Shelter dogs seek permanent homes

Dogs waiting for you at PACC. (Photo by: Paige Carpenter and Angela Vera/ Arizona Sonora News Service)

The Humane Society of the United States has a point to make.

“If just one of every five Americans wanting to add a cat or dog to their family in the next year adopted from a shelter, not one single healthy, treatable cat or dog would lose his life in a shelter.”

Summer hopes to be adopted at PACC. (Photo by: Angela Vera/ Arizona Sonora News Service)

Meet Summer, an Australian Cattle Dog/Blue Heeler Mix. A Tucson police officer found her as a stray and brought her into Pima Animal Care Center on March 17. She is 10 years old and has been at PACC for over 2 weeks, so her adoption is free. But, if Summer never finds a home, her options are limited and she could be euthanized like many others similar her.  

Pima Animal Care Center has over 300 dogs like Summer, but the center will have even more in their high season. Between June and August, PACC will house over 600 dogs.

Because of the large quantity of animals, PACC is still a “kill shelter.” “We do have to ease the suffering of extremely ill or injured animals,” said Jose Chavez, PACC’s Shelter Manager. “We are almost a no kill shelter and we will eventually become one.”  

According to Sarah Miller, an employee at the Humane Society, adopting an animal rather than buying one at a pet store helps animal shelters minimize the populations of animals both in the shelter and on the public streets. However, buying an animal from a pet store makes it harder for these animals, like Summer, to get adopted. This is not the only problem with buying an animal from a pet store.

“Animals from pet stores often come from puppy mills,” Miller said. Puppy mills breed puppies to sell, however the conditions are usually terrible and often deemed inhumane. This past year, the Humane Society brought in a ton of pitbulls and shih tzus from a puppy mill.  “They were bred incorrectly so they had a bunch of issues like socialization problems and genetic issues,” said Miller. Unfortunately, local shelters and humane societies will have to continue to take in puppies from puppy mills if they continue to breed incorrectly and in poor conditions. 

Pet stores and animal shelters continue to bring in dogs for different reasons. Pet stores buy from puppy mills to keep the flow of dogs incoming and to provide the breeds customers wants. Animal shelters receive dogs from puppy mills to nurse them to good health or sell them to a safe home. According to an article from The Washington Post, “Although they may be doing good things for individual dogs purchased at auctions, it perpetuates the problem and tends to create a seller’s market,” says Brandi Hunter, the American Kennel Club‘s spokeswoman.” Both pet stores and animal shelters are in the wrong.

In addition to selling dogs from puppy mills, pet stores are also extremely expensive in order to make a profit off of their puppy mill purchase. “Our puppies are about $2000-$3500 on average plus a mandatory $160 fee,” said Tashena Art, a worker at Animal Kingdom in Phoenix, Arizona. She said that price depends on pedigree and breed, and that insemination is more expensive than natural breeding.  

However, the benefits of buying a dog at a pet store like Animal Kingdom is that the animal is a brand new dog, the breeders are often regulated, and you are guaranteed a pure breed or pure designer breed, Art said.

Dog lays in kennel at PACC. (Photo by: Paige Carpenter/Arizona Sonora News Service)

Because of desire for purebred dogs, pet stores will continue buying from puppy mills and animal shelters will continue providing care for sick dogs from puppy mills. 

Paige Carpenter and Angela Vera are reporters for Arizona News Service, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact them at

paigencarpenter@email.arizona.edu or angelatvera@email.arizona.edu. 

Click here for a Word version of this story and high-resolution photos. 

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