The Problem with Pet Stores

A pet store’s business is to market and sell puppies. Since customers don’t see the environment the puppies came from, stores can misleadingly advertise “no puppy mill” promises or claim to have “zero tolerance” for cruel breeding, and customers can easily be deceived. The pet store can also emphasize that its breeders are USDA-licensed or that the puppies have AKC registration, but neither of these claims offers any guarantee that the puppies are indeed healthy or were well cared for by their breeders.

So where do puppies in pet stores come from? Responsible breeders won’t sell to pet stores, leaving stores to source from cruel breeders who prioritize profits over animal welfare. If people could see the real conditions that pet store puppies came from, it would be hard to convince them that these puppies were healthy and happy.

What Does USDA-Licensed Mean, Anyway?

To get a USDA license, a breeder must follow the standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Sounds good, right? Actually, these standards are far from humane–they are essentially mere survival standards. For example, it’s entirely legal for USDA facilities to keep dogs for their entire lives in tiny, wire-floored cages that are only six inches longer than the dog in each direction. Female dogs can be bred at every opportunity, churning out litter after litter of puppies with little to no time for their bodies to recover between litters. But even if the Animal Welfare Act standards did amount to humane treatment, violations of the law often go unpunished. Lack of adequate enforcement by the USDA means thousands of dogs are left to suffer in inadequate and inhumane conditions year after year, even in federally licensed facilities. Unfortunately, the “USDA-Licensed” designation can provide a false sense of reassurance.

How About AKC Registration?

AKC registry is a service provided by the American Kennel Club. But it only means that a puppy’s parents both had AKC papers—nothing more. It is not a guarantee of good environmental conditions, and is not a sign of the health or quality of a puppy. If both parents are purebred, a puppy can be registered; it’s as simple as that. It’s worth noting that a major source of AKC’s revenue comes from registration fees for dogs.

Only $100 down?

A puppy’s cuteness is the seller’s best tool. Once a customer is holding an adorable puppy, it becomes easy to believe the puppy is perfectly healthy and came from a small, responsible breeder, no matter what the facts might be. But pet stores and websites that sell puppies face a race against time because their “product” needs to be sold quickly, before getting too big or too old. That’s where the need to close the deal comes in.

In order to take the sting out of the high sticker price and sell a puppy quickly, some stores offer shady financing schemes. Suddenly, a puppy priced at thousands of dollars can be yours for only $50 a month!

Here’s how this works: Pet sellers sometimes team up with private lending companies that offer the customer a low monthly payment over a fixed period of time, padding the purchase price with large fees and interest. These agreements allow a love-struck patron to walk out of the store with a puppy, but end up costing the unwitting buyer many times the animal’s original price.

Many of these financing arrangements are not just high-interest payment plans. They are actually leases, meaning the new family does not legally own the dog. In fact, the leasing company owns the dog for the entire length of the lease, which might last several years. At the end of the lease term, the customer can own the dog outright… for an additional payment.

These arrangements raise serious ethical questions. Should a dog—a living creature who becomes a family member—be leased like any other product (like a car)? Many think not. These arrangements also create practical problems. What happens to a cherished family pet if a customer defaults on his payments? Is that pet repossessed by the lender? Who gets to make major medical or other care decisions? What if a leased dog ends up at a shelter; can that shelter legally provide medical care or rehome the dog?

Deceptive, predatory financing arrangements benefit only the lending company and the pet store—not the consumer, and certainly not the puppy.


Even people who know where pet store puppies come from can have a hard time resisting them. Just keep in mind that every time a pet store sells a puppy, another takes its place, perpetuating the cycle of cruelty. Help us make the cruel breeding industry a relic of the past by opting to adopt your next pup, and encouraging your friends and family to do the same. If you do decide to use a breeder, please do your homework to make sure you don’t support cruelty.

Sources available upon request; contact [email protected] with specific questions about this content.