Thinking about buying a puppy? Do your research first! Know how to find a good breeder, or adopt a dog from a rescue group. DO NOT get your puppy at a pet store! Why? Well...
1. Pet store puppies do not come from good breeders. A good breeder would never trust anyone but themselves to screen potential homes and match the pups with the right owner. Not to mention, give the pups proper care while they wait for lifelong homes. To quote the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America's Code of Ethics: "Members of the BSCA Shall... Not engage in wholesaling or distribution of Belgian Sheepdogs or the sale of any dog to such places as puppy mills, pet dealers, catalog houses, or other commercial sources of distribution; nor supply Belgian Sheepdogs to raffles, lotteries, or for laboratory experimentation, etcetera." Most breed clubs have similar guidelines. Any good breeder, regardless of memberships, holds such ethics. Pet store pups come from puppy mills (PMs) or backyard breeders (BYBs). Period.
2. Dogs from those places have problems. PMs keep their breeding stock in dreadful conditions, pay no regard to health, and breed as often as possible to get as many puppies as possible. Dogs are a cash crop to them, treated no different than factory farmed chickens. Inbreeding is common practice, as are "accidental" matings between different breeds. Not to worry, AKC papers are easily forged. Or the cross was done on purpose to create CockerPoos, Labradoodles, or any other "breed" with a fancy name for mutt. Not that there's anything wrong with mixed breeds, but these are still PM dogs, suffering the same fate as the purebreds. The results are drastic: Puppies not yet reached adulthood, already plagued with joint problems. Gross deformities in structure. "Purebreds" not resembling their respective breeds even mildly. Extreme temperment problems. Did you know that the #1 problem Golden Retriever Rescue now has is aggressivness? This, from supposedly one of the most gentle breeds, all because of overbreeding.
PMs aren't alone to blame in all of this. BYBs play a big part in pet overpopulation and breed specific health problems. While the dogs aren't usually kept in the hellish environment PM dogs are, there is still little regard to health, and no regard to the betterment of the breed. BYBs include the family who breeds their bitch for reasons such as, "The kids need to see the miracle of life," "it will make her a better family dog," "she needs to have a litter before being spayed," and such silly notions. BYBs also include the people who let their intact male dog run loose, which results in who knows how many unplanned litters, and the people who decide to breed their dog (male or female) to recoup the purchase price, or just make money. Even the people who have puppies because a friend wants a dog just like theirs. None of these people run health checks on the bitch or stud dog, research breeding lines to choose the right mate, or anything else a good breeder should do. They usually don't even take into consideration the futures of the pups, or properly screen homes and potential owners. The puppies BYBs produce aren't always as severely faulted in health, temperment, or structure as those from PMs (though it does happen), but are still usually poor specimens. When pet stores claim they only get their puppies from local breeders, it's probably true - the local BYBs!
3. Life in a pet store is no life. Puppies are kept in small cages most of the time. During business hours they are constantly stressed by people talking, staring, knocking on glass, handling them, and other pups barking, not to mention the smell. It's often overpowering to the human nose, can you imagine what it's like to a dog's sensitive nose? Pups are forced to eliminate in the same place they eat and sleep. Besides being really unsanitary, this often results in a dog that is very hard to housebreak. The pups are exposed to others that are sick, which weighs on their young and, likely, weak immune systems. They receive inadequate veterinary care. Housing dogs is also stressful to the humans. There have been reports of abuse to pet store animals. Neglect is common. No water (or water bottles that don't work - witnessed that one myself), no food, dirty cages (when aren't they?), no supervision or care when the store is closed. Gotta wonder if anyone even stops by on weekends.
4. If you buy a pet store pup, you'll be supporting puppy mills. Every pup that is sold raises the demand, and more pups are produced to meet that demand. They are sent to the pet stores, sold, and the circle begins again. Only when there is no demand for pet store puppies will the puppy mills stop producing them. Don't try and "rescue" a puppy from a pet store, either. Another will be sent in it's place and you will have added to the demand, despite your good intentions.
5. Pet store employees are rarely qualified to educate their buyers on choosing a breed and caring for the dog. If you asked them which puppy you should buy your kids for Christmas, they would not tell you that, first of all, you shouldn't buy a pup "for the kids" unless the whole family wants a dog & YOU are prepared to care for it, and second of all, Christmas is not a time to add a puppy to the household, let alone point you in the right direction for finding the proper breed for your situation. If you are interested in the Golden Retriever, they would say it's the best family dog around. They would also say the same thing if you were interested in the fragile Toy Poodle, introverted Borzoi, or aggressive Shar-Pei. (These are just examples - please don't take offense if one is your breed.) Even if the pet store could tell you which breed to buy, do you think they'd discourage you from buying from them? They're in it for the money. If they have to sell an active Border Collie to a sedate retiree, that's what they'll do. No regrets. Just big bucks in their pocket.
