This is a topic that unfortunately comes up with some regularity in my practice. I often get calls from potential clients who bought a puppy from a large volume, franchise pet store (I won’t name any names). While it may be surprising for some to hear that these pet stores still exist, it is largely because customers are unsuspecting and unaware of their unethical business practices. Picture seeing a cute puppy in a window and walking in to see a multitude of different breed puppies for sale. This is no functionally no different than buying puppies from online dealers and classified ads as well.
Please understand that these puppies most likely come from puppy mills. Puppy mills are typically described as high-volume dog breeding operations that sell puppies for profit with little regard for the health of the mothers or puppies being bred. These dog breeding operations are literal breeding grounds for medical and genetic issues. The lack of veterinary care at the start presents issues that are then compounded when puppies are trucked to brokers and then to pet stores. Picture these puppies with limited immune systems being transported all over and then thrown in a pet store window.
When I receive these calls, the story is generally the same. They signed a contract and bought a puppy from the store/online dealer/classified ad. They got the puppy home and the puppy showed fairly immediate signs of illness. They spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to save their sick puppy. Sometimes the puppies are lucky enough to survive but often they are not. And then the new owners want to know how they can go after the seller for damages. While they may very well have consumer protection, negligence, fraud, or contract claims, many people decide they do not want to spend the time, money, or emotion to litigate the case. Also keep in mind that animals are considered property in the eyes of the law so you are limited in the damages you may be able to receive.
Rather than putting yourself through the emotional toll of these cases, please do your research before buying a puppy. While I volunteer for rescue organizations and I am a huge advocate of adopting a homeless dog, this post is not about that. Some people have their reasons for buying a puppy. The best advice I can truly give if you are looking to buy a puppy is go to a well-respected breeder. You will know one when you see them. Their dogs will be well-cared for and you should be able to meet/observe the mother. They are not high-volume and have well-planned litters, often with puppies reserved ahead of time. The parents will have genetic test results and will often be titled in their chosen fields. You will not find these breeders’ puppies in pet stores or in high-volume classified ads. Ask questions! Why did the breeder choose to do this particular breeding? What are the parents’ dispositions like? Is there any history of dog aggression or people aggression? Ask to see the genetic test results. The questions may vary depending on what you are looking to do with your puppy.
In my next blog post, I will discuss the benefits of a puppy contract and what terms are important to include in the contract.