I thought I would start you off with a few numbers today.
That’s the total number of ads for puppy sales that appeared on just nine (9) high-volume puppy sale websites (yes on the internet) on Wednesday, July 18, 2012.
I’ll give you another number.
The number of individual puppies that appeared for sale in ads on those same nine high-volume puppy sale websites that same day.
And yet, one more number for you.
The very conservative number of puppies estimated to have come from puppy mills that appeared on those sites (in online ads) that same day. (If this number were to be extrapolated to the number of puppies appearing in these online ads over 365 days that would be 81,813,560 puppies a year.)
So where did these numbers come from? A report issued by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in 2012. They generated these numbers by studying nine online sites known for their high-volume sale of puppies. The methodology was the same one used by IFAW in their 2008 investigation into the online sales of endangered species products.
You can read the full report here, and I encourage you to do so, but I wanted thought I would share some of the highlights of the report with you today.
As you think about the push against pet stores who sell puppies from puppy mills, I want you to keep in mind where the real high-volume sales are occurring these days. It’s not in a bricks and mortar mom-and-pop pet shops, but online, where puppy millers are NOT subject to USDA inspection.
So let’s get to it. So what were the nine online sites included in the IFAW study?
Six high-volume puppy sale sites:
- Animaroo – based out of Missouri, that has over 300,000 monthly visitors
- DogsNow – a California-based business that is a service of EquineNow.com
- NextDayPets* – a Maryland-based business that has over 3,000,000 (3 million) visitors per month
- PuppyFind* – based out of Arizona and has over 300,000 visitors per day
- PuppyTrader – based out of Pennsylvania and serves U.S. and Canadian visitors
- Terrific Pets – a North Carolina based business and operates as a platform for buyers and sellars
*These two websites are being used by a Wisconsin-based “animal shelter” to sell the puppies they are breeding to “raise money for their no-kill shelter”. I wrote about it last week.
And, three general buyer-seller platforms engaged in puppy sales:
- Craigslist – A California-based business that operates as a free online version of a newspaper classified ads
- eBay Classifieds – a subsidiary of eBay based out of California and operates as an online classifieds platform
- Oodle – a California-based business that provides a “friendly local marketplace to buy, sell and trade”
Keep in mind that these are only the nine high-volume sites. There are many other medium or small sites in existence today that were not included, and more are being created every day.
IFAW referenced an HSUS three-month study into a “single online seller who advertised puppy mill dogs on nearly 800 Web domains designed to appear like local breeders selling online.” The online puppy sale industry is big bucks and puppy mills are in the thick of it.
On this one day, Wednesday, July 18, 2012, IFAW pulled a percentage of ads from these sites and analyzed them based on a pre-defined set of criteria (see page 5 pf the report for the criteria list).
Here is a summary of their findings revealed the following results (based on that one day):
- Animaroo – 85%
- DogsNow – 62%
- NextDay Pets – 61%
- PuppyFind – 55%
- Puppy Trader – 64%
- Terrific Pets – 44%
Are you shocked yet? I was too when I first read the report. I thought I had a pretty good idea of the number of puppy mills turning to online sales. I had no idea.
Now I know why so many Minnesota large-scale breeders have chosen to let their USDA licenses to lapse. Now I know why so many are turning to selling their puppies online. It’s big business. It’s money-making business. It’s also unregulated – no inspections, no criminal violations, no worries. Going online offers puppy mills all the secrecy they desire with no repercussions. Scary huh?
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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