Home > Backyard Breeders, Cats, Dog Breed Information, Puppy Mills > Buying from a pet store: Is it really about education?

Buying from a pet store: Is it really about education?

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’m not going to lie, I created the term “blood pup” for a very specific reason. To make the purchase of pet store and online puppies something so abhorrent and socially unacceptable that people would be too embarrassed to even consider buying puppies from these places. Why? Because I don’t believe that just educating people is working.

There is SO much information out there about the connection between pet stores and puppy mills. The internet is full of stories, videos, websites and news stories detailing the conditions found in puppy mills and the dangers of buying from a pet store. Humane Societies across the country have posted information on their websites about how to recognize a responsible breeder when buying a purebreed puppy. Local and national news media outlets have done investigative stories on puppy mills and the dangers of buying puppies online. Heck, even Oprah has done her share to educate people on puppy mills. And yet, puppy sales from these places continue. Just look at the eBay Classifieds Cats & Kittens or Dogs and Puppies sections and you can see that the puppy and kitty mill businesses are not only alive and kicking, but thriving.

I’m not saying that there isn’t an opportunity to educate folks about pet stores and online sales of puppies. There is a need. But, I also believe that many people choose to ignore the information that is out there in favor of “I want what I want when I want it.”

Recently, a pet food store in another state posted this comment on their Facebook page:

“Whenever anyone calls to ask if we sell animals, whether its a Boston terrier or a ferret, we tell them to check breed rescue, the shelter, or do the research and find a responsible breeder. Their answer, 95% of time is, ‘Ok, but are there any pet stores around you that sell animals?’ The answer, unfortunately, is yes, but I won’t compound the problem.”

What struck me was that 95% of the time the person calling was still focused on buying an animal. Why? Certainly not because they were concerned about where the pet came from, or who the parents were, or under what conditions the animal was raised. Was it a lack of education? Possibly. But if so, then why didn’t they ask why the pet food store chose not to sell animals? Or, why the store recommended looking at a shelter or a rescue or reputable breeder? My guess is because they didn’t care. They simply wanted a pure-breed puppy and they didn’t care where they got it from.

The sad truth is that these very same people are also the ones who so willing give up their puppies a few years later when they are no longer as cute and cuddly as they were when they first bought them. Life With Dogs posted this story back in February of this year. It shared the statistics from a survey conducted by the RSPCA (the SPCA in the United Kingdom) showing that

1 in 5 puppy buyers did not have their dogs 2 years later. It also revealed that 24% of the owners who bought a pure-bred puppy in the past 2 years based their decision mainly on appearance, while 56% of buyers did not see the puppy with its mother before they bought it, and a shocking 40% of those who bought a puppy spent one week or less researching their purchase. Pretty shocking numbers.

Can you imagine that the numbers are any better here in the United States?

So, is it a lack of education about puppy mills that is really the issue? Based on the numbers above, I would surmise it’s not. In my opinion it’s more about “I want a cute little puppy NOW” – and “I don’t want to put a whole lot of effort into thinking about what breed is best for me and my lifestyle because that would take too much time.” To me this more about impulse buying – we see cute puppy, we want cute puppy, we buy cute puppy. Nowhere in that thought process is the question… What do I do with puppy once I get it home? We do more research buying furniture for our homes than on what type of dog would do best with our lifestyles. We’re more motivated by cute than by actual knowledge, because we want what we want when we want it.

So, while many will continue to educate people about pet stores, puppy mills and online internet sales of puppies, I am going to continue to use the term “blood pups” to describe the puppies people buy from pet stores and online puppy sale websites. If it deters one person from buying from these places great, but I aim to deter a lot more than that. Won’t you join me?

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  1. February 27, 2011 at 6:50 PM

    It is so hard for me to take the perspective of folks who purchase puppies from the stores in the mall. At the same time, I think it’s so important to try to make an effort. As you so clearly point out, it doesn’t seem that it is just merely an issue of potential pet owners lacking the knowledge to make the right choice.

