Why You’re NOT Doing a Good Deed When You “Rescue” that Pet Store Puppy

"If you think that puppy mills are so horrible, why arent you buying these dogs and rescuing them from the awful situations theyre in? Why...


“If you think that puppy mills are so horrible, why arent you buying these dogs and rescuing them from the awful situations theyre in? Why aren’t you encouraging your clients to buy them so they don’t end up in shelters or rescues? This is a summary of a comment left on one of my previous Dogster posts about the behavioral effects of puppy mills.

Its rare for me to respond to comments on the Dogster blogs I’ve written (time is a precious thing when you’re an entrepreneur like me!), but I felt this particular comment needed addressing, since it taps into what I find to be a very pervasive myth — that you are doing a good deed when you purchase a dog from a pet store or “rescuing” this dog from the puppy milling cycle.

Buying a puppy from a pet store is NOT “rescuing” the puppy from the mill cycle; it is making a cash contribution to the perpetuation of a cycle of greed which sees puppies as commodities. Puppies are big business to all millers, and like all businesses, puppy milling operates on the supply and demand principle. No business stays open without client support. Each pet store puppy purchased positively reinforces the pet store and miller for inappropriate breeding practices.

Of course, I hate seeing a single dog suffer for any reason. I really hate seeing millions of dogs suffer for a single reason — lining the wallets of individuals who prey on the pain of sentient beings.

It’s hard to see a 6-month-old puppy, too big for its crate, with its large, sad, brown eyes begging you to “please take me home. Get me out of here.” But essentially, taking that dog only frees up that crate for the next 6-month-old dog who has missed the opportunity to spend its critical stages of development with a family who will treat him well. Eventually, another well-intentioned dog lover will feel pity for him and take him home. The cycle continues, ad infinitum.

I hate the puppy mill industry on two levels. I hate it for the dogs — I hate that mill-breeding dogs are made to live in squalor their entire lives, never seeing a moment of compassion, never knowing what it’s like to feel grass on their feet, the fun of learning a new trick, the pleasure of a deep sigh on a warm bed after a great hiking adventure.

I hate that these dogs are given inadequate medical care and inappropriate nutrition and have substandard living conditions. I hate that puppies are taken from their litters too early, transported during critical fear periods, and are placed in environments which are dangerous to their physical and behavioral development. I hate that my new client’s Chihuahua mix, recently purchased from a local pet shop at 5 months old, is terrified of children and most adults, and has already learned that biting hard is a very effective strategy for creating space, already drawing blood daily, nearly every time someone tries to touch him.

I hate the industry for what it does to pet owners, too. The mill industry is a scam, and its employees are con artists — selling dog owners and their dogs a lifetime of frustration for exorbitant prices. My new client wanted a cute and wonderful puppy. She loves dogs. Her heart melted when she saw a puppy cowering and trembling in his crate, and she took him home. Now she’s afraid of her puppy, and her puppy is terrified of life. She didn’t get a pet, she got a behavior modification project; likely the result of a combination of poor genetics and extremely poor experiences during critical socialization periods. She wanted to take her new doggy to new places, new experiences, to give him all the opportunities he’d been denied in early puppyhood. She won’t be able to do that for some time, and is likely looking at an extensive training investment (financially and in terms of her time), plus a lifetime of careful management.

People who buy puppies from pet stores are not bad people. I would venture to say that virtually every person who purchases a puppy from a pet store a) doesn’t know about the mill industry or b) does know, falls in love, and honestly wants to help this one dog have a fantastic life with a loving family. But how we as pet owners invest our money is bigger than us, bigger than this one dog on this one day in this one pet shop.

Will the investment you make the next time you bring a dog into your home break or perpetuate the cycle?

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