Whole Dog Journal's Blog August 5, 2013

A nice vacation turns sour: Pet stores and puppy mills

Posted at 02:28PM - Comments: (22)

I took a vacation recently, in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. While there, I got to tour a dog food and treat manufacturing plant, Bio Biscuit, in Sainte-Hyacinthe, Quebec. That was awesome – great company, great products, made by caring, competent people. Bio Biscuit makes its own line of baked food and treats, Oven Baked Tradition, and co-manufactures products for other companies, too. You can see a lot of what I saw in its company video: Go to the following link and click on the video entitled, “The Plant”: http://www.ovenbakedtradition.com/en/documentation-2. This was a nice part of my vacation!

As I always do wherever I go, I visited a few pet supply stores, just to see what’s on the shelves, and in hopes of finding foods I’ve never heard of, toys I may not have seen, leashes I’ve never handled. One shocking thing I saw, though, was puppies for sale. Yeah, puppy mill puppies, some who were purported to be “purebred” as well as mixed-breed pups of various kinds.

I guess I’m living in a protected environment here in Northern California; I haven’t seen a puppy mill puppy in a “pet store” for a decade or more. Enlightened stores here may host adoptions of shelter pups; I’m guessing that community pressure and store boycotts prevents store managers from considering getting into the puppy mill business.

Puppy mills can’t exist if no one buys their wares.  See WDJ’s August issue, online and in mailboxes now, for tips on identifying puppy mill puppies, who may be marketed as “rescued” or bred and born in some nice family’s kitchen. But the biggest clue ever that you are looking at a puppy mill puppy is its presence in a pet store. NO RESPONSIBLE BREEDER WOULD EVER ALLOW HIS OR HER PUPS TO BE SOLD IN A STORE.

And yet, there they are – a fact that boggles my mind. How does this happen? Who buys puppies in a pet store? Can you tell me?

Comments (20)


Posted by: JOLLYJIM | September 14, 2013 12:15 PM    Report this comment

To "Animal Lover" - exactly what statistics about commercially bred puppies being healthier than shelter or rescue dogs are you referring to? Can you post the link for such statistics? Also, if indeed there are such statistics, how useful are they to compare shelter or rescue dogs to commercially bred puppies, when some of the shelter or rescue dogs may be from commercially bred sources? Sounds like junk statistics, actually. And I love your euphemism for puppy mill puppies of "commercially bred". Why don't you take your overwrought, hysterical defense of puppy mills to your "commercial" breeders blog. Along with the overuse of ??????? and !!!!!!!.

