Each year, nearly 3.3 million dogs enter animal shelters in the U.S. alone, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Despite this, people all across America choose to buy dogs from pet stores every day. People looking to adopt dogs should get them from licensed breeders or shelters, not pet stores or online breeder websites.
Purebred dogs can be desirable since they have specific and predictable breed characteristics. However, people wanting a purebred dog should find a small, local breeder who can guarantee the quality of said dog because not all purebreds are created equal. The reasons people give for purchasing purebred dogs become questionable at best when they purchase their dog from a pet store or online website instead of a quality, licensed breeder, since these dogs oftentimes come from puppy mills.
Puppy mills are large-scale commercial dog breeding operations who breed as many dogs as possible to make as much money as possible. These dogs are kept in terrible conditions and are typically bred without consideration of genetic quality. Puppy mills regularly breed dogs so far removed from ideal breed characteristics they are recognizable in physical appearance only. At this point, a puppy mill Yorkie is no more of a Yorkie than any other dog.
The popular pet store chain Petland, who currently operates over 70 stores across the U.S., officially states it does not get its dogs from puppy mills, but certain reports, including one from the Humane Society of the United States, suggest otherwise. Their report indicated “almost every Petland store in the country is buying puppies from large-scale ‘middleman’ brokers that deal with puppy mills, and some are continuing to buy directly from known puppy mills.”
Earlier this month, a class action lawsuit against a Petland store in Kennesaw, Georgia was filed after they allegedly knowingly sold customers sick puppies. This is not the only instance of poor quality dogs being sold at Petland in the U.S. In September, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a multi-state outbreak of Campylobacter, a multidrug-resistant infection, linked to dogs sold at Petland locations in 12 states.
After paying upward of $1000 for a dog with the intention of having it for life, sudden severe illness is not the outcome most people desire. Sick dogs do need homes, but a rescue organization is more likely to let potential owners know about health problems up front so they can make the informed decision to take on the burden or not.
In recent years, online bloggers have made it popular to shame people who want purebred dogs, and this is not right. There is no problem with people adopting a purebred dog if they truly want to, but the general public should be more conscious of where their dogs are coming from.
If the price of a dog from a small ethical breeder is too high, there are still plenty of options other than pet stores. Generally, animal shelters do receive purebred dogs, and one just has to wait and be willing to take them when they become available. Also, there are numerous rescue organizations dedicated to rehoming dogs of a particular breed. In Louisiana alone, there are organizations solely dedicated to Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Poodles and countless other popular dog breeds.
There is also always the option of putting misconceptions aside and adopting a mixed breed dog who needs a home. Some people think a mixed breed rescue dog is more likely to have health problems later in life or have behavioral problems from being abused, but this is not necessarily the case.
According to Psychology Today, mixed breed dogs are not any more likely to have health problems throughout their lives than purebred dogs. Additionally, not all rescue dogs were physically or emotionally abused. Many come from loving homes but are surrendered because their owners can no longer afford to care for them or passed away. Though mixed breed dogs might not have uniform, predictable traits, countless dogs from pet stores don’t either. At least if a customer chooses the mixed breed dog they can typically be sure they are not supporting a puppy mill.
The public should stop purchasing dogs from businesses who support unethical animal breeding. Though dogs at pet stores did not ask to come into this world and ultimately need homes too, there would be far fewer of them if the demand wasn’t so high.
Anna Coleman is a 19-year-old mass communication junior from Kennesaw, Georgia.