skip to content

Where to Buy Your Dog?

Where to Buy Your Dog?

September 19, 2007 —

Puppy mills are breeding facilities that produce purebred puppies in large numbers. The puppies are sold either directly to the public via the Internet, newspaper ads, at the mill itself, or are sold to brokers and pet shops across the country. The documented problems of puppy mills include over-breeding, inbreeding, minimal veterinary care, poor quality of food and shelter, lack of socialization with humans, overcrowded cages, and the killing of unwanted animals. Pet specialty stores that sell puppies provide a major outlet for these puppy mills, which are a source of dog abuse, irresponsible breeding practices, the dog overpopulation crisis, and pet homelessness.

To the unwitting consumer, this means their new puppy may have an array of veterinary problems or genetic diseases that do not appear until years later. In 1994, Time magazine estimated that as many as 25% of purebred dogs were afflicted with serious genetic problems. Statistics from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) indicate that approximately 3,500 to 3,700 of the 11,500 to 12,000 U.S. pet stores sell cats and dogs. PIJAC also estimates that pet stores sell 300,000 to 400,000 puppies every year. According to Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for the Companion Animals section of The Humane Society, "Most pet stores in this country obtain their animals from puppy mills, not responsible breeders, and, in the process, they raise their profits. Telling customers that the puppies came from quality breeders is just part of the pet stores' sales technique."
One of the reasons that puppy mills are so prominent is the lack of regulation within the pet industry. The USDA has never required dealers who sell their animals directly to the public to apply for licenses, regardless of the size of the operation, and the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) excludes "retail pet stores" from its minimum humane care and handling requirements. In 2005, however, the Pet Animal Welfare Statute (PAWS) was introduced in the Senate and calls for regulation of large commercial breeders who sell directly to the public as well as importers and Internet sellers.  It also strengthens the USDA's enforcement authority, and assures USDA access to source records of persons who acquire dogs for resale. The bill continues the existing exemption for retail pet stores, but narrows the definition of this term to exclude breeding establishments.

According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), consumer demand for purebred puppies perpetuates the use of puppy mills by pet stores. Unfortunately, millions of dogs are sent to animal shelters every year, where roughly half will be euthanized. The HSUS estimates that one in four of the dogs that enter U.S. animal shelters is purebred. In addition, the New Jersey Consumers Against Pet Shop Abuse (NJCAPSA) – a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness regarding puppy mills – recommends anyone who wants a dog or cat to try an animal shelter first. Some pet stores, like PETsMART and Petco refuse to sell dogs or cats in their stores but regularly donate floor space so that local shelter and rescue organizations can bring animals to be adopted by their customers. In addition, almost every breed of dog has a corresponding rescue organization that you may find online.

How can you help avoid buying a dog from a puppy mill? Take the advice of the Humane Society and visit a local pet store to determine where it obtains its puppies. Don't be misled by claims that its dogs were not bred in puppy mills. Insist on seeing breed registry papers or the interstate health certificate for each puppy. The papers will list the breeder's and/or wholesaler's name and address. Finally, if you get your dog from an animal shelter or directly from a dog breeder, you may help decrease the demand of dogs from puppy mills, which may help shut them down.


Comment on this article:

Buy It

Don't Buy It