Pet stores sell dogs, usually young ones, and often other residential pets such as birds and rabbits, in towns and malls throughout the United States. Many pet stores - but not all of them - buy their dogs directly from breeders or through brokers without knowing much if anything about the breeders. The tragedy is that many of these breeders do not take good care of the young dogs before they reach the pet store and are often referred to as "puppy mills". If you investigate the breeder, you may find that they are raising and selling large numbers of litters at the same time and that the mothers are often subjected to multiple litters per year.
Every pet store must provide basic breeder information on their puppies. If the pet stores refuses to provide the information or is reluctant or slow to provide the information, this should be a "red flag". An Illinois state law, titled Information on Dogs and Cats for Sale, 225 ILCS 605/3.1, provides that every pet store operator must provide the following information on every puppy for sale:
- The breed, age, sex and weight of the puppy.
- A record of the vaccinations and veterinary care and treatment which has been provided to the puppy.
- A record of any surgical sterilization or lack thereof.
- The name and address of the breeder of the puppy.
- The name and address of any other person who owned or harbored the puppy between its birth and the point of sale at the pet store.
So if you are considering buying a puppy at a pet store, we encourage you to ask for and obtain this information before purchase. With this information, you can then investigate the breeder.
There are thousands of dog breeders across the United States who claim to be legitimate breeders simply because they are licensed by and follow the guidelines of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA standards were basically developed for livestock being raised for human consumption and not for companion animals such as the cute and cuddly puppies awaiting you at the local pet store. Pet stores may say their puppies were raised in compliance with USDA standards. They are implying that these standards provide substantive protection for the health and welfare of the puppies, when they actually do not. So when a pet store or a breeder advertises compliance with the USDA requirements, this should also be a "red flag".
The USDA requirements essentially require that the primary enclosure in which the mother dog will spend her lifetime must extend 6 inches taller, wider and longer than her body. The USDA standards waive the exercise requirement of 30 minutes per day for at least 5 days a week if the mother is housed in a cage with twice this much floor space. More importantly, the USDA standards do not address socialization, meaning the handling and exposure to people and other dogs which a puppy needs during its first weeks of life to develop properly. Nor do the USDA standards address the quality of the puppy's nutrition nor the health or temperament of its parents.
Sometimes, pet stores will use "scare tactics" to discredit animal shelter dogs. For example, they may suggest that these dogs may have been mistreated by former owners, may have been abused, or in some cases will bite. Of course, this is always a possibility, however remote, because - after all - these are "second-hand" dogs and those of us who are conscientiously operating animal shelters, no matter how much time we spend with the dogs in our shelter, cannot be certain of how they will behave outside the shelter. At Orphans of the Storm animal shelter, we have a full-time staff of approximately 16 persons. In addition to cleaning and feeding, they spend as much time as possible interacting with and handling the dogs, with the result that our dogs are, if not fully socialized upon arrival, socialized in our facility. We become aware of their temperament and traits. We also have a large number of volunteers who come to the shelter, take the dogs from their runs and walk, comb and provide them with personal attention. In the process, we generally become very knowledgeable about our dogs. And also, please remember, many, many of our dogs were well adjusted family pets which, through misfortune or economic problems of their owners, end up at Orphans for adoption. Thus, when adopting a dog from Orphans of the Storm, you are not only rescuing a dog and obtaining a loving companion for life, but the chances of any serious behavioral problems are quite small. We believe that pet store owners and managers who use "scare tactics" to discourage people from visiting shelters are doing us a great disservice.
Further, most of these pet stores acquire their puppies without ever having visited or researched the backgrounds of their breeders. The mere fact that a dog is a pure-bred and was never owned by a third party owner from the time it leaves the breeder until it reaches the pet store does not mean that it will not develop its own problems. Puppies coming from these breeders can have physical weaknesses of their own and later in life may display aberrational behavior of their own. The fact that the dog was not once owned is not a guarantee of good temperament or good behavior. And what if the pet store puppy is sick when you buy it or becomes sick shortly after purchase? Will the pet store provide veterinary care? At Orphans of the Storm, we do, for conditions which appear within two weeks of adoption.
So "how much is that doggie in the window?" At pet stores, very young dogs are sold for hundreds of dollars, sometimes even $1,000 or more. In contrast, you can obtain a dog from Orphans of the Storm for an adoption fee of $90. You can imagine that, with this difference in price, adopting a dog from Orphans allows you several hundred dollars to spend on quality veterinary care and quality food and other care items which you would like to provide to your new dog. At Orphans, we have been serving the needs of deserving companion animals for over 80 years, without profit.
So, please, when considering an animal from a pet store, ask the right questions and consider the breeder which is the source of the puppy. If you do, we hope you will conclude that the better alternative for you is adoption through a shelter and visit us at Orphans of the Storm.
We are open for adoptions 360 days a year from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 2200 Riverwoods Road in Riverwoods (Deerfield), Illinois. We also have extended hours during the holiday season: 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays on December 3, 4 and 5; 10, 11 and 12; and 17, 18 and 19.
If you have any questions or would like further information concerning pet stores and breeders who operate "puppy mills" - or about the 100 dogs and 400 cats available for adoption at Orphans of the Storm - please contact our Director of Community Relations, Jackie Borchew, at firstname.lastname@example.org.