In the past year several pet stores known for selling puppies have announced significant changes in their business practices. These stores are now working with local rescues groups and have started selling rescued dogs rather than puppies. In the same time period, several pet stores have closed their doors. Both of these changes have come about as the result of protests in front of the pet stores by various dog rescue groups. These “successes” are causing more rescue groups to initiate protests in other communities, often with the silver teacup poodle puppies for sale goal of closing the pet stores. Unfortunately, store closures can have unintended negative consequences.
With almost all of the puppies sold in pet stores coming from puppy mills, more and more dog rescue groups have been protesting in front of these stores in the belief that the protests will stop puppy sales and cause puppy mills to close. While these protests may cause the store to close, there is no evidence that these protests have any negative impact on either puppy mills or the demand for puppies.
However, forcing pet stores out of business has many unintended negative consequences:
(1) Puppy mill owners are forced to move their business online which can actually improve their business; and this is certainly nothing we want to do! Online selling has no regulations, no licensing requirements, no inspections to pass, and very little, if any, accountability. It is easy to sell poor quality puppies that the local stores would never accept; and it is almost impossible for unhappy buyers to get satisfaction. Bait and switch is a common tactic. The pictures of adorable puppies are often just clipart. The puppy that arrives will likely be nothing like the picture; and refunds are seldom given–although the owner may offer to replace your puppy with another.
(2) Removing a source for buyers of designer dogs sends the majority of these buyers to the Internet–again, nothing we want to do! A very small part of the demand for designer dogs is met by “hobby breeders,” but because these dogs are not recognized by the AKC, the large demand for these dogs can only be met by puppy mills. If buyers can’t find their puppies at their local store, they will buy online–from puppy mills.
(3) In many communities, closing the pet store cuts off access to a host of necessary pet supplies. For those of us who have many pets, this is no trivial matter.
(4) Protests can sometimes turn violent. Many protesters have very strong feelings about the issues involved, but have difficulty controlling the situation when confronted with equally strong but opposite opinions.
(5) The closure of even one local store can have a negative financial impact on a community. It may very well be that the puppies sold there come from puppy mills; but there are other facts that shouldn’t be overlooked. This same business employs people of the community, it buys many of its supplies locally, and it pays local taxes. The financial loss to the community can be especially significant during difficult economic times.
Am I advocating that pet stores be free to buy and sell puppy mill dogs? Certainly not! Puppy mills are disgusting places and the owners are sleazy people. We as a society need to be doing everything we can to bring an end to this entire industry. However, protesting at existing stores is not the solution to the problem. Public education is the first step in the process, and working for change is the second. Even the few stores that deal only in puppies and obviously are dealing with this sleazy industry should be approached about and “encouraged” to change their business rather than close their doors.
We need to be finding win-win solutions–solutions that help the community at the same time they help bring an end to the puppy mill industry. You can have a profound effect in this endeavor by getting involved. Spread the word! Tell everyone you know the truth about pet store puppies and designer dogs, but be sure to include the caution that they not buy any pet online. Encourage everyone to adopt dogs from rescue groups or shelters. Make public education a constant goal. Become part of the movement to encourage pet stores to change their focus, and get your friends involved as well.