THE TRUTH: I used to work in a store that sold puppies …

/ Published in The NEW Issue, Written by Anonymous

I can remember how excited I was when I got a job at a pet store. Like most, I thought it would be so fun—playing with puppies all day! It didn’t take long to realize it’s not fun at all, but extremely heartbreaking. Almost every single puppy that came through the store suffered from a respiratory illness at least once while it was there. Many came in already sick from being on a truck with hundreds of other puppies in filthy conditions with little food or fresh water until they got to their destination. These tiny beings would have so much poop stuck to their little behinds and all of the lighter colored ones would have urine stains.

We were taught to tell people about the loving responsible breeders that we were getting our puppies from. We never saw the actual parents of these pups, and even when we got them locally they would usually be covered in fleas and full of worms at the very least. There was the man who would bring tiny sick pups to us covered in burns from the generator outside his trailer. The couple who brought in Chihuahuas that had deformed legs that we’d send back and tell her not to breed them and we knew she would if she didn’t sell them.

Then there was the mange that would flare up so bad from these babies being so stressed that their eyes would swell shut, and the smell of parvovirus that would make us all scared to go home and touch our own dogs before we scrubbed ourselves.

I know this first hand, because I’ve experienced it behind the scenes—pet stores don’t make a profit off of well-bred dogs and that’s the bottom line. They get cheap puppies they can mark up and market as designer breeds because purebred dogs that are registered and have health testing done aren’t cheap. One little pup was returned to us because she needed a surgery for something that was missed when she went to the vet for her health certificate. The family couldn’t afford it and the store owner wouldn’t help pay for it but happily gave them another puppy because that was much cheaper and easier. I can remember we all wanted to steal her while she sat waiting for the company that she was purchased from to come pick her up. She was surely either euthanized or used to breed instead of living a healthy life with a loving family. That wasn’t the only instance that happened, just the first I had to see. My heart broke for every one that sat in those little containers and didn’t get a home right away—months of not getting to run and play and be loved by a family. I didn’t want to think about what the parents of all these dogs were enduring because it had to be so much worse. We’ve seen the hoarding cases over and over on the news. It’s easy to justify buying the cute puppy from the store when they all just need a home though, right? •

A note from the publisher: Be Better
^^ I so appreciate the former puppy store employee writing that article. Many places make their employees sign a non-disclosure agreement so they’re afraid to tell people what they’ve seen, but it’s important to have all the correct information when making decisions.
I’m sure you’re a lovely person who regularly crouches down to pet dogs, and doesn’t knowingly want to support any kind of cycle of suffering. You might not yet know that responsible breeders would never sell their puppies to stores or to the first person who shows up with cash—they have a process to keep their puppies healthy and safe. But … NOW YOU KNOW, my dear. Too often, a kind person like yourself unwittingly ends up buying a puppy mill pup. True, it’s hard to tell the difference, as they’re the same level of cute as other puppies, and when the store clerk tells you it came from a “good” place (and may have papers to make it look like they do)—why wouldn’t you believe them? According to the Humane Society of the United States “Most pet stores do not disclose the true origins of their puppies, instead using deceptive sales pitches about ‘USDA licensed’ or ‘professional’ breeders.”

I, of course, always encourage people to adopt—it’s the best! You can find pure-bred dogs and puppies in shelters and rescues, but maybe you don’t really need a purebred? There are major benefits to having a mixed breed.
If you’ve checked shelters and rescue groups and still haven’t found the right pup, you should ask for referrals from your veterinarian, or contact local breed clubs. Always always visit where the puppy is born and raised. Personally go to a breeder’s facility before committing to a puppy—don’t rely on website or emailed photographs. Take the time now to find the right breeder and you’ll thank yourself for the rest of your dog’s life.

What happens if you go ahead and buy that store puppy? Several things: You create a demand for more. You become part of an inhumane cycle of greed. Many other dogs suffer in puppy mills across the United States and in hands of backyard breeders. We have to speak with our wallets—this is NOT OKAY. Please think beyond the cute factor, be strong, and be better. Walk away. •

Download The Humane Society’s “How to Identify a Responsible Breeder” Guide

The Truth About the Christmas Puppy

by Karen Camerlengo

So you have the romantic vision of a puppy under the Christmas tree, and the shiny happy kids in awe of your magical gift, huh? Stop, drop, and roll. Now get up and look me in the eyes. Please don’t do it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have given a dog as a Christmas present to my children. This makes me a complete hypocrite in writing an article about why you should not give a puppy as a Christmas present. Yet here I am.

Every January, two things happen without fail. One, people go to they gym for the first three days and, two, Craigslist, shelters, and rescues will be inundated with unwanted “Christmas presents.” These puppies will absolutely crush an already saturated system.

I’m seriously not trying to be bah-humbuggy here. I’m a parent, too. I want nothing more than to make my children’s eyes light up and dreams come true on Christmas morning. Christmas is magical and there’s nothing like making that magic happen. But! There is another side of being a parent and that involves teaching kids about responsibility and common sense.

Puppies are super cute, but they can also be horribly unpleasant if you’re not prepared. They need a lot of attention, they pee and poop everywhere, eat stuff, and whine. You can’t just stick them back in the box and carry on with your Christmas plans. They make the normal life of a parent who is already on the go all the time nearly impossible. You can’t always arrange school pickup, soccer, dance, and birthday parties around a puppy’s needy schedule.

In addition to the general time-consuming nature of puppies, far too many people elect to buy a puppy from a pet store, a flea market, off an ad, or from someone whose dog had a litter. So now your impulse Christmas present is not only annoying, but you have one with a good chance of having some significant health problems. Nothing crushes holiday magic like a puppy with parvo (which has been happening from certain pet stores in our area recently).

So what to do when your little one has a puppy on his list? First, the adults need to have a discussion about the realities of life with a dog—truly research what this means for your family. While you may tell Sammy the dog will be his responsibility, the adults also have to know he is going to fail at this at times, and it will not be a reason to get rid of the dog (or Sammy). You are the adult, just go ahead and assume this responsibility.

You can still make magic happen…
Once the adults in the home have decided that they can live life with a puppy, go ahead and get your child a toy or a collar for Christmas with a note that this is for his new dog! Include a certificate or note telling him a dog will be adopted after the holidays. I can nearly guarantee there will be a HUGE smile and squeals, just the same. Let your child know that holidays are very dangerous times for a puppy to be in the home and it will be best for him to arrive after the decorations are away and the craziness is over. Then get to work together!

Perhaps you’ve already eyeballed some puppies (or older dogs that may already be trained) on rescue sites and have been talking to the fosters or rescues. Arrange time for the family to meet the dogs. Research together. Make a decision and lifetime commitment together. At the end of the day, you will have given your child not only a furry friend for Christmas, but a valuable lesson in research and responsibility. This puppy or dog will be with you until he is old and gray and needs a little help walking. The moment you bring him home, he is family. You can teach your child that, too!

One final note—the Christmas “puppy” given to my kids was actually a two-and-a-half-year-old stray who had been our foster for six months—we were keeping her. My girls screamed and cried and were just as excited than if we had given them 100 puppies. Sometimes when kids say puppy, all they really want is a dog. Think about that, too!

Sure, there’ve been successful “puppies under the tree” moments that have turned into life-long amazing family moments. The problem is that the numbers that have gone horribly wrong far overshadow the happy stories. If you’re thoughtful with this decision and prepare, you can save a lot of heartache and make the magic last an entire lifetime. •

Karen Camerlengo is an animal advocate and raiser of many dogs, a few humans, and Jasper the bird. Karen lives in Jacksonville, Fla.