I come from a small town, and our community strongly encourages shopping locally. In fact, one of our town slogans is to “Shop Local. Eat Local. Live Local.” That’s a good mantra to live by when you want to see local mom-and-pop businesses flourish amid big box stores and chains.
However, there’s one local business I just won’t shop at anymore: the pet store. While I like the owner and wish her the best, I simply will not support a store that continues to sell puppies from irresponsible breeders and puppy mills.
For a brief period two years ago, the store stopped selling puppies. I was so glad, and I thought the owner had finally seen the light, so to speak. Instead of selling puppies, she partnered with a local rescue to offer some of its adoptable puppies and dogs. She also partnered with the local humane society to offer some of its puppies and kittens. I made a special effort after that to shop there, even though I could have gotten better prices elsewhere. I also encouraged other people to shop at the store, and to let the owner know how much they appreciated the good she was doing for our community’s homeless pets.
It wasn’t long, though, before I heard that the shop had a “Puppies for sale” sign up again. I thought it must be a mistake, so I stopped by to check out the display windows. Sure enough, there were purebred puppies and a few designer breeds for sale. The owner cited a need for the puppy-sale profits to keep her store afloat.
In a previous discussion, we had talked about the harm she causes by selling puppies from irresponsible breeders and puppy mills. A responsible breeder will keep puppies with their mother until they are ready to go to their new homes. In the store owner’s mind, she was helping these puppies because she knew they came from rough environments. I explained that her “helping” was really only enabling these businesses, and, as long as money was coming in, the puppies would just keep going out.
We had also talked about her reporting the suppliers to the Department of Agriculture and also to the humane society. I would have done it myself, but she wasn’t willing to provide names. However, at the time, it seemed as though we were on the same page and she was willing to do the reporting, then move forward with adopting out shelter/rescue animals instead of selling overpriced puppy mill productions. You can imagine my shock when I learned she had changed her mind.
By loose definition, a puppy mill is an inhumane environment where dogs are continuously bred for profit rather than health and temperament. Smaller breeds tend to be frequently victimized by puppy mills, and that is typically what my local pet store sells. Chihuahuas, Pekingese, Min Pins, Chi Pins, and Peke-a-Poos are among some of the more popular breeds and designer dogs that frequent its windows.
The puppies are presented clean and cute as they romp around with their siblings, their parents out of sight and out of mind. Each puppy has a hefty price tag — hefty enough that the shop can offer discounts of $50 to $100 per puppy and still turn a profit. Those price tags don’t cover spay/neuter surgeries, either, so who knows how many of those puppies are leaving to later produce their own multitudes of puppies.
Some people may know the horrors of puppy mills, the truth about irresponsible breeders, and the reality of pet store puppies, but they may still buy a puppy, thinking they are saving it. However, by buying a puppy from the pet store, they are simply opening up a spot for another puppy, and the breeder dogs in the background will just be forced to keep having more.
While I don’t foresee being able to change the mind of my local pet store owner for good, or even the people who buy puppies from her, I do know that money speaks louder than words. I may be only one person, but I am one less person supporting a store that supports irresponsible breeders and puppy mills, and I encourage others to join me.
Let’s hear from you, readers. Do you shop at stores that sell puppies?
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About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby, Odin, Deuce (cats), and Axle (dog). I’m a former quiet nerd who’s turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.