3 Shady Things Pet Stores Don’t Want You to Know

July 18, 2018


A surprising number of people still don’t know that pet stores are bad places to acquire a dog—that they are, in fact, the harmless-looking, public face of a very shady and often cruel industry. And then there are the people who kiiiinda know better, but find themselves making an impulsive purchase (oops!) when they fall in love with their dream pup.

There’s a good reason pet stores put tiny, fluffy puppies in their windows: they know how hard it is to resist those sweet puppy-dog eyes. But there are things pet stores are hiding from you—and they aren’t so cute. This Saturday, July 21, is No Pet Store Puppies Day, so please help spread the word about the three pet store truths below:

  1. Most pet store puppies come from puppy mills.

Most pet store puppies are sourced from commercial dog breeding operations (aka puppy mills), where making a profit takes precedence over how the animals are treated. Dogs are usually crammed into filthy, overcrowded, stacked wire cages and are denied healthy food, clean water and basic veterinary care. Mother dogs are bred constantly, without any rest or screening for diseases. Horrific conditions, poor genetics, early weaning and stress can cause puppy mill puppies to develop serious health and behavioral problems that are expensive and difficult to treat.

Even worse, pet stores often make false “no puppy mill” promises or claim to have “zero tolerance” for cruel breeding. And since customers don’t see where the puppies came from, they can easily be deceived.

  1. Fancy-sounding registrations are mostly meaningless sales tactics.

Pet stores can emphasize that their breeders are USDA-licensed or that the puppies have American Kennel Club (AKC) registration, but neither of these claims guarantee that the puppies are healthy or well cared for. To obtain a USDA license, a breeder must follow certain standards, but these standards are incredibly low, falling far short of what the average pet parent considers humane. USDA inspection visits can be few and far between, and violations typically go unpunished. AKC registry only means that a puppy’s parents both had AKC papers—nothing more. It is not a guarantee of good environmental conditions and signifies nothing about the health or quality of a puppy.

  1. Payment plans are unethical and exploitive.

A lease agreement for a puppy may sound absurd, but it’s a real ploy pet stores use to take the sting out of high sticker prices and offload their puppies quickly. Some pet stores team up with private lending companies to offer the customer a seemingly low monthly payment plan, but they pad the purchase price with high fees and interest—often without fully explaining this to customers.

Pet leasing allows a love-struck patron to walk out of the store with a puppy, but ends up costing the unwitting buyer many times the animal’s original price. In addition, the pets in question are not owned by their new families until the lease is up. These deceptive, predatory financing arrangements benefit only the pet store and lending company—not the customer, and certainly not the puppy.

Please keep in mind that every time a pet store sells a puppy, another takes its place, thus continuing the cycle of puppy mill cruelty. In honor of No Pet Store Puppies Day, make sure your friends know the truth about shady pet stores by sharing this database of actual inspection photos of USDA-licensed breeding facilities. Don’t forget to follow us at facebook.com/barredfromlove to speak up for animals who can’t speak for themselves!

As always, consider visiting a shelter or rescue—or a responsible pet store that hosts animals from shelters/rescues for adoption—to find your next pet. Find out more at aspca.org/barredfromlove.