Posted by: Sarah F | September 12, 2013 11:38 AM    Report this comment

I have had several pets (dogs & cats) in my life time & the ones who came from the shelter or were rescued have lived long & healthy lives...except one cat & one dog .But have never encounter problems like what I'm about to explain, below;
I was "given" a Persian by a breeder at a cat show. (I stopped to compliment them our their "display" of their cats, at the show. I attend occasionally just to see what new products are available, which many are not in pet stores.) She was an absolutely beautiful kitty, was one yr. old, had been a champion several times in the "kitten" division so the owners stated..but I really didn't care if she was a champion, she was adorable!!. But why would they just give her to me? They said they sensed that I was a true pet lover & "could give her a good home." But then told me they had tried to breed her & she "miscarried" because she was too small, so she was useless to them! They said their "inventory" was too high, hence them wanting to "dump her." So sad, but I was thrilled to get her! She was a very sweet, loving cat for almost 3 yrs. then one day I came to pick her up...& she was dead!!! I was heart broken & totally baffled that this happened! I fed her the best food & treats, & she died? My vet told me later she might of had a heart attack...but it wasn't anything I did. "Could be she was too inbred .. who really knows!"
I also have, presently, a dog who is now 14yr. & still going strong, thank goodness, but it has been a miracle. I adopted her from a shelter, & she was soo cute & little but I was rather concerned as she was bald, lots of chewing on herself, but I took her anyway... if nothing else to save her from the shelter. Come to discover, as I signed her out, she came w/a big folder of info about her. She was listed as "pure bred" Border Terrier,
purchased from a pet store, owner turn in. She sure didn't look like one, but this was fine w/me. I was just more concerned she was going to die, if she didn't get some help!!! Looking further into the paper work were many medical/vet visits, in other words she was a mess!! But I just could not refuse to take her, she needed help, or she would either die or they would put her to sleep, if she remained in the shelter!! I spent many months & $$ on different good brands of dog food, supplements, etc. w/out much success. Finally, thanks to a knowledgeable & patient vet he recommended another avenue. I spent over $600.00 having the allergy test/panel run. It was discovered she had over 200 allergy triggers!!! I started her w/the injections & w/in a week or so she showed a huge improvement!! Thank goodness this worked but it's been years of this medical problem, a life time, actually.
This is to say, she was a puppy mill product, sold for a high profit & obviously not what she was "marketed" as. She was a mixed breed, sold as a pure bred. And the store/breeder got away w/$$$ but the dog & this buyer paid the price. That's why puppy mills need to be shut down!!!
The previous owner, wouldn't take care of her (the reason the owner stated she needed to get rid of her...was she was moving into a non pet apt.)& had "dumped her" in the shelter, to die.

Posted by: psamm | September 10, 2013 5:27 PM    Report this comment

Do you realize that there are generally 1-2 usda inspectors per state, they do NOT go to every usda breeder to inspect.

Posted by: C W | August 16, 2013 2:25 PM    Report this comment

Oh - and by the way. What little stats there are - show that commercially bred puppies purchased from pet stores are actually healthier than your cross-bred mutts from the shelters!!! Or - from your illustrious rescue groups!

Posted by: Animal Lover | August 16, 2013 1:37 PM    Report this comment

Guess what - there is NO legal definition of a "puppy mill". It's a term favored by H$U$ - the biggest scam going, outside of our federal government.

Commercial breeders are regulated by many entities, have to follow all sorts of rules that YOU would not be able to enact if you were under their rules.

So - again - your point is???

Posted by: Animal Lover | August 16, 2013 1:36 PM    Report this comment

Sometimes we too easily paint with a broad brush. While the store-sold theoretically puppy-mill' sourced pets have all but disappeared in urban Kalifornia, the thread of greed has moved to small psudo-rescue services, that comb the papers and rural adoption agencies for the 'pick of the litter' class mix-breeds, and market them with the same which they flip with a tremendous mark-up. I hate to say it, but the marketing of pets is, and always will be simply based on supply and demand.
I have almost always had mixed-breed dogs as pets, except for cast-off pure breds (a Cocker, and a Chesy), and it was the pure breds that died young after long and multi-KiloBuck excursions to the Vet. I am highly familiar with the genuine 'show dog' industry, where the tenacious attention to physiognomy has reduced many breeds behavioral functions (IQ and temperament) to an alarming level.
I hope all these 'industries' clean-up their act, from the 'flippers', the 'labradoodle' producers, and the myopic pure-breds... but I believe we need the 'Best' in all these areas, and I won't paint them with a broad brush.

Posted by: JANIS C | August 8, 2013 9:48 AM    Report this comment

2.7 MILLION Dogs are euthanized in the US each year. These are otherwise healthy dogs whose only "crime" is that they are unwanted, have been surrendered to a shelter or found as a stray and there is no one who will adopt them. (US Humane Society Statistic) There is no reason for the existence of puppy mills except greed. Even a small "breeder" who produces more than 2 litters a year adds to this problem. There is no reason to use a "breeder" unless you are looking to "show". All animals should be spayed or neutered. When we are no longer senselessly killing 2.7 million animals each year the breeders may have a place. Criminalize puppy mills and provide our animals with laws that protect them not punish them. Adopt don't shop and spay and neither. Lauren F

