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Littlest Pet Shop Glosses Over Harsh Reality

My three-year-old niece is enamored with the Littlest Pet Shop line of toys. As I struggled to open her latest collection of admittedly adorable creatures, it was all I could do not to throw them in the trash and lecture on the horrors of puppy mills and corporate greed. On its Web site, toy maker Hasbro infers that the Littlest Pet Shop promotes responsibility by allowing children to collect a variety of animals without the um ... responsibility of caring for live pets. Nice marketing spin but I'm literally not buying it. And it pains me to see kids play with a product that only shows one side of the commercial pet industry.

Perhaps Hasbro could add some new locales to its collection for a more well-rounded perspective. How about the Littlest Pet Shelter, where many pet shop puppies eventually end up due to the health and behavior problems that result from poor breeding, malnutrition and lack of socialization? Or the Littlest Commercial Breeder, where purebred dogs are kept in cages and forced to reproduce as often and as long as they are able. Once the breeding pairs no longer prove useful, they can go to the Littlest Pet Auction, available to the highest bidder.

It's possible to teach children how to take proper care of animals without promoting or glorifying pet shops. Many therapy dog groups, such as Therapy Dogs International (of which I'm a member) and Delta Society offer children an opportunity to interact with a healthy, friendly dog and learn about his needs. Some libraries and schools smartly encourage kids to read aloud to therapy dogs, as a way to improve their reading skills without fear of judgment. Or you could always give them an old-fashioned stuffed animal to hug, pet and feed.

Julia Kamysz Lane

January 20, 2008 in Current Affairs, Humane, product review, Recreation | Permalink


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I am enjoying reading this. I got both of my dogs at the local SPCA and I love them. They are incredibly loyal and loving towards me.

Posted by: Joe the Dog Lover | Sep 9, 2008 8:36:02 AM

By the way, in leiu of my previous message posted, since my daughter is only 5, I let her play with her littlest petshop because she adores aniamals but like I said when she's older, before she gets a pet, I will of invited my friend or moms dog to stay a month with us to make sure she can handle the responsibility first. These toys are for playing when kids are small but I am not at all suggesting real aniamals are toys, there's a difference, you guys need to realize, toys are ok for childs play there's nothing wrong with them they are cute! & they are ok "as long as" you instruct your child "before" getting a real aniamal real responsibilities. Some kids are more mature than others too...My daughter also adores anaiamals and we are always looking together to participate and start fundraisers at school or anywhere for aniamals in need.....

Posted by: sylvie | Jul 2, 2008 8:02:52 PM

I think you all are taking this to the extremes, hasbro and littlest petshops are "just toys" kids playing toys, we all know they will never replace real pets. These are preschool pets and obviously we cant depend on them teaching our kids about pets. I rather see my kid play with these then a toy gun. I have a daughter who has 15o pets and she loves animals, we had my mom stay here a month with her yorkie and my daughter adores her, she took care of her everyday and hugged her all day. We are aniamal lovers, we dont buy fur, we oppose killing of aniamals, we give to charity for aniamals every chance we get, I personally grew up with dogs and I love them dearly. When my daughter and I play littlest petshop I try to use them to teach her "how to" care for a pet by feeding her info on the way how to bathe a dog, feed a dog, ETc...the right way using them as models because one day when she is old enough Iwant to get her a real dog and I am the type of person who keeps her dogs forever, I spoil my dogs, give them only the best and a beautiful room indoors. I dont expose my 5 yr old to puppy kennel talk, that would traumatize her, kids that little dont understand and when she is older and before she gets her own dog, I will formly talk to her about responsibility making sure our new family member has all her/his needs taken care of wrapped in with alot of love as well. Pets are not anaiamals, they are family and that day will come soon but for now, people, these are nursery toys for toddlers, let's not go to extremes. They dont have anything to do with aniamal cruelty at all. Today nursery toys, tommarow when they grow older-the responsibility talk and a real pet. Maybe instead of fighting hasbro we all, as aniamal lovers, should write to them in seeing if perhaps they could make donations from their proceeds to shelters which I think would be awesome!oh and if there is any typos, sorry but I work full time and I am tierd...good day to you all.