    Impulse buying is part of the story here. I think there is more. I think there is a big divide between those involved in the animal rights and animal welfare movement and those that are not: animal welfare people generally view animals as living creatures that (to at least some extent) have an internal experience (feelings, desires, etc.) that matter. On the other side (factory farming, puppy mills, some potential pet owners) see animals as a product or commodity.

    It’s a hard gap to cross. When one views something as a commodity (say a shirt), one generally doesn’t care how that shirt is treated. That is, one doesn’t generally care unless they are thinking about the conditions in which that shirt was produced (are the workers paid a living wage and have a safe working environment, is the cotton grown in an ecological way that is good for the environment, etc.). The same is true for puppies and people who view puppies and products. If an animal is just another product that is bought and sold, why would one (from this perspective) care about anything other than profit, savings, and looks?

    Bringing awareness to this issue and doing consciousness raising (like you are doing) is one important thing. It helps people become aware that pets are living creatures, not products. This still won’t change the basic understanding of some people–some people who view animals as products will also have that viewpoint. Learning to see their viewpoint and how to speak their language will allow us to show them how a product that is treated better and cared for with more humanity through the whole production process actually makes a better product.

    I by the way don’t see pets (or any animal) as a product.

    • Mel
      February 28, 2011 at 12:25 AM

      Jason – Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I believe you are right. This is about more than education and impulse buying. I can only hope that using a term like “blood pups” will do what the term “blood diamonds” did to the diamond industry. The use of the term “blood diamonds” brought attention to the plight of the people who lived in the countries where these diamonds came from. It changed what was once viewed as simply a commodity and turned it into a cause to get behind. It changed how the diamond industry did business and how consumers went about purchasing a diamond. I can’t change everyone’s minds, but I can try to change more than a few. Thank you so much for adding so much to the discussion!

  2. jan
    February 27, 2011 at 7:08 PM

    I agree that educating the public is the only way to put puppy mills out of business. As long as there is a demand for cute puppies as an impulse item, there will be someone to supply the product no matter how many laws that are passed to try to shut down puppy mills.

    • Mel
      February 28, 2011 at 12:19 AM

      Agree Jan. Just look at Missouri. They passed a law to regulate puppy mills and the legislature has taken the bill apart piece by piece, essentially making it a do-nothing bill. Puppy mills won again. Maybe it’s time to impact the demand side of things.

  3. lorieahuston
    February 27, 2011 at 8:31 PM

    Hi, Mel. I’m more than willing to join you in using the term “blood pup”. It’s quite obvious that educational efforts are not reaching the people they need to reach, or maybe it really is just that those people don’t care. Perhaps using a term like “blood pups” for shock value can help. It can’t hurt at any rate.

    • Mel
      February 28, 2011 at 12:17 AM

      Thanks Lorie. You have long been a supporter of my campaign to stop puppy mills using the term “blood pup”. I agree. It can’t hurt.

  4. February 28, 2011 at 12:48 AM

    When I read the title of this post, I already had the answer, “Education is not the only answer – pet shops are convenient because they will have an animal available now” – and low and behold your post said the same thing!

    While I am certainly no advocate of pet shops, I think we need to remember that pet shops only account for about 10% of the dog population (at least in Australia). Many dogs out there are backyard bred, and they are perhaps a bigger issue for pounds and shelters. Backyard bred dogs are also highly accessible to the “I want it now” mentality.

    • Mel
      February 28, 2011 at 2:50 AM

      LOL Tegan! It certainly did say the same thing!

      You make a very good point on backyard breeders. It is also an issue here as well, although I can’t say how big an issue it is compared to puppy mills and pet stores. Puppy mills are a big industry here in the United States. In Missouri alone (the worst puppy mill state) there are an estimated 4,000 puppy mills operating. In Minnesota, we have some of the largest dog breeding facilities in the United States with 500, 600 and over 900 dogs per kennel. It is a real problem and one that needs to be addressed. While these places are churning out blood puppies we have between 3-4 million euthanized each year because they could not get a home and/or ran out of time. What are we doing when we are creating millions of new puppies and kitties every year only to kill them a few years later? It’s pure insanity.

