Pet stores should follow humane example


Too many pet stores in Ohio are selling puppies from puppy mills. Consumers should be wary of buying dogs from these stores, especially around the holidays when families might be tempted to make impulse purchases. Adopting from a shelter or rescue group, or finding a local responsible breeder, is a much better and more humane option.

What’s not evident to shoppers is that before their arrival at a store, these dogs live in deplorable conditions, often without adequate food, water or veterinary care. Investigations conducted by The Humane Society of the United States have repeatedly revealed that the vast majority of puppy-selling pet stores buy dogs from puppy mills, regardless of claims they may make about only buying from “reputable” breeders.

Puppy mills are breeding facilities that churn out puppies factory-style for sale to the pet trade with an emphasis on profit over welfare. Puppy mills house large numbers of dogs, sometimes 500 or more, in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions with little regard for their health or safety. The breeding dogs at these facilities typically spend their entire lives in small wire cages without ever becoming part of a family. They are treated as cash crops and after multiple pregnancy cycles, the mother dogs are usually thrown away like trash or killed when they can no longer breed. Pet stores selling puppies hide these realities from their customers, knowing that no one would want to buy a puppy whose parents are treated so badly.

The puppies, which are the cute little dogs in pet store windows, are sold to unsuspecting families and often have medical problems. We’ve heard from consumers, in Ohio and across the country, who are often devastated when they realize their new addition to the family will need intense medical treatment or may not even have long to live.

The HSUS receives hundreds of complaints every year about sick puppies purchased from pet stores. One of the most effective ways to stop puppy mills is by not supporting them and avoiding purchasing a dog from a pet store, over the Internet, at flea markets, or from any breeder you have not met in-person. We recommend that people who want to buy a puppy always check their local shelters and rescue groups first. If they choose not to adopt, they should make sure to visit a reputable breeder in person and see the home where the puppy was born and raised. Reputable breeders typically do not sell to pet stores because they want to meet the families who are taking home their puppies.

Don’t be fooled by reassurances that puppies come from licensed breeders. The federal law that regulates some commercial breeders is weak and poorly enforced.

Conditions such as wire flooring, lack of annual veterinary care, and continual caging are legal under the Animal Welfare Act. An audit by the USDA’s Office of Inspector General found enforcement to be severely lacking. This is why numerous communities, including Chicago and Los Angeles, are implementing restrictions on selling dogs and cats from large-scale, commercial dog breeding facilities. Nearly 90 localities nationwide have now passed local ordinances on the sale of commercially-raised puppies in pet stores in response to consumer concerns about puppy mills and buyer complaints about sick puppies.

Fortunately, many pet shops are realizing that there’s a better way to do business and partnering with rescue groups to offer dogs for adoption. This humane business model helps find homes for animals, lowers euthanasia rates and reduces the burden on municipal shelters, saving taxpayer dollars. PetSmart and Petco are the industry leaders in partnering with rescue groups to offer adoption events in their stores. Regional chains are also adopting this model, including Alsip to the Rescue, with two locations in Indiana and Illinois, and eight of the 10 Pets Plus Natural stores in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Pet stores in Ohio should follow this humane example.

For more information about puppy mills, pet stores and how to find a responsible breeder, please see

By Corey Roscoe

Ohio State Director for The Humane Society of the U.S.

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