Posted by: Laurene F | August 7, 2013 9:44 AM    Report this comment

Just because a dog is sold in a pet store does not make it a puppy mill dog. BTW, please define puppy mill. There is no legal definition and opinions seem to be widespread. For example, a person with four dogs who has three litters in a year is not a puppy mill. A person in the backwoods where the dogs are in crates stacked four high who never get out of them, have never set foot on grass, are dirty, malnourished and bred over and over again till they die. That is a puppy mill. Any pet store buying those puppies to sell won't stay in business very long. In California we have a very specific law that protects people who buy dogs at a pet store. But let's assume you don't want to buy a dog at a pet store because you think it came from a puppy mill, so instead you go to a shelter or rescue and buy a dog there (adopted is a nice word, but money changes hands - that's a sale, folks). Shelters and rescues do not have to abide by the rules set for pet stores. They don't have to take it back if you change your mind, or if it's unhealthy. Pet stores do. But you got your puppy at a shelter or rescue. Anyone, by the way, can call themselves a rescue. There are no legal requirements to become a rescue, and of course no legal requirements about the dogs they sell. But back to your shelter dog. How do you know you didn't just buy a puppy mill dog? Where do you think puppy mill dogs often end up? At a shelter or rescue. So your chances are pretty good of getting what you call a puppy mill dog at a shelter, much more so than if you got your pup at a pet store. Saying a puppy in a pet store is automatically from a puppy mill is downright stupid. How on earth would you know that? Show me the research that proves it. Not because "you have a friend who...". Research. Otherwise, you're just spouting an opinion and that's meaningless. Did you know that the biggest pet insurance group in the country has lower premiums for pet store animals because their puppies are healthier and they make fewer claims? I'm guessing you didn't.

Posted by: GiftofGalway | August 6, 2013 7:53 PM    Report this comment

i used to believe pet store puppies and kittens were purchased only by the uninitiated or by those lacking in impulse control. but i have since had personal experience with people who justified their purchases by saying that they believe they were 'rescuing' their pet store puppy (aka puppy mill dog by any other name) or were helping out the pet shop owner (and the nice family 'breeder' that only sold puppies occasionally, to help pay bills - !!) by taking a puppy that no one else wanted. classic denial, imo.

Posted by: Diana A | August 6, 2013 7:12 PM    Report this comment

Midwest, not west in my previous comment.

Posted by: lora j | August 6, 2013 3:10 PM    Report this comment

The comment above about puppies coming from puppy mills in the west is sad, but true.The state of Missouri has an abundance of puppy mills. I live next door in Oklahoma, where we still have some mills but they are being shut down - not fast enough in my opinion, but at least they are going. It's not that way in MO.

Posted by: lora j | August 6, 2013 3:09 PM    Report this comment

Just this past weekend I went into a pet store that I had thought only adopted out rescue dogs like the other stores in the chain have moved on to. But I was wrong they have puppy mill puppies. There were signs everywhere, declaring financing available. If you need financing you can't afford a puppy. When I asked where the dogs came from the workers told me "the midwest." I have never felt so guilty for looking at and enjoying puppies in my whole life.

Posted by: mweidman | August 6, 2013 12:43 PM    Report this comment

Ive owned a grooming shop for 35+ years and can attest that the reason given by my customers who buy dogs from petstores or fleamarkets is 1) compulsiveness 2) they feel sorry for the dog, no matter the cost! I advise puppy shoppers to never be in a hurry to get a puppy and must do research, to either look in the many local shelters or if interested in purebred dogs to preferably contact SEVERAL reputable show breeders who do health testing on the parents & can verify their testing claims, they may have to get on a waiting list, to insist on meeting at least the dam of the pup where the puppy was born/raised and dont buy a dog from anyone with more than two breeds of dog. And yes it amazes me that the doodle dog breeders with huge litters ask for and get more money per puppy than most show breeders get for a show quality health tested puppy......I remember the days when those "accidental" mixed breeds were sold/almost had to be given away, for $25..
Maxine in Houston