  5. February 28, 2011 at 1:37 AM

    Thanks for posting this, Mel. We are the “said” pet store out-of-state. It is so frustrating for a retailer perspective. We would never sell animals of any kind, because, for us, it is completely unethical. There are so many avenues, why pet stores when there are so many in rescue? We hear complaints all the time from people who think the adoption process at the shelters is too intensive (we are a satellite to two area shelters), too expensive (because who knows what their background is!), etc. Part of it might be education, but from what we see, a lot of it is the “I want what I want, and I want it now.” They don’t want to think about it- instant gratification. And yet, one has no more idea of the history of a dog/cat at a pet store than they would at the shelter. I honestly find it amazing that anyone sells puppies at this point, or any other animal, for that matter. We could make so much more money if we sold animals, crappy foods, etc. But I just can’t do it. We’ll never be rich, but I can sleep at night. And PS: No. I won’t post a flyer about puppies for sale. Grr.

    • Mel
      February 28, 2011 at 3:02 AM

      Thanks Aubrey. I so appreciate you sharing your perspective and for allowing me to share your own experience.

      I actually think that people know even less when they buy a pet store puppy than one they adopt from a rescue or shelter. At a rescue or shelter they can tell you about the dog’s personality, their temperament, what training they have had, their likes and dislikes, fears, issues, etc.

      When you buy from a pet store you are buying a dog that likely has health issues, genetic defects, personality issues, etc. Why? Because the puppy mill owner doesn’t care which dogs they are breeding. They don’t care if one or both of the parents has a genetic deformity or flaw; they only care about the end product – money in their pockets. They certainly don’t care about a puppy’s health or the health of their parents. If they did they would not be shipping sick dogs with parvo, kennel cough, etc. to pet stores across the country. They also wouldn’t be fighting legislation that would require them to have regular vet checks and to provide humane conditions for their dogs to prevent such diseases from spreading to other dogs and puppies in their facility.

      But, I know I am preaching to the choir on this one. Thanks so much for being one of those ethical pet food stores who puts the pet first!

  6. February 28, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    I can’t tell you how much I agree with your view. Putting a stop to Puppy Mills is something I’ve become more deeply involved with since my daughter, Miah Rae at http://www.start-the-change.com, took such a stance on it. She is quite passionate about getting the word out about Puppy Mills, what they are and how one supports them. But, seeing the industry continue to thrive is quite frustrating for me. Being 12 she is able to reach a completely different demographic than you or I, and successfully. She actually has been going around her school and getting other students to sign a Puppy Mill Pledge, which basically states if they ever want an animal they will go to a shelter or a rescue and NEVER purchase an animal online or from a store. She even has a project in a class right now making a video about Puppy Mills to fill a social injustice credit. I would say the difference between our view and hers is that we are jaded. She still has hope that can reach the kids and make them realize what choices their families are making. After all, isn’t it often the kids who are saying, “I want a puppy! I want a puppy!” So, while I find myself standing with you, I will continue to support her efforts to educate and hope she can make a difference. I call it: Investment in the future! 🙂

    • Mel
      February 28, 2011 at 10:23 AM

      Oh Twiggy! Your daughter is truly an inspiration! I wonder if I could have had that same passion and dedication at her age. I completely support her too!
      I want to make clear that I still think education is important. I have just chosen to take another path in hopes that it will have an impact. I am in awe of your daughter and what she is doing. I don’t know where you live, but may I suggest that your daughter connect with Kyla Duffy from Up For Pups? Kyla is truly inspirational, much like your Miah Rae, and she also works to educate people on puppy mills in the most inspirational and creative ways. I don’t know why, but I have this distinct feeling they should connect. Kyla can be found at Up For Pups and Happy Tails Books.

  7. February 28, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    The problem is overcoming our society’s need for instant gratification. I think calling these dogs “blood pups” is a good start – sometimes it takes shock value to get people’s attention. If we have to embarrass people into doing the right thing, so be it.

    • Mel
      February 28, 2011 at 10:47 AM

      Thanks Amy. I think shock value and embarrassment are definitely a part of it. I want pet stores and online puppies sales to become something that is so much outside the socially acceptable norm that people avoid it altogether. It might be an aspirational goal, but then again, so was the term “blood diamonds” when it was first introduced. I appreciate your comments. Thank you!

