Toward the end of his short life, our pet Mario developed tumors and in a frantic attempt to save his life (and my children’s hearts), my husband and I visited two animal specialists. We spent about $250 in medical bills for our beloved Mario, a $6 hamster at the pet store.
We could have saved a lot of heart ache and dollars, if we had done our homework. Hamsters — as we later discovered — have short lives and tumors are a sign of the end. Our misdirected kindness only prolonged Mario’s pain and cost a fortune.
Frugal Warnings from Pet Specialists
Careful research is the ticket for pet care, according to the experts at area animal shelters, who offer a long list of tips for pet owners. From warnings about unscrupulous breeders to low-cost health care for pets, local not-for-profit animal rescue operations have a wide range of resources for pet-loving parents.
The problems that face would be pet-owners are numerous. For instance, due to an unscrupulous puppy breeder, Lee from Pompano Beach spent over $1,500 on a puppy that died quickly after the sale. Lee purchased a Teacup Yorkie puppy from a private breeder for $1,000. Within three days, the puppy became sick and Lee spent an additional $430 dollars in emergency vet care. The animal died within days and Lee later discovered that the animal breeder had a bad reputation for running a “puppy mill,” that peddles problem or sick animals to the public.
Puppy Mills are breeding operations where animals are housed in crowded quarters, with minimal care. Purebred puppies born in such overcrowded conditions often develop illnesses or behavior problems, according to animal experts. Therefore, it’s important to investigate a private breeder’s background and business. Many breeders run excellent operations, but some unsavory characters prey on pet-loving families.
In Lee’s case, the breeder refused to reimburse him for the cost of the sick puppy. But backed by Florida’s Lemon Law, which also applies to puppies, Lee is taking the breeder to small claims court. In the future, he plans to carefully research the history and the reputation of other breeders before making a purchase.
Costly Designer Mutts
Unscrupulous breeders are also selling mixed-breed dogs with cute names and high prices ($1,000 and up), according to Cherie Wachter, director of Marketing for the Humane Society of Broward County. These so-called novelty dogs include: “Labadoodles,” a cross between a Labrador and a poodle; and “schnoodles,” a mix of a schnauzer and a poodle.
“Buyer beware,” Wachter said. “Basically what you have is a mixed-breed, a mutt. There are plenty of mutts at shelters all over the country.”
Mutts and pure-bred animals are available at both shelters. For instance, the Humane Society of Greater Miami offers pets at a rate of $60 for cats and $90 for dogs, according to Melanie Otero, public relations director for that non-profit organization. Likewise, the Humane Society of Broward County charges $70 for cats, $85 for dogs and $95 for puppies. Both agencies provide a wide-range of health, identification and support services with each pet adoption.
“We have a wonderful selection of dogs and cats of every breed, size, color and shape imaginable,” said Otero from the Humane Society of Greater Miami.
Pure-Breds for Less
And surprisingly, both agencies have pure-bred animals for adoption that would cost at least $500 to $1,000 or more in the private market. Lisa, from Sunny Isles, adopted her Flame Point Himalayan cat from the Humane Society of Broward County.
In Miami-Dade, 25 percent of the animals at the Humane Society shelter are purebreds and the rate is 30 percent at the Broward shelter.