Pet Shop Puppies: Never, Ever Buy a Puppy From a Pet Store



What you are likely to get when you buy one of those cute pet shop puppies in the pet store window. -Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2010

Every pet shop will assure you, solemnly, that their puppies are different. Their puppies don't come from puppy mills, but from wonderful local breeders. Pillars of the community, in fact. The reality is that no responsible breeder would ever place one of their puppies in a pet shop. A breeder who has placed a puppy in a pet shop has disqualified himself as a responsible breeder.

Why are breeders who sell to pet shops irresponsible?

Because, as commercial establishments, pet shops are required to sell a puppy to anyone who can pay. Legally, they are not allowed to "screen" buyers for suitability. Responsible breeders wouldn't be able to sleep at night wondering which of their puppies might have gone to an unsuitable home and was not being properly cared for.

But my local pet shop says...

"We buy our puppies from responsible local breeders."

Yes, the employees are told to say that. Ignore it. Virtually all pet shop puppies come from commercial breeders and puppy mills, no matter what the employees say. And even if the commercial breeder or puppy mill is local rather than 300 miles away, what difference does that make? Irresponsible breeding practices are irresponsible whether the breeder lives in Timbuktu or just around the corner. The location makes no difference.

"We buy only from USDA-licensed breeders."

USDA stands for the United States Department of Agriculture. Their business is farming and livestock. The USDA knows little or nothing about dogs. As long as a breeder's paperwork is in order, the facilities are disinfected, cages are a (very) minimum size, and no infectious diseases are immediately obvious, the kennel passes.

The USDA has not the slightest interest in...

* whether the breeder knows anything about his breed
* whether the dogs used for breeding look like their breed
* whether the dogs used for breeding act like their breed
* whether the dogs used for breeding are free of genetic health problems such as hip dysplasia, eye diseases, or heart defects – all of which show up long after you buy the puppy.

A USDA license is not something that should reassure you. On the contrary, it is warning sign that a breeder is cranking out lots of puppies.

"Our puppies' health is guaranteed!"

Ah, yes. The wonderful pet store guarantee. This reassuring platitude is how pet shops try to get around the expenses of genetic health testing.

The pet shop offers to REPLACE unhealthy puppies – instead of seeking to prevent them in the first place by requiring their "wonderful" breeders to do genetic health tests on every parent dog used for breeding.

Let's look at this from the PUPPY'S point of view, shall we? Guarantees don't help a puppy at all. YOU get your money back, but the puppy still has to live with the health problem that might have been avoided if his breeder had been seeking to produce healthy lives instead of scrambling to keep his expenses down.

Pet shops aren't too worried about having to honor their guarantees, by the way.

* First, they count on your becoming attached to the puppy and being reluctant to return it. They know that most of us have soft hearts and would keep a sick puppy even if we're forced to spend a thousand dollars and heartbreaking months or years trying to nurse it back to health.
* Second, the guarantees are carefully written so that whatever your particular puppy develops probably isn't covered or you won't have all the "proper" documentation to prove it.
* Third, many genetic health problems don't show up for months or years. Either the guarantee has expired by then, or you're completely unwilling to give up a dog you've had that long.

My advice to you is to IGNORE everything pet shop people tell you. The pet store industry has sophisticated marketing manuals that teach pet shop owners and employees exactly what to say to persuade you to part with your money. Don't be gullible.

The advantages of pet shops

Advantages?? Oh, yes, pet shops do have advantages, which is why people buy from them in the first place.

Instant access to LOTS of puppies. Tracking down puppies from breeders and rescue groups takes time and effort. With less common breeds, you may find no current litters and your only option would be to put your name on a waiting list. Whereas the pet shop is just a short drive away and is open all day, six days a week. There are pet shops in neighboring communities, too. You just look them all up in the phone book and make the rounds until you find something you want. If they don't have the breed or color or sex you want, a pet shop may even be able to "order" a puppy for you from their warehouse. Pet shops satisfy buyers who are impulsive and impatient.

Pet shops sell to anyone. No questionnaires, interviews, or references required. If your credit card goes through, you've bought yourself a puppy. Pet shops satisfy buyers who don't like the idea of the "screening" process they face from animal shelters, rescue groups, and some breeders.

Convenience, immediacy, no-questions-asked . . . those are the advantages of pet shops. The ONLY advantages, in fact. The problem is, almost no one who buys from a pet shop stops to consider the Disadvantages.

The Disadvantages of pet shops

Pet shops acquire their puppies from breeders who don't test their dogs for health problems. You can't look at a pet shop puppy (or any puppy, for that matter) and say, "Well, he looks healthy!" and think that that's the end of it! The health problems I'm talking about are inherited on genes. If your puppy has inherited those genes, these health problems WILL show up eventually, long after you've brought the puppy home.

There are health tests that can determine, with 100% accuracy, whether a puppy has inherited certain serious health problems. There are other health tests that can't say for sure, but can predict the risk. Responsible breeders do these tests. Breeders who sell to pet stores don't.

Pet shop puppies are frequently inbred. Most pet shops don't even have a copy of their puppies' pedigrees for you to look at. Instead, they mail it to you AFTER you've bought the puppy. And you receive only 3 or 4 generations, not nearly enough to evaluate inbreeding.

