I had an interesting conversation with a loyal customer of mine the other day. It appears that she liked my pet rat hammocks so much that she posted a statement about them on a Goosemoose Pet Rat Forum, letting the world know I made them and how great they were. Her thoughtfulness actually generated a sale for me, which I was extremely grateful for.
Days passed and no more orders came in. The customer wrote me back telling me that she had gotten hundreds of people who had looked at the post she left and many more who had actually responded to it. She said that people who were responding to it were saying they wanted to buy their products from people on the forum who were donating their proceeds to pet rat shelters and rescue operations and not a breeder.
She also stated how nice it was that these people were making their products for free and she couldn't possibly expect me to be able to do that but would still buy from me anyway because of the quality and design of my products.
Below is my reply to her email:
This whole thing about donating to the rescues is very misleading to people. It's very honorable the people who are sewing hammocks and donating the proceeds, such as DEARPIE'S, but they aren't doing it for free. That is a misconception.
When they receive money for their products they first take it back out to buy more materials and supplies and they pay themselves a little something for their time. Anything that is left over is then donated to the rescues. (They can also deduct all this on their taxes and get money back that way.) They aren't making a profit, but they are being compensated. It's extremely misleading but an effective marketing strategy.
Dearpie's has expanded so much since she first began. I think she may be paying others to help her make hammocks and other pet rat items now. It's honorable that she is not taking the profit for herself, but neither do I.
People need to realize that it takes a lot of time and effort to run a quality rattery. Proper bedding, cages, medicines, hammocks, water bottles, huts, toys, plus the time to interact and socialize. It's a full time job with keeping a quality web site and documenting all the health and temperament of my lines into my Breeders Assistant software database. Taking quality pictures, and registering all my pet rats with NARR, (North American Rat Registry).
It's extremely costly to be doing what I'm doing. On average, I spend between $200-300 a month and never see that returned, even through hammock sales. I spend $60 a month just on aspen bedding, at $10 a bag. I dip into my own pocket to stay in this, thus I can only say it's a hobby not a business. I can't call it a business unless I can at least break even.
Since I never recover costs by selling my pet rats, I need the products I painstakingly make to help pay for everything. I never make a profit, I'm just trying to keep functioning because I know people deserve to have great pet rats that are friendly and healthy and also have quality products for their pets too.
I spend hours a week answering emails for people pertaining to problems they have with their pets. I give my time freely and it doesn't matter if they are a customer of mine or not. I treat each pet rat person as a friend, because I love pet rats so much, anyone who shares that love is someone I would call a friend. There are so many people out there that don't appreciate what I do, so when I find someone who is a kindred spirit to my passion, it's all good.
If there weren't people like me out there breeding, everyone would be forced to buy from PetSmart and this is where the temperament and health problems get into the mainstream of the public, forcing them to give up their pets to the rescues to begin with.
Many times pet rats are given up because they haven't been socialized properly. There would be very little need for rescues if all pet rats came from quality ratteries such as mine. They only live an average to two years, so there must be something really wrong with them if someone is not willing to take care of them for that short a time period.
Lol, people should be supporting their quality ratteries because the rattery who breeds for PetSmart isn't tracking health and temperament just pumping them out for profit. Other less known pet stores raise them for feeder animals and then a kindhearted person comes a long and rescues a couple from a snake just to find out they have a health or temperament issue and they end up at the pet rat rescues.
Plus, it's not just about creating a hammock for pet rats it's about making them last, or making them fun and catering to their basic natural behaviors. Many of the people creating the hammocks are just pet owners having a couple of pets. I'm the only person I know of who has raised over 600 pet ratties and specializes in pet rat behaviors. All my products are developed with this in mind. So I AM of value to the pet rat community and I'm not in it for profit.
I don't get into rattie politics so I stay away from the forums. But maybe people should understand more about me and what I do. That it's almost as important to start at the beginning, breeding a quality animal that people want to keep, and then there wouldn't be such a need for rescues to begin with.
All these rescues have sprung up because there are so many unhappy pet rat owners giving up their pets for "issues." It's going to give pet rats a bad name and people aren't going to want them as pets.
Also, when someone comes to get a pet rat from me I spend time with each and every person educating them about proper care and handling. Teaching them about bonding processes so they learn how to be close to their pets and love and be loved by them.
I don't just have someone come over and pick up their pets and leave. I've spent as much as 3 hours before making sure the person taking my pet was knowledgeable about them first. Usually though I spend an hour per person. Plus I offer a lifetime of assistant to anyone who's gotten a pet from me. I spend hours a day answering emails, sometimes. I never get money for my time, it's just a labor of love. I do all this because I love pet rats!
When I first started breeding I was rescuing pet rats also. Every pet rat I took in had "issues." So the pet rats living at the rescues, very few are pet quality they are just being supported until they die.
So basically everyone on the forum is saying that supporting the needs of a pet rat with health and temperament problems is more important than supporting a person who is producing quality pets that will be loved and cherished and not given up for problems....big sigh.
It needs to start with the breeding process. Only people tracking for health and temperament should be breeding pet rats period! Quality ratteries like myself. (Not all ratteries are quality ratteries but that is a topic for another conversation.)