Posted by: sylvie | Jul 2, 2008 7:45:58 PM

Woah...that rant before me (Border Wars - Christopher) was uncalled for. I'm not sure if he is aware that you're talking about "the Littlest Pet Shop" and not PETA.

Nevertheless, I just wanted to say that I agree with you. My 6 yr old niece wouldn't understand the responsibilities of owning a real pet; and, yes, Hasbro is glorifying pet shop pets.

Posted by: mn48225 | Jan 23, 2008 12:44:30 PM

One of my companions was rescued from a commercial breeder, and I was there when 170 of her companions arrived at the (no kill) shelter from the dog house of horrors. The cruelty of neglect shown to these dogs was absolutely unspeakable.

I'm not really concerned if a pet store pup is more or less likely to end up in a shelter. What concerns me is how their parents and siblings were treated, and the record of the commercial breeding industry (NOT responsible small breeders) is horrendous in this regard. I cannot advocate getting a puppy from a pet store and contributing to this cycle of cruelty, ever.

Posted by: John Sibley | Jan 23, 2008 10:26:56 AM

I hate to burst your bubble, but perhaps you'd do better by your daughter by giving her Nathan Winograd's Book, "Redemption" to read instead of "My Little PeTA Shelter" toys. PeTA, by the way, kills 97% of the animals they get their hands on and only adopted out 8 dogs in all of 2006.

The Puppy Mill and Pet Store industry is an easy target, but you probably don't know the facts.

Let's just take a short test and see how your perceptions relate to reality:

# Dogs purchased at pet stores are {More or Less} likely to end up in a shelter

# Dogs adopted from a shelter are {More or Less} likely to end up back in a shelter

Let me just guess that you answered MORE, LESS. You're wrong.

Pet Store dogs are actually less likely to end up in shelters than the average pet, and dogs adopted from shelters are actually much more likely to end up back in a shelter.

Pets given as gifts are Less likely to end up in a shelter.

Dogs purchased at pet stores are Less likely to end up in a shelter.

Dogs born in the owner's home are More likely to end up in a shelter.

Dogs adopted from a shelter are More likely to end up back in a shelter.

Dogs acquired for under $30 are More likely to end up in a shelter.

Dogs acquired for over $100 are Less likely to end up in a shelter.

Pets given as Gifts account for only 7% of acquired dogs and only 8% of dogs are bought at Pet Stores. The most common source of dogs is from Friends and Family at 34%. Shelter dogs make up 17% of acquired dogs and Strays make up 18%.


And your idea that most pets end up in shelters for poor socialization and poor breeding? Not true either. They end up in shelters because people are self centered and stupid and acquire pets but shirk the responsibility.

Here are the top 10 reasons people ditch dogs in shelters:

1. Moving
2. Landlord issues
3. Cost of pet maintenance
4. No time for pet
5. Inadequate facilities
6. Too many pets in home
7. Pet illness
8. Personal problems
9. Biting
10. No homes for litter mates


The only issue I can see on that list that really equates to poor breeding habits is 10, and I don't think that puppy mills ditch their unsold puppies in shelters... 10 is most likely an accidental breeder issue.

You have to read down all the way to 7 and 9 until you get to issues that might have to do with the Puppy Mill industry, mainly unhealthy breeding practices leading to sick pets and unsocialized puppies.

Serious issues, for sure, but they don't appear to result in more pets being ditched in shelters than average owners.

What that list really tells me is that it's poor quality owners, not poor quality pets that are the lion-share of ditched animals.

A more lengthy discussion of these issues is on my blog in a post called "The Myth of Christmas Puppies" among others.

Posted by: Border Wars - Christopher | Jan 20, 2008 11:06:35 PM

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