How much is that doggy in the window?
The answer is: usually much more than you initially expected. Even though it can be hard to walk by those sad, cute little faces, you can end up with a lot more than you bargained for. Leaving you with the potential for an empty wallet, unhealthy dog and sometimes a broken heart.
In the vast majority of cases, dogs (and cats) that are sold in pet stores are from puppy mills. Not sure what a puppy mill is? They're "unregulated breeding facilities owned by disreputable breeders". An article from Dogster goes on to describe them as places where "dogs are often bred far too frequently, are kept cramped together in squalor and are not socialized with humans. In addition, these these breeders do not always care about the health and strength of the breed, which often results in genetic illnesses, poor health in general and unlikable personality traits."
All of a sudden that cute puppy isn't so cute after all, huh?
A sad story about a puppy from a pet store
Cruella is the story of a dog from Guelph who was bought at a pet store in Southwestern Ontario and ended up having serious health issues. The little puppy cost her owner Susan more than $4,500 in vet bills within the first month of her being home.
In a story written by the Guelph Mercury, Susan says on the day she bought Cruella, she was at the mall looking for a television. She and her daughter walked by a pet store and decided the ever-so-cute black and white shih-tzu/poodle cross was too hard to resist.
Six days after Susan and her daughter brought home Cruella from the pet store, she had lost weight and was no longer active. She lost consciousness when she was taken outside to pee and that's when her family rushed her to the vet.
Cruella ended up having parvovirus, a highly contagious viral disease. She spent a week at an animal hospital on intravenous and drugged up on medication until she was fully recovered.
The pet store refunded Susan her $700 when confronted about how sick their puppy got, but Susan said she'll spend the next two years repaying the $4,500 loan she took out to pay for Cruella's vet bills.
Canadian law and puppy mills
Quebec is Canada's puppy mill capital. According to Humane Society International, although puppy mills exist all across Canada, Quebec hosts a large portion of Canadian puppy mills due to their poor legislation and enforcement of commercial dog breeding operations.
Fortunately, some cities across Canada are starting to pass laws that prevent the sale of cats and dogs from puppy mills. Back in 2011, the city of Toronto passed a by-law stating that cats and dogs sold in pet stores must come from shelters, humane societies or rescue groups.
Just this year, Ottawa has set in place a new by-law (similar to the one in Toronto) which restricts the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores. The stores will have to provide a certificate that indicates the source of the pet that is being sold. Pet stores that currently sell commercially bred cats and dogs will have five years to transition to the adoption-only model. Some say (myself included) that five years is too long to transition into these new laws, but at least it's a step in the right direction.
How can I help?
Start by informing people you know. Let them know the dangers of buying puppies and kittens from pet stores that aren't from a rescue or humane society. Many people don't see any harm in bringing home a dog or cat they see in a shop window, but that's part of the problem.
The reason why puppy mills continue to operate is because they continue to be profitable. I know it's hard to walk by that cute puppy saying "please take me home" but you have to remember that it's part of a bigger picture. Not only may you end up with a very sick puppy like the story of Cruella above, you're feeding an industry which profits off the systematic cruelty of animals. Google 'puppy mills' and if you're not already convinced they are horrible places, you will be.
Show your support. There are many groups on Facebook such as People Against Puppy Mills of Ontario which you can join to keep up to date on laws and legislations as they change. If you see something happening in your local city, get involved!
Even before something is happening where you are, don't be afraid to email your city councillors and let them know how important these laws are to you. You have the power to make a difference, you just need to speak up.
Are you thinking of adopting a dog or cat? Make sure it's either from a reputable breeder, such as one listed on the Canadian Kennel Club website, or from a local rescue organization. Again, part of stopping puppy mills means hitting them where it hurts — their wallets.
Here's a list of a few local rescue organizations where you can start the hunt for your new best friend:
Make sure that you're following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Not only do we share pictures of cute dogs and interesting articles, we also share pictures of animals looking for a forever home. You might just meet your new best friend when you least expect it.