Buying Is Not Rescue

The pictures that surfaced on Reddit were heart-wrenching. The puppies — a Weimaraner and a Boxer— looked to be little more than skin and bones. But these puppies weren’t found abandoned under a bridge, they were for sale at a pet store in the Chicago suburbs.

While many pet supply chains do not offer puppies and kittens bred specifically for sale (and feature homeless pets from local shelters and rescues instead), other chains are behind the curve.

Petland, for instance, has long been a focus for anti-puppy mill advocates because the national chain allegedly used mills as the source for thousands of puppies sold in their stores each year. But advocates are up against a big misconception, and disturbing photos make it hard to change the perception that buying a puppy from a pet store is “rescuing” it. Granted, these puppies need help: They need to see a veterinarian, they need to be fed, and they need to not be living on wire grates in glass boxes. But buying these pups them will only make it easier for stores to bring in more.

Supply and demand is a hard concept to remember when you’re looking at sad eyes and a prominent rib cage, but buying a puppy from a pet store is not advocacy. It is not rescue.

It’s part of the problem.

If you think the conditions your puppy is coming from are terrible, you need to know your money is helping that place stay in business. And you need to remember your puppy has parents and every penny you pay the pet store is likely keeping your puppy’s parents in those same dismal, unhealthy conditions, only no one is coming to help them. When it comes down to economics, you have the power to break the chain: If no one is buying the puppies, then the process is more costly than it’s worth to the store.

The popular notion that pet shops will euthanize unsold puppies simply isn’t true. Euthanasia and disposal, even when cheaply done, still cost money and the store could instead put the dogs on a free classified page for a fraction of the sale price and likely find someone to buy the pups. A business won’t spend money when they could make money instead, even if it is not as much as they were hoping for. But when a product — whether it’s puppies or potatoes — is hard to sell, the buyer will think twice before placing the next order.

There are responsible dog breeders. But in the U.S., they are tragically outnumbered by mills and unscrupulous “backyard breeders” who focus on churning out puppies for profit (we won’t go into the situation overseas). A good breeder simply would never sell one of their beloved puppies to a pet store where they can be sold to the highest bidder.

The puppy you bought from the pet store is not a rescue, it is a purchase. If you want a rescued dog, check your local shelter or purebred rescue, or go to a store that has committed to only offering adoptable pets from local shelters or rescues. Millions of pets need homes, but as long as there are puppy-selling pet stores in business, and people to support them, then the cycle will continue, mills will stay in business, and the suffering will continue.