The pictures that surfaced on Reddit were heart-wrenching. The puppies — a Weimaraner and a Boxer— looked to be little more than skin and bones. But these puppies weren’t found abandoned under a bridge, they were for sale at a pet store in the Chicago suburbs.
While many pet supply chains do not offer puppies and kittens bred specifically for sale (and feature homeless pets from local shelters and rescues instead), other chains are behind the curve.
Petland, for instance, has long been a focus for anti-puppy mill advocates because the national chain allegedly used mills as the source for thousands of puppies sold in their stores each year. But advocates are up against a big misconception, and disturbing photos make it hard to change the perception that buying a puppy from a pet store is “rescuing” it. Granted, these puppies need help: They need to see a veterinarian, they need to be fed, and they need to not be living on wire grates in glass boxes. But buying these pups them will only make it easier for stores to bring in more.
Supply and demand is a hard concept to remember when you’re looking at sad eyes and a prominent rib cage of a little puppy or kitten. I have heard people claim they got their pure bred dog or kitten by “rescuing it from a farm upstate” which seems to be the code people use when they don’t want to admit they purchased the animal from a breeder or store. Buying a sad or underweight puppy or kitten from a pet store or breeder is not advocacy. It is not rescue.
It’s part of the problem.
If you think the conditions your puppy or kitten are coming from are terrible, you need to know your money is helping that place stay in business. And you need to remember your puppy or kitten has parents and every penny you pay the pet store is likely keeping their parents in those same dismal, unhealthy conditions, only no one is coming to help them. When it comes down to economics, you have the power to break the chain: If no one is buying the puppies and kittens in pet stores, then the process is more costly than it’s worth to the store.
The popular notion that pet shops will euthanize unsold puppies simply isn’t true. Euthanasia and disposal, even when cheaply done, still cost money and the store could instead put the dogs on a free classified page for a fraction of the sale price and likely find someone to buy the pups. A business won’t spend money when they could make money instead, even if it is not as much as they were hoping for. But when a product — whether it’s puppies, kittens or potatoes — is hard to sell, the buyer will think twice before placing the next order.
There are responsible dog and cat breeders. But in the U.S., they are tragically outnumbered by mills and unscrupulous “backyard breeders” who focus on churning out puppies for profit (we won’t go into the situation overseas). A good breeder simply would never sell one of their beloved puppies to a pet store where they can be sold to the highest bidder.
The puppy you bought from the pet store is not a rescue, it is a purchase. If you want a rescued dog or cat, check your local shelter or purebred rescue in your area, or go to a store that has committed to only offering adoptable pets from local shelters or rescues. Millions of pets need homes, but as long as there are puppy-selling pet stores in business, and people to support them, then the cycle will continue, mills will stay in business, and the suffering will continue.