The bottom line is, pet store puppies are predisposed to a range of problems, and when these surface, the only "support" you might get from the store is a new pup (of similar -low- quality) in exchange for the old (which you've come to love). Or, with legal action, perhaps a refund of the purchase price, which may go towards vet bills, but does little to reverse the pup's congenital problems or the heartache you endure. While there are no 100% guarantees in life, buying a pup from a good breeder GREATLY ups the odds that you will have a healthy, stable, handsome representitive of your chosen breed. Plus the support of a knowledgable and caring person, who will be there through puppy teething, adolescence, spaying or neutering, health problems should they arise, to old age and the loss of your pet.
Pet Store Puppy
I don't remember much from the place I was born. It was cramped and dark,
and we were never played with by the humans. I remember Mom and her soft
fur, but she was often sick, and very thin. She had hardly any milk for me
and my brothers and sisters. I remember many of them dying, and I missed
I do remember the day I was taken from Mom. I was so sad and scared, my
milk teeth had only just come in, and I really should have been with Mom
still, but she was so sick, and the Humans kept saying that they wanted
money and were sick of the "mess" that me and my sister made.
So we were crated up and taken to strange place. Just the two of us. We
huddled together and were scared, still no human hands came to pet or love
us. So many sights and sounds, and smells! We are in a store where there
are many different animals! Some that squawk! some that meow! Some that
peep! My sister and I are jammed into a small cage. I hear other puppies
here. I see humans look at me. I like the 'little humans', the kids. They
look so sweet, and fun, like they would play with me!
All day we stay in the small cage, sometimes mean people will hit the
and frighten us, every once in a while we are taken out to be held or
shown to humans. Some are gentle, some hurt us. We always hear "Aw, they
so cute! I want one!" but we never get to go with any.
My sister died last night, when the store was dark. I lay my head on her
soft fur and felt the life leave her small thin body. I had heard them
say she was sick, and that I should be sold as a "discount price" so that
I would quickly leave the store. I think my soft whine was the only one
that mourned for her as her body was taken out of the cage in the morning and
Today, a family came and bought me! Oh happy day! They are a nice family,
they really, really wanted me! They had brought a dish and food and the
little girl held me so tenderly in her arms. I love her so much! The mom
and dad say what a sweet and good puppy I am! I am named Angel. I love
to lick my new humans! The family takes such good care of me, they are
loving and tender and sweet. They gentle teach me right and wrong, give me good
food, and lots of love! I want only to please these wonderful people! I
love the little girl and I enjoy running and playing with her.
Today I went to the veterinarian. it was a strange place and I was
frightened. I got some shots, but my best friend the little girl held me
softly and said it would be OK. So I relaxed. The Vet must have said sad
words to my beloved family, because they looked awfully sad. I heard
"Severe hip dysplasia," and something about my heart... I heard the vet
say something about backyard breeders and my parents not being tested. I
know not what any of that means, just that it hurts me to see my family so
sad. But they still love me, and I still love them very much!
I am six months old now. Where most other puppies are robust and rowdy,
It hurts me terribly just to move. The pain never lets up. It hurts to run
and play with my beloved little girl, and I find it hard to breathe. I keep
trying my best to be the strong pup I know I am supposed to be, but it
is so hard. it breaks my heart to see the little girl so sad, and to hear
the Mom and Dad talk about, "Now might be the time."
Several times I have gone to that veterinarianšs place, and the news is
never good. Always talk about Congenital Problems. I just want to feel
the warm sunshine and run and play, and nuzzle with my family. Last night
was the worst. Pain has been constant now, it hurts even to get up and get
a drink. I try to get up but can only whine in pain.
I am taken in the car one last time. Everyone is so sad, and I don't
know why. Have I been bad? I try to be good and loving - what have I done
wrong? Oh if only this pain would be gone! If only I could soothe the tears of
the little girl. I reach out my muzzle to lick her hand, but can only whine
in pain. The veterinarianšs table is so cold. I am so frightened. The
humans all hug and love me, they cry into my soft fur. I can feel their love
and sadness. I manage to lick softly their hands. Even the vet doesn't seem
so scary today. He is gentle and I sense some kind of relief for my pain.
The little girl hold me softly and I thank her, for giving me all her love.
I feel a soft pinch in my foreleg. The pain is beginning to lift, I am
beginning to feel a peace descend upon me. I can now softly lick her
My vision is becoming dreamlike now, and I see my Mother and my brothers
and sisters, in a far off green place. They tell me there is no pain
there, only peace and happiness. I tell the family goodbye in the only way I
know how - a soft wag of my tail and a nuzzle of my nose. I had hoped to
spend many, many moons with them, but it was not meant to be.
"You see," said the veterinarian, "pet shop puppies do not come from
ethical breeders." The pain ends now, and I know it will be many years
see my beloved family again. If only things could have been different.
(This story may be published or reprinted in the hopes that it will stop
unethical breeders and those who breed only for money and not for the
betterment of the breed. Copyright 1999 J. Ellis)
Don't Litter - Spay & Neuter Your Pets!
Boycott Pet Stores That Sell Puppies & Kittens!
Artwork courtesy of: