While shelters and rescues across the nation were gearing up for the annual Clear the Shelters event in an effort to find homes for thousands of healthy, adoptable, homeless animals, major media outlets saw fit to turn their focus to the latest hot new party trend: The Puppy Party.
The Today Show actually hosted one in their studio, in follow up to the Wall Street Journal's article entitled "For a Better Party, Rent Puppies: Puppies are the hot party entertainment—for birthdays and bachelorettes".
The WSJ article begins with the story of a child telling her father she wants puppies at her party. Her father makes clear,
"Not to adopt—the family already has two older dogs—but as party guests that she and her friends could play with."
But don't think this is just about the kiddos. Adults do not want to miss out on this ice cream truck and who could blame them. As one puppy renter points out, there is every reason to rent puppies for bachelorette parties because, let's face it,
“It’s a classy alternative to a stripper...”
I may never look at puppies the same way again.
Now, let's look at the numbers and why everyone needs to be very concerned about the way this media attention is fanning the flames of this hot trend.
According to Virgil Stewart, a dog breeder and owner of Puppies and Reptiles for Parties in Torrance, Calif., party pups range in age between 2 months (newly weaned) and 6 months old. He typically has 70 dogs available for parties, and expects to do 800 parties (up to 10 puppies each) in the coming year.
That is a lot of demand for young puppies. And Stewart estimated those party booking numbers before the WSJ article gave him the marketing boost. He's going to need more stock to keep up with the demand. In fact, every puppy party business will have to stock up thanks to the pronouncement embedded right in the WSJ article's url: For a better party, rent puppies. (Note the silent, 'unless you are a total loser at throwing parties' at the end.)
These business will have a good reason to try to meet the demand. At $200/hour, a typical rate for puppy parties, and with no indication that kids (or adults) will tire of puppies any time soon, this business has astronomical earning potential. In fact, if your kid goes to a puppy party...um...you can pretty much count on them wanting to host one on their next birthday because...popular! Unless, of course, it is true that you hate your kid and (insert sound of upset pre-adolescent running down the hall to her bedroom here) you don't even care if they don't have any friends (and SLAM!).
It is a marketer's wet dream.
But that's not all! Puppies parties are for the puppies, too!
According to the Today Show article, "...the party lifestyle is good for the pups, too: This way they get used to being handled by people before they find their forever homes."
Um...which puppy-centric handlers are they talking about? The kids high on birthday cake and skittles? Or the blind-folded bachelorette? Or, the frat boys cited in the Wall Street Journal who rent them for frat parties because they attract sorority girls? (Because nothing says, I'm getting laid tonight like puppies and jello shots.)
These puppies are rented because they are cute and cuddly and social media gold. End. Of. Story.
This is not a hot trend because suddenly frat boys, All Star vote-seeking sports teams and indulgent parents of seven year olds all got it in their heads that a great party idea is to spend time socializing puppies to help them become more adoptable.
I know, baby, I'd like to believe this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, too, but sadly, I have to tell you: This. Ain't. It. I know. I'm sorry.
The party circuit places a lot of stress on businesses to fill the media-inspired, growing demand and on the canine infants of small breed dogs who must meet it (because they are like soooo cute) and that begs the question:
Where do all these tiny dogs come from?
They are not coming from shelters and rescues. And responsible private breeders (and, yes, it does pain me to type that) could never keep up with the sheer demand for a continuous stream of young puppies even if they would consent to letting their newly-weaned litters go hang out at a frat party. But you know who can fill the demand?
The answer is puppy mills.
Or to be more precise, puppy mill parents are the ones filling the demand.
And anyone involved in the fight against puppy mills can tell you EXACTLY why this trend is growing.
As more and more states and municipalities are clamping down on the retail sale of puppy (and kitten) mill pets, these breeders are all too eager to find alternative business models.
Thanks, Today Show. Thanks, Wall Street Journal. You just made that a whole lot easier for them. Maybe you can do us a favor and do a follow up piece for those who would like to know one small thing:
What happens when the puppies grow up?
Oh yeah, that reminds me...
During this years Clear the Shelters event, 17,000 animals did find homes. More than 400 shelters participated nationwide with 20 reporting that they all their available adoptable animals found homes.
Valari Staab, president of the NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations division of NBCUniversal, said in a statement:
“Clear the Shelters is an example of how together, we can rally to help save deserving animal lives and in the end make a positive impact across communities nationwide.”
Also, please do read this article if you are considering hiring a pet transporter.
More to come here as well (subscribe below), but in the meantime, here's a short overview that will help you understand why the Today Show segment yielded such a passionate negative response.
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Filed under: Puppy Mills