My first job out of high school was at a chain pet store that sold purebred puppies. I’d grown up visiting the neighborhood pet store to see the animals, and pet them through the bars of their kennels. I was an animal lover with a cat at home and in need of my daily dog fix. I thought this was a dream job! But I lasted only eight days there, and I’ll tell you a few reasons why.
A Dog Cage is No Place for a Puppy to Live
The staff arrived a couple hours before the store opened every morning to clean up the kennels and get everyone fed. Because the puppies lived in the kennels around the clock without walks, they walked on caged bottoms so the poop and pee could fall through into a washable tray. Sometimes the puppies ended up covered in their mess and left in it overnight.
We had to feed the puppies as soon as we cleaned their kennels and then remove the bowls because the owners did not want food and water being spilled on the puppies while the customers could see them. Therefore, puppies did not have free access to water as they should have.
The set up at this pet store was more sophisticated than some, but still far from sanitary. No matter what their facilities look like, a puppy in a pet store is not being given regular walks and being kept clean.
Pet Stores Support Animal Cruelty
Each puppy in the pet store was sold with a certificate stating that they were purebred and listed the breeder’s kennel name. On my second or third day at the pet store, I was told to complete a certificate from a folder of blanks to show the date of birth as three months old and give it to a new Siberian Husky buyer. The “certificate” was a template. The “breeder” sold thousands of dogs to pet stores each year.
In fact, pet stores are a middle-man for puppy mills. A puppy mill or puppy farm is a large-scale breeding operation that focuses on producing a high volume of puppies at the lowest cost. Breeding pairs are kept in cages in their own feces without room to exercise. Mothers are bred repeatedly, and puppies are weaned at a dangerously young age.
Puppy mills keep the public from seeing the horrific conditions of their animals by sending them to a second location: your local pet store. No reputable breeder sells to a pet store.
Pet Stores Sell Sick Puppies
Because puppy mills focus on quantity over quality, they continue to breed dogs that have severe genetic disorders. There is no incentive for them to remove unhealthy animals from their breeding stock. So orthopedic, skin, eye, and other hereditary issues continue to be passed from one generation to the next. These adorable puppies may suffer from pain or illness, and may even have a shortened lifespan.
Our regular shipment of puppies often brought kennel cough or other infections that spread to the other puppies. By buying from a pet store these infections can be spread to your other pets and your family. While some pet stores offer new pet owners a free vet exam with their purchase, it won’t cover even a fraction of the illnesses that a puppy mill dog is likely to have. And by the time the family has fallen in love with the cutest new family member, they’re on the hook for thousands of dollars.
Know Better, Do Better
I had a wake-up call during my brief time there. I remember selling an Italian Greyhound to a very happy newlywed couple and feeling pretty awful about it. I’d just made space for another puppy mill dog to start the cycle. When we have ah-ha moments, we can make better choices. My next job was as a foster care coordinator at the local animal shelter, which led me to a career helping homeless pets.
Now that you know better, you can consider ethical and humane options for bringing home a new member of the family. Take the time to learn about the pros and cons of adopting from a rescue or purchasing from a reputable breeder. Together, we can change the way pet stores operate and create happier, healthier lives for our pets.