We recently had two puppies brought in that were found abandoned behind the Target in Rohnert Park. It is so sad that someone thought that was a better option than bringing them to the shelter, although we’ll never know if it was actually a conscious choice. When we posted them on Facebook and Nextdoor as new strays, what came to light through the comments is that many people had seen a gentleman trying to give-away look-alike puppies in the Target parking lot throughout the day and they didn’t know what to do. Do you?
There are many layers to this problem. If you buy them from the person selling puppies then you are encouraging the breeding of the momma dog. I have heard people say they paid hundreds of dollars “just to get the puppies away from that awful situation.” But, in fact, you are supporting that awful situation! It would be much better to call animal control and have action taken against the awful conditions than rewarding the person with money.
If you see someone outside a store trying to sell or give away animals there are several things you could do. How you proceed would, of course depend on many variables. Time of day, condition the animals are in, where it is happening, demeanor of the person with the animals, whether he is trying to get money or just get rid of the animals, etc. Realize that either way there is very little screening going on as to the homes the animals are going to. Most people heading for a little shopping at Target don't have getting a new puppy on their list! So it is an impulse purchase and often fails when the puppy either gets sick or proves not to be housebroken. Meantime there is a critical socializing period, between 6-12 weeks when these babies are taken, often too young, away from both the mom and their littermates. This can set them up for behavioral issues for the rest of their lives!
So first, engage the person in conversation. Try to find out as much about the animals as possible. Does he have the momma? Does he know who the daddy was? How old are they? Why is he “getting rid of them?” How many babies are there? Have they had any vet care? Has he thought about giving them to the shelter so the adopters can be screened and the puppies started on vaccinations? Then based on the responses you can see if perhaps he would be willing to give you all the puppies or kittens so you could bring them in to the shelter (or tell him that you have friends that would all like one.) If his goal is to make some quick money, giving them free to you will probably fail. Then you go to the next tier.
We, and most cities, have a muni code prohibiting the giving away of pets in front of businesses. You could go inside and talk to the store manager about what is happening and also contact Animal Control, which in Rohnert Park is handled through the department of Public Safety. Often the person will turn over the puppies/kittens to an officer in order to avoid a citation for violating that ordinance. Sometimes we can even convince the pet owner to have the momma dog spayed in exchange for dropping any charging. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful conclusion!
The fear that stops many people from getting involved, is that if you take the babies, you will get stuck with them. Don’t worry! We will take them and if it’s at night the 24-hour Animal Care Center will take them in and hold them until we open in the morning. Getting the babies before they are individually handed out to people who take them on impulse, and aren’t really set up and ready for the commitment, is the goal. And you are the one who can help make it happen. Please don’t hesitate. The babies are counting on you!
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.