So you want to get a dog…

A few years ago I was helping out on an undercover video project for one of the larger animal protection groups.  The subject was about pet shops selling puppy mill puppies, despite said pet shops’ vehement denials.  Just under seventeen thousand dogs were tracked.  You read that right: SEVENTEEN THOUSAND DOGS.  And you know how many of those pet shop pups came from reputable breeders?  Not one.  Every single tracked dog came directly from a known puppy mill, or worse from one of the middle-men companies that try to cover up what the mills are doing.


Go into any pet shop.  The one in the mall with the fresh-faced kids working behind the counter.  The one in the run-down strip mall that also sells exotic birds and reptiles.  Any pet shop that sells dogs is selling dogs that came from puppy mills.  Absolutely, and without question.  I don’t care what the person behind the counter tells you, they are either lying, or reading a script from corporate.  End of story.  There is NO exception.


And you know why?  No reputable breeder would sell to a pet store.  If they did, they wouldn’t be reputable.  A good breeder, and there are some out there, wants to know where each and every one of their dogs is going?  Into what home, and with whom.


Now if you have doubts as to what I’m telling you, ask said pet shop flunky where the dog came from.  Write the name down, then go home and Google.  I guarantee you will find that the name given you either is a well-known puppy mill, or is one of a handful of middle-men (Lambriar and Hunt are two of the biggest) brokering for the puppy mills and smaller backyard breeders (just as bad), or that the name just does not exist.  And really now, who doesn’t exist on Google?  That should probably raise the biggest red flag.  A huge “what are they trying to hide?”


After working on the undercover piece, I found myself visiting any and every pet shop.  And on every cage of every dog I saw the names of those puppy mills and brokers.  No exceptions. I remembered them all so well.  And in every store I was told that the dogs came from loving caring breeders who only had a few litters a year, and that they would never get animals from a puppy mill, etc., and so forth.  A load of crap, unless you consider hundreds of dogs living in their own feces and urine, sleeping on wire, and in many cases double-decker cages where the top dog’s waste ends up in the bottom cages, and well, you get the picture.  Not my idea of a “loving home.”  I saw the hundreds of hours of video. The images will haunt me forever.


And look, as I’ve suggested, there are reputable breeders.  And if you do your homework you’ll eventually find one.  But if you want to make a much smarter decision.  If you want to actually do something good.  As in something that’ll get you points in the hereafter, kindness points, so to speak.  Skip the breeder altogether and visit your shelter.  Guess what, if you look around, and you can visit any shelter in any town, not just yours, you’ll find more pure breds than you’ll know what to do with.  You’ll find puppies.  You’ll find rascals in their terrible twos.  You’ll find seniors who want nothing more to sit on the sofa with you and watch whatever your heart desires.  You’ll find dogs or every size, every breed, every energy level.  I’ve seen Chihuahuas.  I’ve seen Great Danes.  I’ve seen every breed in between.  Take them out of their cage.  Go for a walk.  (No, really, go for a walk with a bunch of dogs.  Even dogs you have no desire to adopt.  You’ll be their hero for the day.  You’ll feel as if you did the greatest deed of all.  You’ll get some exercise.)  And you’ll find your dog.


And if shelters get you down.  And I’ll be the first to admit they can be depressing as hell.  (Think of what it’s like for the pups living there.). Go online.  I know you can because you’re reading this online.  Search rescue groups in your area.  You’ll find abuse rescue groups, you’ll find senior rescues, rescues that are breed specific, more rescues that you can shake that proverbial stick at.  Look at the photos.  Find a pooch that speaks to you.  Read his/her story (sorry, a dog is not an “it”).  Then go visit the dog.  Take him/her for that walk.  See if you bond.  Remember this is a lifetime relationship.  It should not end until one of you goes on to the great beyond.  But you WILL find your dog.


And if you’re one of those people who really feels the need to spend $2,000 on a puppy, do this instead.  Go to the shelter, or find that rescue group, pick out the puppy of your choice, and write the shelter/rescue group a check for $2,000.  You’ll help not only the dog you’re adopting, but a bunch of others as well.  And that money will go to animals who really need it.  Not to the owners of puppy mills lining their pockets off the suffering of dogs.  Do you really want to support that?  I sincerely hope not.


One last thing.  Perhaps you already know everything I’ve written. Perhaps I’m preaching to the choir.  Then great, but I’ll bet you know someone who’s considering a dog.  And they might not be armed with this information.  So inform them.  Tell them to not buy from a pet store.  To never buy a dog from a pet store.  Don’t be embarrassed. Wouldn’t you want to know?  If you had no idea that the folks at pet store were lying to you about puppy mills, and about where your future best friend came from, WOULDNT YOU WANT TO KNOW?


Speak up.  Step up.  Do something.