Too bad the forum people don't understand all this...sigh. I'm an ambassador for R.A.T.S. and this organization is trying to get feeder animals banned and in fact not have them be sold in pet stores at all, just like the puppy mills are being frowned on. Buying from a quality breeder is always the best thing. Thanks for listening to my rant. It just gets frustrating to me sometimes, all the misconceptions.Thanks anyway for being loyal. I appreciate it.
That is the end of the email I sent her back, but it explained my perspective over this topic very clearly. I feel donating to both causes; both the rescues and the quality ratteries operations, through the purchasing of their products or just a kind hearted general donation for their time and efforts is an honorable thing to do. If quality breeders are forced to go out of business because they can't afford all the out of pocket expenses that go along with their hobby, then no one will have a good source to get a quality pet rats from, where they are being specifically breed for superior health and temperament, making them excellent pets.Amendment:
On March 9th of 2009 I received and email from Huron Valley Rat Rescue, based here in Michigan. Kaia Vaught owns and operates this rescue. Up until her email I had heard of her but never spoken with her. She informed me that this article I've written on my web site had been the topic of conversation on a rat forum. Basically she felt that my perspective could hurt the efforts of honorable rat rescues, so I wish to clear this misconception up.
Not all breeders are reputable and honorable and not all rescues are top notch either, so it's up to the individuals to check out their sources thoroughly before doing business with any breeder or rescue operation.
The breeding world is very "political" and you have breeders in a constant battle of pointing fingers at other breeders as being bad. To me it's very easy to spot a good quality breeder. Simply hold one of their rats, plain and simple. A healthy rat will look healthy, have a nice shiny coat, clear eyes and nose, clear lungs. A scared rat has not been well socialized. This process starts with the breeder. A good breeder takes the necessary time to be friend their pets and help them love and trust humans.
I feel I'm a reputable breeder who cares very much for the pets I'm raising in my rattery. You will hear this same statement over and over from various breeders. Just hold one of their rats and the true story will unfold. You can not hide neglect.
If you hold one of my pets you will find them very well socialized, putting their nose in your ears, up your nose and even trying to investigate your mouth! They will be friendly, curious, inquisitive, social and even down right "nosy." They will give you kisses, lick your hands and clean out your fingernails. They will take treats directly from you, showing their trust of humans. And I'm very concerned about increasing my pets lifespan too.
I am also very attentive to my customers needs. I answer emails promptly and courteously. I spend one-on-one time with each potential customer and offer a lifetime of assistance for both health and behavioral issues for all my pets. I mentor all perspective pet owners when they come to pick up their pets. I don't just hand them over. I spend anywhere from an hour to three hours educating perspective pet owners about proper care and handling for their pets. I do this because I want to make sure both the new owner and their pets will be happy with each other all of their lives. I will not do transfers in parking lots for this reason, therefore I won't meet someone half way just to hand over a pet to them. The person has to come to my home or pay me for gas to come to their home.
I have never heard a negative thing said in any of the of emails I've received over the seven years I've been breeding regarding Huron Valley Rat Rescue and feel from talking with Kaia that she is very committed to providing a loving home for the pet rats she's acquired even if she feels they may not be suitable to find new homes for, she cares for them regardless. That is a very kind hearted and selfless act.
She has explained that in many cases she has no idea of where the rats originated from and is straight forward regarding this. Because she has no idea the ancestry of many of the pets she acquires she has no way of knowing how healthy they may be or will stay, but she says many times the pets she acquires are very nice and friendly. That the owners had to give them up because of having to move, or allergies or because their kids were no longer paying attention to them or for financial reasons, but not because of temperament problems. She is providing a valuable service to her community making sure that the ratties will have a quality life while under her care.
If you know of a hard working, kind hearted rat rescue person in your area, please don't hesitate to support their efforts, by doing so you are extending the lives of these animals that might otherwise be put to sleep. Also by the same token, there are good breeders out there too and their efforts should be commended also. I just want the general public to value the efforts that a quality breeder puts forth and the efforts of people like Kaia, they both deserve to be commended for the services they provide. The quality breeder should be commended for raising healthy, well socialized animals and the rescue person for helping those with circumstances out of their control, assuring all pet rats can live a happy quality life.
It says on my adoption contact that a buyer is to not sell or give any of my pets to a shelter or rescue, if unforeseen problems happen. My pets are always welcome back to Rat Dippity and I will always accept full responsibility for bringing these animals into existance. You will not find a RDPY pet in a rescue, if you do I wish to know about it. I keep careful records of all my pet owners and my pet rats, in a master database. Each perspective pet rat owner signs this contract and has a copy for their records before leaving with their new pet.
Please help out quality establishments like the Huron Valley Rat Rescue, but also remember that a quality breeder who is really concerned about health and temperament of their pets and is also attentive to their customers needs, is also of value to the community. If there weren't any quality breeders in existance the only place people could get their pet rats from would be PetSmart and pet stores, where health and temperament are not their main objective.
I hope this helps clarify my stand on this obviously "political" subject.