  8. Kristine
    February 28, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    I am proud of you for not being afraid to call it like you see it. Blood pups is a shocking and disconcerting term. But not inaccurate. We can’t always be tiptoeing around these things so we don’t make people feel bad. People should feel bad. Perhaps a little shame will prevent someone from making the same mistake again.

  9. February 28, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    This is an issue that always has me up in arms. I have a good friend who when his girlfriend moved in decided they wanted cats. I had told him many times where these animals come from and he seemed to get it. Then one day he called me and told me he had bought 2 cats, and from the pet store no less. Instead of going ballistic on him, I just shook my head because I knew it was an impulse buy and that they didn’t want to wait for a breeding to come along or look around at shelters or rescues.

    So, no, education isn’t working and I agree it never will. I’ve written posts on this and my latest one on bulletin board puppies. I’m in and blood puppies they are.

  10. February 28, 2011 at 11:03 PM

    Shock value is a component that is useful in shaking people awake. Even those who say to themselves “Bunch of animal rights crazies, I don’t care, my kids want a puppy…” many of these people can’t ignore such a message over time. Look what the whole “fur is murder” phrase did to make people question what the heck that was all about…and then got sick, then mad and stopped buying fur. Another reason to back the adopt don’t shop and conversion of pet shops to pet adoption centers using shelter and rescue dogs – tackle the problems from many sides! Great post, Mel!

    • Mel
      March 1, 2011 at 4:37 AM

      Thanks Mary! Let’s hope it takes hold and makes a difference!

  11. March 1, 2011 at 7:20 AM

    I have met three dogs from the same pet store. Two were sold as purebreds, and once they reached adulthood they so clearly were NOT. These two have the same owner, and I don’t understand what compelled him to go back to the store when he was clearly cheated the first time. The third dog looks pure, but there are obvious faults in the breeding. That owner, having learned something in the process, was embarrassed to admit where the dog came from, and quickly told me he’d never do that again. The upside is that all three dogs were spared the fate of unsold puppies.

    You nailed it when you said, “People want what they want when they want it.” And yes, the screening process of rescue organizations definitely puts people off. Why pay the SPCA $250 for a full-grown mutt and subject yourself to an inquisition when you can get a “purebred schnoodle” at the pet store for an extra $250, no questions asked? I don’t know what the answer is, because rescues can’t just hand out pets to people who have a sudden impulse to own something cute and furry, and they have to be compensated for the vaccination/spay/neuter costs.

    Finally (sorry to be so long-winded), for Twiggy’s daughter, may I suggest a book for 7-10-year-olds called Chewy and Chica by Ellen Miles. It’s part of the “Puppy Place” series, about a family that fosters dogs until they find their forever homes. Chewy and Chica deals specifically with the consequences of puppy mills, and is a great way to start education at an early age.

    • Mel
      March 1, 2011 at 6:44 PM

      Thank you so much for your input and insight Lori! And, thanks for the book suggestion for Twiggy, and her daughter, Miah Rae!

  12. March 1, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    Although puppy mills is what you’re discussing here, your post makes me think of all the other animal causes that are out there as well. I’m often appalled at our lack of respect for other animals that share our space. You’re so right about personal and instant gratification.

    Is buying from petstores really about education? Yes, I think so anyway. But that is SO slow burn. I don’t understand why the powers-that-be can’t just make it illegal to sell dogs/cats in petstores [other than those from rescues]. We already know it’s bad for the animals involved. Why wait for us humans to develop a conscience?

    • Mel
      March 1, 2011 at 6:43 PM

      Exactly the questions I ask Georgia. The answer is always money… and politics.

  13. March 1, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    I was recently watching the Westminster Dog Show with a few friends. The working group was up and the Kommondor can across the screen.

    Friend – oh, those are those “mop” dogs! I’ve always wanted one!!
    Me – why?
    Friend – ‘cuz they look SO COOL!
    Me – do you know what those dogs are bred to do?
    Friend – No
    Me – they are livestock guardians. They are not friendly with strangers, are aggressively protective of their home territory, are nocturnal barkers and their coats take hours of maintenance a month. They are also very athletic dogs that need a lot of exercise or they will get destructive. Kommondors are not a dog for a first time dog owner.
    Friend – oh, I didn’t know that. I just like them ‘cuz they look cool.
    Me – *face palm*

    I have these conversations *all the time* and it makes me mental.

