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The Darker Side of Dog Ownership

[updated 11/21/07 to include corrected Susan Conant title...]

Every once in a while, Scott cringes when certain topics are raised in my presence. He knows my unfortunate tendancy to state my opinion to the point of unnecessary tactlessness. This may be one of those times. But, it needs to be said.

Please, if you are planning to get a new dog, do not go to a pet store (with the exception of those that work with shelters to adopt animals). Ever. Under any circumstances. Work through a reputable breeder or a rescue organization.

Having said that, here are some of the reasons:

1) Probably the most important reason is that many (definitely not all) pet stores receive their inventory from puppy mills. These are places where dogs are regularly and routinely bred simply for the sake of money. The "breeders" rarely pay attention to bloodlines, heritage, and desireable traits (such as temperament, disease resistance, etc.), and the circumstances the dogs are in are often abominable. For a very good (though fictional) description of puppy mills, read Susan Conant's canine mystery Bloodlines (Dog Lover's Mysteries). I have it, if you'd like to borrow it.

2) The second important reason come from following the logic that a strong, reputable breeder pays attention to where his/her dogs are going. When purchasing a puppy from a breeder, you should always feel like you're undergoing an examination that is stricter than anything you might find from the Department of Homeland Defense. A good breeder will not hand his/her dogs over to just anyone. And s/he will also provide a contract that states that the owners must offer the breeder first right of refusal if they ever want to get rid of the dog. We've gotten three dogs from Kodi's breeder, all with contracts, and all with interrogations, though those have become less stringent the longer we knew her (we first met Joanne when I was in Jr. high 4-H, or maybe even grade school...she helped me groom and show my first Newfie in an AKC ring, and had I met her even earlier, my occupation might now be as a professional handler in AKC).

2a) So how does the above fit with pet stores? Simple. A reputable breeder will not sell to a pet store, because once s/he has done so, s/he has no more control over the fate of the dog. What's the harm? Pet stores are for-profit entities (unlike most good breeders--a joke amongst dog people is that one of the signs of a good breeder is the size of his/her debt). The customer comes in, selects the cute little ball of black fuzz, pays the usually overpriced bill, and goes home, only to find that the little ball of fuzz chews shoes, has a very expensive inherited disease, and cannot be returned to the store from which it was purchased.

2b) Pet store dogs are almost never appropriately socialized. They are in cages or pens in the store, and while certainly fed and cleaned, they may receive very little attention in the ways of behavior, training, and other important social aspects. Just like children, puppies begin learning from the moment of birth, and often their earliest experiences after weaning can be indicative of the dogs they will become.

3) There are far too many unwanted animals already to encourage irresponsible breeding. I support breeders primarily because the good ones are genuinely trying to improve or sustain a certain breed. While designer breeds, such as the ever-popular cock-a-poos or Golden-doodles, may be cute, unique, and even hardier and healthier than any of their pure-bred associates, the animal population is simply too high for me to support new for the sake of new.

The Bark ran a very interesting article about a new organization called Woof & Co., whose mission seems to be to act as puppy brokers for pet stores. The Pueblo Collie/Sheltie rescue organization recommends checking out the following site for more information: nopuppymills.com.


I mistakenly purchased my first cat from a pet store before knowing what really goes on with those places. Since then I have adopted 1 cat and 2 dogs from area shelters. They have been the sweetest pets ever and will never go to a pet store for another pet again.


Dog Beds & Crates Etc

Puppy mills are awful places. Two years ago, when I was looking for a new dog, I'll never forget this one ad I called from the newspaper. The ad said something like:

6 Puppies for sale, strong bloodlines, pictures available.

So I called the number & asked what breed the puppies were. She said "what kind do you want?" That confused me.

I said "uhhh... what? I want to know what breed, or mix type these 6 puppies are."

She said "We've got hundreds of them. Look, I don't have time to talk. Here's the address, you have to come down and look, but we've got hundreds of puppies."

That freaked me out. A year later, I saw on the local news that the place got busted. The footage was brutal - dogs jammed into tight cages together, covered in dogshit, malnourished.. ugh.

So it's gotta be stopped, but how? People will always be tempted by the cute little puppy in the pet store window. And many people buying from the classifieds see a $50 price tag (opposed to the $500+ they'd pay at a breeder) and just look the other way.



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