Puppy Mills and Pet Stores

Do you know why veterinarians, rescue workers and reputable breeders will caution against buying a puppy from a commercial pet store? It’s because the majority (some estimates are as high as 95%) of puppies sold in pet stores come from cruel and dangerous puppy mills.

People who want to buy a puppy in a pet store often don’t know what a widespread problem puppy mills are. When a concerned buyer inquires about the puppies’ origins, employees may say that all their dogs come from home breeders (which isn’t a guarantee of proper treatment or breeding either). Some people are willing to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for these adorable pups, and the store owners know it. Since more information about bad breeders is available than ever before, those who stand to make money from these puppies may tell a customer what she or he wants to hear – and of course, what they want to hear is never “why yes, these babies are from an inhumane and disreputable puppy mill.”

  • Fact check:  It’s impossible for a store that sells dozens of puppies of different breeds every day to obtain all their dogs from reputable home breeders, since home breeders can produce only a few puppies a year due to their small operations scale.
  • Fact check: Dateline NBC ran an investigative report twelve years ago on the relationship between puppy mills and pet stores. By first obtaining the names of stores’ puppy suppliers and then tracking them down, not one reputable breeder could be found. A few years later Oprah devoted a show to the topic too. Even with widespread publicity, puppy mills continue to operate and people continue to support them more than a decade later.

Don't let the price tag on a pet store pup fool you. Upscale pet stores sell puppies for up to  $3500 and sometimes more. But the high price tag says nothing about the dogs' origins or the breeding-machine environment they came from.

Click here to learn more about where pet store puppies come from and the devastating consequences for these dogs who are forced to continually breed.



This is Mary Ann, a precious eight-year-old girl who spent her entire life as a breeder in a puppy mill. A rescuer bought her at a puppy mill auction, so instead of going to another mill, she went into rescue. When she was first examined, the man who checked her mouth had to run from the exam room to the bathroom, where he vomited. Although he has been working with rescued dogs for a decade, he had never seen anything like Mary Ann's mouth. Not only were her teeth rotten, but so were her gums, and impacted in everything were the feces and hair Mary Ann had eaten in her puppy mill cage just to survive. As a result, Mary Ann had to have almost all of her teeth extracted, This is what her behind looked like, after years of sitting in a wire cage:
As bad as her health problems were, what was worse is that Mary Ann didn't behave like a dog. She just sat and stared. When her foster mom picked her up and cuddled her, Mary Ann stared straight ahead. She had no idea what human contact iwas all about. She didn't respond to love because "love" was something she had never known. Having taken care of countless litters of puppies -- who were then sold to brokers and ended up for sale in pet stores -- Mary Ann was comfortable with dogs and loved the other dogs and cats in her foster home. People were just a mystery to her.

There is no excuse for this kind of abuse. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is supposed to monitor puppy mills for health and safety violations, did nothing for Mary Ann. Not only was she neglected, horribly abused, and bred half to death for her entire life in a "commercial breeding facility," which the USDA is supposed to regulate, but she was actually put up for sale so that another puppy mill could buy her and continue breeding her until she simply died--or outlived her usefulness and was shot or beaten to death.

There are thousands and thousands of dogs just like Mary Ann in puppy mills all over this country. That cute puppy you want to buy or "rescue" from a pet store was produced by a dog suffering the same horrors that Mary Ann suffered.

After being cared for by People for Pets, a small rescue group in Iowa, Mary Ann began to respond to human contact and to appreciate touching and affection. She will have medical problems for the rest of her life, but Mary Ann has been adopted by a dachshund rescuer in New Jersey.



How Much Is that Doggie in the Window?
...More than You Think!
If you are tempted to "rescue" a puppy from a pet store, think of Loki before you write that check! Loki is a three-year-old dapple who was bought at a pet store for $1000. Like most pet store puppies, he had been bred in a puppy mill. The family that bought him surrendered him to rescue because, they said, their son had changed his mind and wanted a different breed. He was adopted by one of our rescuers, who has spent a fortune on vet bills to deal with the genetic health problems that resulted from his poor breeding. Like his epilepsy, which requires ongoing medication and blood tests ($2500 for blood tests in three years, $300 a year for medication). And his constant dental problems, which have resulted in the extraction of most of his teeth, to the tune of more than $1000.

So when you see that sweet face staring out at you from the pet store window and you wonder how much is that doggie in the window, remember: The lifetime costs of caring for a poorly bred puppy mill dog will add up fast. At least Loki survived, unlike many puppy mill puppies, who are so poorly bred that they die before they reach their first birthday.



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