In October 2008 (two days before my birthday) while on break at work, I walked into a pet store in a shopping mall, and I spotted Bugs (the mini-rex rabbit who became my pet for 9 years) sitting in a gigantic glass cage. I was not planning on buying a pet, but I did at the time. My mind was interested in adopting a cat, but my heart melted when I saw the baby bunny in the store. Like a big kid, I could not resist the urge to have the bunny and I do not regret my decision. In the 9 years, I was taught many valuable lessons: Animals are more intelligent than some humans give credit, they have feelings and can communicate in many ways, it is our responsibility to care for animals/ the planet on a whole and while bunnies are cute and soft, they can find ways to defend themselves (if necessary) plus many other interesting ideas.
When I wrote ‘The Adventures of Vylette Bunny Michie: Love at First Bite’ I used many of my own experiences with Bugs to create the delightful and charming story. One of those experiences was strolling into a pet store and becoming enamoured by the ideal pet. I did not want to change the experience in the story as I felt that the story would not be the same (and it would not be “my story”). In the children’s book, Vylette is purchased from a local pet store and Michie is given valuable advice on how to properly care for a rabbit. Vylette Bunny was well cared for by the pet shop lady.
After completing this project, I started to deeply ponder the idea of “buying” a pet vs. “adopting” a pet. When I scrolled through social media, I was overwhelmed by the amount of pro-adoption and anti-pet store groups that existed. When I researched a bit more, I understood why many people were “anti-pet store”. Too many puppy mills and backyard breeders were in existence and some pet stores were selling the puppies to make a profit. Some of the puppies were sickly and treated in an inhumane manner. My heart felt very heavy when I really investigated this topic. Some people also believed that with the number of animals up for adoption, why bother buying? On the other hand, I also understood that the adoption process could be complicated and expensive. I reasoned why some folks found it easier to purchase their furry friend from a pet store. In addition, not all pet stores were the same (some carried pets from reputable breeders and looked after their animals). Suddenly all of this became an issue of ethics and as a strong animal lover, I felt a bit torn in between it all.
Recently, I was pleased to discover that in the province of Ontario, any pet store that wishes to offer pets to the public must be affiliated with a pet adoption programme. There are 33 pet stores in Ottawa that are affiliated with the Ottawa Humane Society’s PAL (Pet Adoption Location) programme. The aim is to help the animals in need of a home and eradicate the puppy mill industry. While I bought my pet many years ago (long before these pet store regulations were in order) I am a strong supporter of adopting the right pet. The adoption process also encourages the right owner for the right pet. After all, a pet is a huge responsibility (and the pet is a part of the family).
If you live in Ottawa and would like more information on the PAL programme, please see the link below. Having a pet can be a worthwhile experience and if you are looking to find your “fur-ever” pet, I wish you the best of luck on your adventure!