Pet stores and websites that sell puppies are built to move “units”—that is, live animals—efficiently and by any means necessary. Since customers don’t see the environment the puppies came from, sellers can easily deceive them with “no puppy mill” promises or by claiming to have “zero tolerance” for cruel breeding.
Pet sellers can also emphasize that their breeders are USDA-licensed or that the puppies have AKC registration, but these claims offer no guarantee that the puppies are indeed healthy or were well cared for by their breeders.
To get a USDA license, a breeder must follow the basic standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Sounds good, right? Actually, these standards are pretty bare-bones. For example, it’s entirely legal for USDA facilities to keep dogs for their entire lives in tiny 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. Worse, violations of even these minimal standards often go unenforced and unpunished by the USDA.
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’s not a guarantee of good environmental conditions and is not a sign of the health or quality of a puppy.
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—often without fully explaining this to customers. 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.
Growing public awareness and anger about the cruelty inherent in the puppy industry has led to local and state laws that restrict the retail sale of dogs. Whether to skirt retail sales ban laws, or simply to take advantage of people’s good intentions to adopt their next pet, some in the industry are trying a new tactic called “puppy laundering”: funneling puppy mill-bred puppies through phony nonprofit organizations so they can be falsely marketed to the public as “adoptable” or “rescues.” These puppies may wind up “for adoption” at pet stores, on websites or directly through these fake nonprofits.
How can you tell if the seller you’re chatting with online is a responsible, caring dog breeder or a puppy mill? Most likely, you can’t. You also can’t always know if a puppy you see online even exists, or if his parents live in a tiny, filthy cage in the backyard. In fact, there are thousands of reports of consumers who lost thousands of dollars and never got their puppy, or received a sick puppy, or a different puppy from the one they “ordered.” In the end, the best way to avoid finding yourself a victim of an online puppy scam and inadvertently supporting cruel breeding is to not buy a puppy online – it’s just too risky.
Resist the Cute!
Even people who know where pet store and online puppies come from can have a hard time resisting their cuteness. Help us end the cruel breeding industry 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, take your time to find a good one and do your homework to make sure you don’t support cruelty.
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