party

Platform Search Results:

There is a topic called “Ethical Treatment of animals”.

Related to breeding: “Prohibit large scale commercial breeding facilities, such as “puppy mills,” because of the massive suffering, overpopulation, and ill health such facilities produce.

Related to overpopulation: Subsidize spay and neuter clinics to combat the ever-worsening pet overpopulation problem that results in the killing of millions of animals every year. Where unwanted companion animals are being killed in shelters, we advocate mandatory spay and neuter laws.

Related to animal abuse: Ban the exploitation of animals in violent entertainment and sports.

Direct Search: Animal, Pet, Cat, Dog

Regarding animal consumption as food: “Preserve and expand product labeling requirements to ensure that consumers are informed about the origin, ingredients and ecological life cycle of all products, including animal testing and the product’s organic,recycled and genetically-engineered content.”

Regarding testing on animals: Substitute chemical safety testing on animals with alternatives that do not use animals, wherever such alternative tests or testing strategies are available.

Other – see above.

Summarized, the Green Party is the only major party with significant content in their platform regarding animal homelessness issues. The are very specific about the topics of spaying, neutering, commercial breeding and animal abuse.


The two mainstream parties have not carved out a dedicated section for the topic of animal homelessness. Only the green party has this, and comes with a specific vision on overpopulation control. However, since the Green Party does not play a huge role nationally in terms of seats in the chambers of the house, it is unlikely that animal homelessness issues will be a big part of the political discussion in Washington DC.

What’s next?

In future posts, I will look at:

  1. the platforms again, but at the broader policies that might have an impact on animal homelessness in the USA.
  2. the Arizona ballots and discuss the impact on animal homelessness of the electable politicians and the propositions.

Other articles to read

From the Humane Society Legislative Fund: