In rescue I worked very hard to be diplomatic; in this column less so. Still, this one might be one for the record books. Here goes: if you buy a puppy from a pet shop, you are encouraging animal cruelty.
If you read this column regularly, chances are you’re well aware that there are problems with pet shop puppies. If not, a simple Google search will tell you stories of countless nightmares with dogs purchased from puppy shops; the most recent one is here.
Buying puppy from a pet shop is always wrong. There is never an acceptable reason to obtain a companion animal that way. I’ll recap the key reason, and that is that these wretched animals are almost always sourced from puppy mills. They get the minimum care possible in order for the owners to make the maximum profit. They’re also overbred (meaning they have all sorts of health problems that will emerge throughout ther lives); undersocialized because they’re often taken from their mothers before eight weeks (meaning that some of them have huge behavioral problems); and extremely difficult to housebreak because most of them have been kept in cages their entire short lives and no longer have their hardwiring to avoid soiling where they sleep.
The conditions these dogs live in before they come to the pet shop are often hellish. They are often kept in tiny cages and receive little human interaction. They are often forced to spend long periods of time sitting in their own waste. The puppies who don’t look healthy are culled from the group by euthanasia — they aren’t given vet care. If you want to see more, do a Google image search for “puppy mill conditions” and you can see how these animals live.
Claims vs. Reality
Some pet shops make a case for themselves by citing their guarantees if a puppy doesn’t work out. Let’s make this very clear: if you return a puppy to a pet shop, chances are quite good it’ll be euthanized. They won’t even turn the puppies over to rescues, because they (correctly) see rescues as their enemies, and they know the rescues won’t always keep quiet. Do you know when a rescue might, and I mean, might, rarely, get a dog from a puppy mill? I’ll tell you when: when the mother pup’s uterus gets infected or is no longer usable because she has been bred constantly. Some rescues I have known have had small successes in getting such dogs, who are often incontinent and extremely malnourished, including having lost most of their teeth. But that’s just a tiny number of dogs from the over 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S.
Sometimes the pet shop will produce a health certificate from a vet who examined the puppies before they went to the pet store. That certificate is often based on a visual inspection ONLY. They don’t do tests for parasites. They don’t examine the dog’s hips to check for dysplasia. They don’t check to see if the dog is deaf. It’s useless and I question the ethics of the vets who provide such certificates.
If the pet shop you want to buy from claims to deal only with breeders that are USDA-inspected, I’ve got news for you: USDA inspection is a joke. This report is not easy reading, but it gives you an idea of the laxity of USDA standards and enforcement.
In summation, getting a puppy from a pet store is NEVER OK. NEVER. If you turned a blind eye to this so you could get a cute little puppy, you are complicit in animal torture. If you didn’t know, perhaps because it’s your first foray into getting a pet or because you live under a rock somewhere, consider yourself educated. And if I become aware of someone I know considering this option, I am going to get very confrontational about it if I have to. I urge you to do the same.