Making the Case for “Don’t Shop, Adopt”

September 14, 2011

As a person who has adopted two former puppy mill dogs from an animal shelter, I wanted to throw in my two cents about purchasing a puppy from a pet store. I love my little chihooligans with all of my heart. But, I have to say, that even I struggle daily with the behavioral and health issues of these two cute, but troubled little dogs. I have been a dog trainer for most of my adult life, and I am aware that all the knowledge in the world cannot bring these dogs back to normal due to their early puppyhood experiences.

The majority of pet stores obtain their inventory of puppies from commercial breeders. Dogs were not meant to be mass produced like shoes or car parts; they are living, thinking and feeling beings. When you purchase a puppy from a pet store, you are financing abject suffering for the ancestors of your new pup.

Though the puppies are lucky to get out of the commercial farm environment, they suffer trauma even after they are sent out to market. Being transported to a pet store is a terrifying and dangerous experience for a pup. They are taken from their mothers as early as five weeks of age, loaded into a semi truck and trailer and taken to destinations all over the country. Many of the puppies become ill on their journey, and some die. This negative socialization experience will add to a growing collection of damaging events that help form his personality.

While the puppies are being handled like a load of dry goods, the mother of the “doggy in the window” is in a tiny cage, being exposed to the often extreme climatic conditions, being bred until she is no longer able to produce puppies. Once she is no longer of use to the commercial farmer she may be shot, drowned, or if she is lucky sold off at auction for a dollar.

The owners of puppy mills put no forethought into creating a puppy with the best chance of having a good disposition and being free of genetic defects. A commercial puppy farm is about making money, at the expense of the animals and the people who purchase their “product”.

On average, a pet store puppy costs about $800. These puppies have problems ranging from a minor infestation of intestinal parasites to very expensive health issues requiring complicated treatments such as hip and joint problems, and major organ dysfunctions. No matter how conscientious a puppy mill situation is, they are a warehouse for dogs and cannot address the socialization needs of the animals they produce. Adequate exercise and social experiences cannot happen in a large scale breeding operation. The puppies live in confinement among unsocialized, fearful and often aggressive adult dogs that have lived their lives in a cage with no other experiences. The puppies also reside in an environment where they are unable to get away from urine and feces. This causes them to develop unnatural hygiene issues such as drinking urine, consuming feces and relieving themselves in the same areas that they eat and sleep.

When you adopt an animal from a shelter or rescue group and avoid giving your money to the puppy mill industry, you are not only saving the life of the dog you adopt, but possibly many hundreds of other dogs as each community stops the cash flow to commercial puppy farms.
                                     – Deana Case, KHS Behavior and Training Coordinator