They are so cute, your kids have been nagging you, and you feel it’s time to get a family dog. So you head on down to the mall and visit your local pet store and pick out a pup.
That’s how you do it right?
You want a purebred so you can be sure there won’t be any problems, right?
And pet stores have guarantees, and they show you all the wonderful paperwork about where they puppy came from, and that is better than just getting a puppy of unknown origins from a shelter right?
What do you think I am going to say now?
Have you ever heard of a puppy mill? If you haven’t, they are basically puppy making factories. Dogs live in tiny, unsanitary cages with minimal medical attention and put out litter after litter until they outlive their usefulness. Then, they are either sold at auction or shot. These dogs live in barns or sheds that are barely adequate to keep the weather out, can barely stand from being in the tiny cages and usually have had no human interaction.
If you have heard of puppy mills, and knew they were bad, did you know that most (all) pet shops get their puppies from puppy mills? Oh, they claim they don’t, because puppy mills are actually legal and are inspected by the USDA, but even those that don’t live up to the minimal standards required by the federal agency, often continue to operate. Pet stores do a good job of disguising where their dogs come from, but if you do the research, armed with a little bit of knowledge, you can find the truth.
If you are not sure why you should listen to me, well, I know firsthand the problems with puppy mill puppies. You see, our Golden Retriever Simon came from a breeder in Missouri called MAM Kennels, through the Hunte Corp. (a puppy broker) all the way to Malibu California where we adopted him. You should watch this video about an investigation by the Humane Society of puppy mills. If you listen carefully, you will hear mention of MAM Kennels and Hunte.
On the outside, Simon was beautiful and everything we wanted in a Golden Retriever. Here he is as a puppy:
Cute, huh? Cuddly and lovable, and full of puppy fun. He was perfect.
Until he turned 8 months old and we noticed that he was very clumsy and his hips made noise and seemed to pop in and out as he walked. We had him checked out by 2 vets and were told that he had severe hip displasia and would be lame by the time he was 2. Over $7,000, 2 surgeries and rehabilitation later, he has made a complete recovery. Unless you count the nail infections, the skin allergies, the repeated ear infections and the seizures. We easily have over $10,000 invested in this dog. We never could afford the hip surgery today, but 6 years ago before we had kids, we worked it out. Everything else has been small amounts, but $200 every couple of months adds up.
Here are some photos of Simon after his hip surgeries:
I am asking, no…begging you to please not buy a puppy from a pet store. Every purchase made there will help continue to keep puppy mills in business. If you have to have a purebred with “papers” (that you likely will do nothing with except file away) find a reputable breeder. You can find all sorts of great information on HOW to local one at NoPuppyMills.com. A puppy from a REPUTABLE breeder may cost a bit more (but not much) but in the long run, it will be worth it (did you read the part about Simon having cost us $10k so far in his 6 1/2 years with us?). You can often find purebred dogs at the shelters too, so always start there first.
If you have an questions, concerns, doubts, comments, feel free to leave them here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I don’t have the answer, I can put you in touch with someone who probably does. If you would like more details about Simon and his story, I started writing in detail here a few years back: The Whole Story, but it is still unfinished. Maybe one day I will go back and complete it. For now, we’ve got to figure out why he doesn’t seem to be eating much anymore….