Recently, the subject came up among colleagues about giving animals away as prizes or selling them at auction to raise money. I am sickened when I hear that this practice prevails. Have we really not evolved further as humans to stop treating animals like this? You don’t have to be a PETA fan to at least ask yourself several questions about the ethics of such action.

Is it right to liken an animal to an object? Being able to give away or sell something (or for that matter purchase) implies that it can be “owned.” Like a diamond necklace or trip to Rocky Point. Every day animal welfare organizations worldwide struggle to help elevate the status of companion animals by encouraging adoption; making a new dog or cat part of your family. We adopt children, we do not buy them. While I am not saying that dogs are the same as children, it is what the word “buy” implies that makes it so distasteful on both accounts.

Couldn’t it be a recipe for disaster to give a living being to unknown caretakers? Deciding to invite a dog or other animal to share your home is serious stuff. It’s right up there with deciding who you’re going to marry. Do they have time, experience, money, commitment to be responsible for this living creature? Are they compatible? Have they even thought about this? When the novelty wears off, many animals bought on impulse are ignored, neglected, bounced around from home to home, or surrendered to shelters. Today in Maricopa County, more than 100 animals will lose their home and end up in a shelter. Tomorrow, the same thing will happen again. Is this acceptable?

Should we encourage the purchase of a dog or cat knowing that thousands nationwide will be euthanized tomorrow (puppies and kittens included) because they were unable to find a home of their own? Maricopa County has the second largest open intake shelter in the United States; more than 100,000 dogs and cats ended up here last year and only half were lucky enough to leave. For every dog or cat that is bought, one will not be adopted. Are we willing to accept the fact that 3 to 4 million dogs and cats will be put to sleep every year just because they’re a victim of circumstance? Or maybe they just aren’t the right breed, color or age?

I’ve worked in animal welfare for more than 15 years. Over this period of time, the numbers have not changed significantly. Nationwide, only 40 to 60 percent of all animals turned in to shelters will leave out the front door. There are many reasons, only some of which are addressed above. However, nothing will ever change until we elevate the status of our fellow beings and start addressing the problem from the other end. While we will continue to save as many puppies floating down the river as we can, it’s time to start looking at ways to stop the person who’s throwing the puppies into the river in the first place. We can all help with that if we want to.


Ahwatukee Foothills resident Stefanie Strackbein is owner of The Canine Connection, a social entrepreneurship promoting adoption and a better understanding of dog behavior to enhance the human-canine bond. More information is available at or e-mail

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