So you’ve decided to purchase a puppy as a new member of your family. Do you know where to look, as well as, where not to look? Most people searching for a canine pet to enter their home are looking for those furry, fuzzy, cute little puppies that upon the first glance they’ve already stolen your heart. They search the local classifieds, pet stores, and even breeder websites in an attempt to find what they are looking for. Could you imagine walking into a pet store and find the puppies in the windows with matted fur from urine, bulging or infected eyes, missing large chunks of fur in several places, feces sticking to its fur, etc. What about their water bowls being empty, or non-existent, rotten food, and worse, dead puppies still laying in their crates. Would you want to purchase a puppy from that store? Most people would turn on their heels and run out the door. Hopefully, they would immediately call animal control and have this store reported for neglect, mistreatment, and out-right abuse of these puppies.
A puppy mill is any commercial dog breeding operation that sells poppies for a caring about the well-being of their dogs and puppies. In the United States alone, it is believed that there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in operation each year. Most puppy mills can house anywhere from 20 to 1,000 animals. They will breed their females 5 or more times per year. If there is an average of about 5 puppies per litter, well, you can imagine the profits. That is all that matters for these types of breeders.
When you purchase a puppy from a pet store, do you ever ask yourself where do these puppies come from? Do you ever ask the store owner, “Where do you get your puppies from?” If a store owner answers, “We don’t get our puppies from puppy mills,” odds are they are probably telling the truth. In fact most pet store owners don’t have a clue as to where the puppies come from, but they have no problem making a profit and not wanting to know. What they won’t tell you is that most of them go through a “broker” to purchase their puppies. So what is a broker? A broker is a person who purchases the puppies from commercial kennels (better known as puppy mills) and then sells them to retail pet stores or other kennels. The bottom line is about the money and not the dogs.
Unfortunately this is not what you will find in a pet store. You will find anywhere from 1-4 puppies per crate. They will have both fresh water and food. Their crates are cleaned out on a regular basis. Their fur will have no matting, no feces attached to it, and no eye, mouth, or nose issues. As far as the buyer can see anyway. In my experience, most pet stores will not allow you to pet the puppies unless you tell them you are planning to purchase one. Even then, some won’t let you touch them until you have already paid for it. I went to my local pet store and wanted to look at their Huskey puppies and I was asked, “Do you plan to buy one?” I said that I was seriously considering one. He went to the back and pulled the puppy out for me. I pet it and looked it over and everything seemed on the up and up. I told him I would check with my husband and he put the puppy back in its crate. They were asking for $1,499 for them. They will also ask you some back! Pet stores buy the cheapest dogs they can find and then resale them to you at astronomical prices. You won’t know there is a problem until after you have already have your puppy home. Even then it will be a real battle when you try to return the puppy to the pet store and ask for your money back.
In the United States alone, there are approximately 3,500 pet stores that sell puppies to their customers. There are a few chain stores, however, that will not sell live pets. In fact, businesses like PetSmart and Petco will actually invite Humane Societies and dog rescue groups into their stores in an effort to find adoptive forever homes for their dogs and cats. There is already an overpopulation of puppies born each year. Anywhere from two to four million puppies are born each year in puppy mills alone. This only compounds the problem.
So what can you do to protect yourself from ending up with a puppy from a puppy mill? Research is the key. Ask questions. Whether you are going to a reputable breeder, a humane society, a dog rescue, an ad in the paper, or a pet store, you need to ask “Where did this puppy come from and what is its background information?” If they won’t tell you or they tell you that they don’t know, then do not purchase one of their puppies. A good breeder will be able to answer all of your questions.
I purchased my first puppy through an ad in the paper. Backyard breeder for sure, but I hadn’t done my research. I wanted a purebred puppy that was listed with the AKC and my only other requirement was that I wanted to see both of the parents, which I did. They both had great personalities and did great with my children, so I purchased a puppy. Roxie began to lose hair almost immediately. She looked like she had mange and was treated for it. She had allergies to chicken and corn products, which is common in dogs. And she had worms. The expense I paid to treat her was minor, and afterwards she was a very healthy dog. I was lucky. With my second puppy I knew better and went through a reputable breeder. She still has her hair, isn’t allergic to anything, and is a very healthy puppy.
While my personal experience comes nothing close to the horror stories I have read, heard, or seen on TV, we all need to learn from what others have gone through so that we will make better and informed choices in the future. Adopting a dog through a rescue program or a human society or purchasing a puppy through a reputable breeder will spare you a lot of grief and expense down the road.