    • Mel
      March 1, 2011 at 6:42 PM

      It mmakes me mental too V.V. I had a conversation with a friend a year or so back and she mentioned that she wanted to breed her Labs and sell the puppies. I had an extensive conversation with her on why she shouldn’t, including telling her how many animals are in animal shelters that need new homes. When I left her I thought she had agreed, until she sent me an e-mail a couple of months later saying the puppies had been born and if you wanted one you should let her know now. Ugh!!!!

  14. Cherry Markovich
    March 2, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    Spay and neuter, spay and neuter, spay and neuter. The only long-term solution.

  15. JANIS ROUX
    July 18, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    PLEASE EVERONE NEEDS TO JUST LOOK INTO THE EYES OF A PUPPY MILL RESCUE AND THEY WOULD NEVER BUY ANOTHER DESIGNER DOG. 4 WEEKS AGO I DECIDED TO ADD ANOTHER DESIGNER PUPPY TO MY HOME.I HAVE A 1500.00 PEKENEES I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE CUTE TO HAVE A PAIR. I BY ACCIDENT LANDED ON A SITE THAT HAD A 5 YEAR OLD SHITZU. IT MENTIONED IT HAD BEEN RESCUED. OK WHY NOT TAKE A LOOK SHE LOOKED SO CUTE. I GOT THERE TO GET MY NEW DOG I AM GOING TO DO SOMETHING GOOD. I FIND THE MOST PETHETIC DOG. SCARED OF EVERYTHING. I ASKED WHAT HAPPEN TO HER- SHE’S FROM A PUPPY MILL. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN. SHE WAS IN A CRATE 24 HOURS A DAY FOR 5 YEARS- I SEE THIS IN HER EYES, SHE ATE 1/2 DOG FOOD 1/2 SAW DUST, SHE WENT TO THE BATHROOM IN A CAGE AND SAT IN IT. I ASKED HOW CAN I TAKE HER HOME. I DON’T KNOW HOW TO HANDLE THIS POOR DOG.I STARTED CRYING OVER GUILT. MY DOGS WEAR DRESSES DESIGNER. THEY TRAVEL AROUND THE COUNTRY. THEY LIVE LIKE MY KIDS.
    I WAS WOKEN UP YESTERDAY MORNING BY MY NEW PUPPY MILL DOG. SHE HAS A DEEP LOVE IN HER EYES THAT I HAVE NEVER SEAN BEFORE. WE ALL NEED TO RETHINK WHAT THE REAL PRICE IS FOR THAT DOGGY IN THE WINDOW.
    THANKS I HOPE THIS HELPS
    PS SHE PEED ON A 3200.00 RUG AND I DIDN’T CARE

  16. January 18, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    Hey Mel I praise your blog!

    • Mel
      January 18, 2012 at 7:14 PM

      Wow! Thanks Jane!

  17. May 3, 2014 at 6:40 PM

    I cannot tell you how shocked people are when I tell them to expect to wait 6-9 months at an absolute minimum for a puppy from a reputable breeder of any dog breed.
    People call wanting a puppy immediately or within a month or so.
    A breeder with that kind of availability of “product” is not EVER a breeder one should fund.
    Responsible breeders interview potential families to ensure the breed is really right for them. They also educate the family significantly on things like training, food, breed specifics, etc.
    Responsible breeders don’t allow puppy choice by color or sex but only by best fit of temperament.
    If people used responsible breeders there would be many, many less shelter dogs.
    Responsible breeders know where their puppies are, how they are as adults, and take them back if ever a need.
    Alas, we live in an instant gratification society and it results in the enslavement of companion animals by horrible human beings that breed and sell puppies indiscriminately.
    It breaks my heart.
    When will dog selling pet stores become an embarrassing place to enter?
    😦
    I like your term blood puppy and will link back to you. I hope if enough of us speak up for those that can’t speak for themselves some change will be brought about.

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