Posted by: Bostonfever | August 6, 2013 11:53 AM    Report this comment

Attention candrade: Please see the August issue of WDJ. Specifically, "A Field Guide to Ethical Breeders -- and how to detect the profiteers and puppymillers who wear the costume." We frequently publish information about identifying and supporting ethical, responsible breeders. -- Nancy Kerns, Editor

Posted by: WDJ Editor Nancy Kerns | August 6, 2013 11:51 AM    Report this comment

stop promoting shelter or pound dogs over top quality breeder dogs. It's not an either or, but a personal choice. You provide too much toward one and not enough for the other. not presenting the tools to choose a good breeder is criminal... it's not all puppy mills, read pukkahs promise, and it gives great tools for how to choose a proper breeder. if we start advocating for proper breeders who use coefficients of inbreeding, and genetic testing to limit disease, and breed for functionality and temperament, we will get europe's example of great dogs... we have great breeders here in the us and they are going under because of all the one sided advocacy. give people the tools to help support quality dogs and guality characteristics that are known, tested, etc...

Posted by: candrade | August 6, 2013 11:20 AM    Report this comment

I think most pet shop puppies are purchased through impulse buys. After all, how cute is that doggie in the window? The people who work there are not very knowledgeable and when they talk about the "breeders" from whom they get the pups, they seem totally unaware that those "breeders" are puppy mills. They don't know that some of their pricy "purebreds" are really mixed breeds...which would be fine if they weren't marketed as something else. Until recently, we had a pet store in our mall in Southern California. The cages had info on them with the "breeders" names and states. You can pretty much guess what I found when I googled them. Luckily, a local rescue group set up tables in the mall and boycotted the pet store. They handed out info and tried to educate potential buyers. Eventually, it worked and the pet store is now a volunteer run county rescue. Contrary to what many people thing, reputable breeders (like me) do support rescue and above all, if necessary, "rescue our own," regardless of the cost involved. However, this is rarely needed as we stay in touch with our pups new families for the lifetime of the dog and are always there for them, should they have a problem.

Posted by: zoedeco | August 6, 2013 11:08 AM    Report this comment

People who do not know better buy puppies from pet stores or on Kijiji or Craig's list. And the saddest thing is they could buy a Canadian Kennel Club registered puppy from a reputable breeder for less money and have support from that breeder for the life of their dog! We do need more education!

Posted by: Louann H | August 6, 2013 11:01 AM    Report this comment

My first puppy from 35 years ago was from a pet store but that was before I knew anything about puppy mills. I live in Ontario and there are very few pet stores, if any, in this province that now that sell puppies. A lot of them do adoptions for local rescue groups. However, a lot of people still don't know about puppy mills and think when they buy a puppy on Kijiji or from a store that it is from a reputable breeder. Still lots more education to be done. I noticed the signs in your pictures were in French so am guessing that the pet store was in Quebec.

Posted by: Jals | August 6, 2013 10:53 AM    Report this comment

Many years ago (30 maybe?) I did buy a puppy at a pet store, but that was long before I knew any better. Sweetie turned out to be a great dog and lived for many years. Another dog I only found out had been puppy mill bred after I bought her from a family who said their big dog was giving her the "hungry" look. She was papered, and when I wanted to visit where she was born, I was refused entry, saying they never allowed people on their property. Sachi was a great dog too and also lived a long time. However, today I know better, and since then all my dogs have been rescues in one form or another. I got Casey, my cocker, at the pound. She saved my life by stopping me from stepping on a rattle snake. She lived to be 18 years old. Today, my companion is Jasper, a ten-year-old Beagle/Jack Russell mix who is happy and healthy. He was rescued from an outdoor living situation in the hills of Arkansas.

Posted by: Phoenix | August 6, 2013 10:23 AM    Report this comment

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