Pet shop puppies may have "sham" registration papers and pedigrees. More and more pet shops are avoiding the stricter documentation requirements of the AKC and registering their puppies with an "alternative" registry like the Continental Kennel Club, APR, APRI, NKC, and others. Now, the AKC definitely has its problems with people falsifying registration papers and pedigrees, but the alternative registries are even worse. If a puppy has registration papers from any of these registries, I wouldn't believe that the parents listed on the papers are necessarily the true parents, that the ancestors listed on the pedigree are the true ancestors, or that the puppy is even purebred.

You can't see the puppy's parents. This is a BIG negative because the parents' genes can have so much influence on how your puppy turns out. If you can't see the parents, how can you tell whether they might have passed on genes for unhealthy structure, bad teeth, or a bad temperament? Virtually ALL puppies look normal and healthy and are friendly and playful. But as the puppies mature, the genes they inherited WILL begin to assert themselves, and that's when all the problems will start!

You can't see where the puppies were raised. Another BIG negative. The majority of pet shop puppies are raised in small wire-bottomed cages in outbuildings. They've never seen the inside of a house. Many of them don't even know how to drink water from a bowl because they've been drinking from hamster bottles since they were born.

Many pet shop puppies are hyperactive and noisy. Raised in a small cage, they haven't been able to run and play and explore like normal puppies, so they've developed frenetic habits like running in small circles and excessive barking.

Many pet shop puppies are nippy. Some were removed from their mother before 7 weeks of age. You'll remember that puppies need a full seven weeks with their mother so she can teach them "bite inhibition". If they haven't learned this lesson, their nippiness will be hard to correct.

Other pet shop puppies have learned to nip from all the people who take them out of their cages and play wrestling games with them. This encourages the puppy to growl and nip and mouth people's hands – bad lessons that can be hard to correct.

Most pet shop puppies are hard to housebreak. Where does a pet shop puppy go the bathroom? Right there in his cage. It's hard to take such a puppy home and teach him NOT to go to the bathroom in his crate or bed when that's what he's been trained to do!

Pet shop puppies often come with illnesses. You bring the puppy home and a few days later he develops a cough, or diarrhea, or vomiting, or listlessness, or he starts scratching or losing hair.... this happens over and over with pet shop puppies. Kennel cough, parvovirus, corona virus, giardia, coccidia, mange, ringworm – these illnesses are commonly found in commercial breeding kennels and pet stores.

Pet shops often overload their puppies with vaccinations and chemicals. Because the puppies are exposed to so many illnesses, pet stores often overdo the vaccines, dewormers, and chemical baths and dips. Overloading the poor puppy's immune system like this is very damaging for his long-term health.

Finally, the major disadvantage of acquiring a pet shop puppy is . . .

You're supporting a bad industry. When you pay money for a pet shop puppy, you're encouraging the industry to keep doing what it's doing.

You've emptied one cage, yes – which creates demand for another puppy to be born to fill that cage. Even if YOU are lucky and YOUR puppy turns out "okay", a large percentage of the others will not, and YOU helped provide the incentive for them to be born by buying the one who came before them.

So what seems like a simple, isolated purchase actually contributes to:

* The misery of female dogs who spend their lives in a cage, being bred again and again so people will have a "quick and convenient" source from which to buy.
* The misery of future puppies born with health and temperament problems.
* The misery of families who will buy these puppies and then struggle to cope with all the health and temperament problems.
* The misery of animal rescue groups who have to deal with all the pet shop puppies dumped on their doorstep when frustrated families give up on the health and temperament problems.

When you buy one of those cute puppies in the pet shop, you buy more than the puppy. You buy the budding physical, behavioral, and health problems created by the bad genes passed on by untested parents whom you never get to see or evaluate. And you feed a profit-hungry industry that's doing a lot of harm to innocent creatures.

Take the Challenge


If you're still not sure about buying a pet store puppy, print out this page and bring it with you. Ask these questions:

* Have both parents tested for hip dysplasia? (It's been found in every AKC breed except greyhounds, so don't let them tell you it's not a problem.)
* What specific health problems are in the pedigree of each puppy?
* What's the personality of the mother and father like? A responsible breeder provides copies of all health tests. Can the pet store do that?

How do I find a responsible breeder?

Finding a responsible breeder is not difficult for most breeds, and the reward- a healthy, well-adjusted, well-bred puppy is worth it! Here are some ways to get started:


* Use the Internet to look up the breed you're interested in. You'll find a wealth of information.
* Go to shows, fun matches or any kind of dog event. There will be plenty of people there to offer suggestions and advice. Be extremely careful when evaluating breeders who run ads in the newspaper especially those who don't say the parents are on the premises.
* E-mail www.citizensagainstpuppymills.org and ask for help.
* Click on our link called "Where can I adopt a Dog?"

How do I avoid "backyard breeders"?

Backyard breeders operate in much the same way pet stores do. Money is ALWAYS the bottom line. Watch out for any breeder who:

* Talks about money before anything else.
* Doesn't ask you questions about yourself and why you want a puppy.
* Says the parents "don't need tests." All purebred breeds suffer from genetic diseases, including cancer.
* Can't provide a good answer to the question: "Why did you decide to breed these two dogs"?
* Can't provide copies of OFA results (hip and elbow), CERF exams (eyes) or other tests along with the pedigree.
* Breeds dogs younger than two years of age (two is the minimum age for hip certification by OFA).
* Has puppies always available. Responsible breeders have smaller numbers of carefully-planned litters.

Questions? Comments? Need help?
E-mail www.citizensagainstpuppymills.org or call 716-937-3829.