This past Friday, dog lovers around the world celebrated National Puppy Day.
Started in 2006, the National Puppy Day website says the holiday not only celebrates the magic of puppies, but "more importantly, it's a day to help save orphaned puppies across the globe and educate the public about the horrors of puppy mills, as well as further our mission for a nation of puppy-free pet stores."
According to the Humane Society of the U.S., puppy mills take advantage of naive consumers who are not aware of the treatment the fluffy pups in the window endure: "Puppy mills house dogs in shockingly poor conditions. After their fertility wanes, breeding animals are often killed, abandoned or sold cheaply to another mill to try and get "one more litter" out of the dog. The annual result of all this breeding is millions of puppies, many with behavior and/or health problems."
Puppy mills aren't the only challenge facing dogs. An estimated 3-4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the U.S., due in part to owner abandonment and low adoption rates. Organizations urge owners to spay/neuter their pets, and many groups ask that potential owners choose adoption over going to a breeder.
To learn more about adoption in your area, visit a local shelter or check out Petfinder.com and the ASPCA website. Remember -- if you decide to get a cute puppy, you're also deciding to take on nearly a decade of responsibility. If you're not sure that you can make the commitment, consider fostering a pet ... and check out these adorable puppy photos!
UPDATE: Submissions are now closed. Thanks to everyone who submitted their puppy photos!