“All I Want for Christmas is a Puppy”: When Dog Shopping, the Devil is in the Details

Coral Strother

As the Holiday Season sets into full swing, and people begin to shop for the perfect gift for their loved ones, no doubt “puppy” will be on the top of many lists.  But before rushing out to the nearest pet store to find that perfect pooch, it is best to be aware of who you are really buying from.  An investigation launched by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) published on November 10, 2011 reported that more than 100 New York pet stores they investigated, including several upscale ones, bought their puppies from puppy mills, despite claims that they only sell dogs that come from private and reputable breeders.

The investigation by the HSUS consisted of two parts.  First, a HSUS investigator along with animal rights activist/ABC’s “The Bachelor” Lorenzo Borghese went undercover with hidden cameras to 11 New York pet stores posing as customers and asked the store staff questions about the stores’ breeder sources.  All 11 stores made either explicit or implicit and misleading statements that they did not get their puppies from puppy mills, but instead got their dogs from small private breeders.  The second stage of the HSUS investigation involved reviewing the shipping documents of over 100 New York pet stores (including the 11 visited undercover).  The results of the review concluded more than 100 New York pet stores (including the 11 interviewed) did in fact obtain their puppies from puppy mills.  All 11 of the interviewed stores as well as many of the 100 investigated stores used puppy mills that had numerous Animal Welfare Act violations, including citations for filthy conditions, lack of adequate space, exposure to extreme weather conditions, malnourished animals, and a neglect of proper veterinary care.  Most notably, several pet stores used facilities owned by Brandi Cheney (who has over 500 pages in of USDA inspection and enforcement reports linked to her) and facilities owned by Kathy Jo Bauck/Kathy Cole (convicted animal abuser who had her USDA license revoked).  Additionally, HSUS checked out and filmed several of the “small private breeding facilities” that some of the 11 pet stores investigated cited to use, only to find these facilities housed hundred of dogs in small cages.

Many people may ask “what’s the big deal about puppy mills?”  The truth is that puppy mills generally provide little to no medical care, socialization, or exercise for dogs and often force the dogs to live in squalid conditions.  There is little to no regard for the dog’s health or genetic history.  So what can be done moving forward?  The HSUS suggests if you’re looking for a puppy, first consider adoption.  But if you are insistent on buying rather than adopting, find a reputable and responsible breeder and take the time to inspect their premises and their dogs.  Also, learn the pet store doublespeak, so you are not misled by false claims or slick advertising of those only in the puppy business to make money.  Armed with these suggestions, purchase with your eyes wide open.

6 Responses


  2. A worthy blog subject, Coral. You bring up many good points.

    Joe, thanks for adding some valuable common-sense tips with your usual irrefutable logic and in your customary exquisite prose.

  3. This is great information – Thank you for sharing. As the Executive Director of the Pawtographs Foundation, I have also initiated House Resolution 220 for a National Animal Rescue Day supporting all types of animals across the country. It is currently in Congress with over 30 Cosponsors. To find more information please visit http://www.pawtographs.org/initiatives.htm.

    Gail Kasper
    Author, Another Day Without A Cage: My Breakthrough From Self Imprisonment To Total Empowerment and Unstoppable: 6 Easy Steps To Achieve Your Goals

  4. It’s not complicated. Adopt from a shelter, take in a stray, or get a dog from a breed-specific rescue organization.

    With so many other options available, why go to a pet store to look for a puppy?

  5. Thanks so much for sharing this – it’s so important to remind people as we get closer to the holidays! At the HSUS we encourage adoption first, but if you must have a pet from a breeder, check out our page on how to find a responsible breeder at http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/puppy_mills/tips/finding_responsible_dog_breeder.html

  6. How come ‘puppy mills’ are allowed in so-called civilized countries anyway? Even home breeders should be registered and controlled. Having the human species endure for a change, and it’ll be a fraction of what other animals go through, at the best of times…

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