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   Why can't there be such a thing as a good pet shop?


This article was written primarily in response to someone who wrote about buying puppies from pet shops In that article I really didn't explain what is wrong with buying from pet shops I merely presented, in exaggerated form, the typical attitude of those selling puppies out of shops.

My correspondent wrote regarding this statement: "The pet shop owner is not to blame. You are. You create the demand." and asked:

To blame for what?--- How would my buying a dog encourage them to be unethical towards animals--- Seems like there are 2 issues here. 1-Ethical treatment of animals. 2-The right of the consumer to buy a dog from the source it chooses(typically out of convenience.)

Yes. There are two issues. The second is the point. The consumer chooses what kind of animal raising and placement practices they want to support. When the practices of a seller succeed because they result in a sale the seller will continue those practices. When buyers demand different qualities in a seller or refuse the buy the seller has no choice but to meet those qualities or not sell.

I believe that every person placing a dog into a home has an obligation to use care in placing that dog. I believe that because they have control over the animal that they have responsibility for their choice in placing that dog. That would be true whether the person placing the dog is a responsible breeder, a casual breeder, a rescue, a commercial breeder or a retail seller (pet shop). This is important because their choices will make a difference over whether that animal lives a long and healthy life, or whether it lives much of a life at all.

A responsible person placing a dog does what they can do to improve the chance that the placement will succeed, and that the dog will not end up dying in a shelter. Of course the person acquiring the dog has responsibilities. But the person placing the dog is obliged to try to avoid placing the dog with someone who will fail in those responsibilities.

Even the best shops probably can't or won't take steps to reduce the risks the dog will later get dumped in a shelter. By age 2 approximately 65% of dogs acquired as puppies are either re-homed or dumped in the shelter. Care in making a good match initially, and support with problems, have a significant influence on reducing that risk. The problem of bad placement contributing to the appalling number of dogs we kill in shelters is not limited to dogs purchased from pet shops. The same problem occurs when people breed the family pet then place the puppies. For information on how pets end up in shelters see the collection of links on What Dogs End Up in the Shelters? So the issue is not limited to the origin of the puppies but also what happens after the sale.

Hello, I am all for the ethical treatment of animals, perhaps there should be breeder qualification or licensing of pet shops.

I disagree. I think people should be educated into what kind of breeding and placement choices affect the risks that a dog will be (a) unhealthy (b) end up costing taxpayers money for sheltering then placing of killing the animal. And people should know what kind of lives the parents of their puppies lead in order to produce that puppy. It is then up to the buyer select their seller based on what choices they want to encourage in a seller. Passing a law does nothing to educate. People comply (or don't) because the law says so, not because they understand what is needed and why. That means they can (and usually do) make the same bad choices.

However you really should think a little more. Your line of thinking incriminates someone who buys a dog simply because its for sale!!!

I believe buyers have responsibility for the way in which their choice of seller can influence the health and welfare of pet animals.

I believe a buyer has a responsibility to learn what practices reduce the risk that an animal will end up in a shelter or crippled from genetic disease.

I believe a buyer has a responsibility to learn what practices increase the risk that an animal will end up in a shelter or crippled from genetic disease.

I believe that a buyer has a responsibility not to encourage practices that increase the risk that an animal will end up in a shelter

I believe that a buyer has a responsibility to try to learn about the health and welfare of the parent dogs producing the puppy for the benefit of the buyer.

The question is whether a person makes choices that tend to contribute to the problem or tend to support it.

The only power a buyer has to influence the rate at which genetic disease occurs or animals end up in shelters is (a) their own behavior and (b) their choice of sellers. If the buyer chooses sellers whose practices are good for the health and welfare of animals then the buyer is doing what they can to improve things. If the buyer ignores the sellers practices then they sending the message that there is no need to change because the buyer doesn't really care what the seller is doing.

That there is an "overpopulation" problem of dogs and cats in the United States of America is often stated. In fact the problem is less one of "overpopulation" and more one in which animals do not stay in the homes they started out in. People "get rid of them." My line of thinking suggests that before someone buys a companion animals that they have a responsibility to do some research and then make choices (a) not to support the kind of seller behavior that increases the risk the animal will end up in the shelter (b) not to support the kind of breeding practices that increase the risk of genetic disease.

Here are the practices that tend to reduce the risk that an animal ends up in a shelter: Seller: (a) seller attempts to ensure that buyer understands the needs of the animal (b) seller is legally able to refuse to sell if they reasonably believe the person is either unable or unwilling to provide for those needs (c) seller understands what kinds of problems tend to result in a placement failure of the breed (or species) (d) seller is legally able to refuse a sale if it appears the buyer is unable or unwilling to avoid or accept those problems (e) seller supports buyer in dealing with normal problems (this has been shown to have the greatest influence on placement success - continued support after placement) (f) seller accepts the animal back at anytime for any reason rather than see it end up in a shelter or inappropriate placement (g) seller attempts to reduce the risks that the animals will suffer the effects of crippling genetic disease (h) seller attempts to improve the chances that the animals will have the qualities expected (size, coat, temperament, activity level, etc.).

Buyer: (a) buyer attempts to ensure that they understand the needs of the animal (b) able and willing to provide for those needs (c) buyer understands what kinds of problems tend to result in a placement failure of the breed (or species) (d) buyer is willing and able to avoid or accept those problems (e) buyer unable or unwilling to keep the animal will ensure appropriate disposition such as rehoming in an appropriate home rather than sending an animal to a shelter (f) buyer understands what kind of risks for genetic health problems (including poor temperament) exist in the breed (or species) (g) buyer only buys from breeders who attempt to improve health and reduce these risks.

How is that bad? Pet shop owners are allowed to sell animals its a (*&^ pet shop!

That something is legal doesn't mean it is something that should be supported or encouraged. The " if it legal it must be OK" and " if its illegal it must be wrong" mindset is exactly why I disagree with legislation as an answer. I prefer that people take responsibility for educating themselves and then make choices that match their ethics. I prefer people learn, think and choose, rather than blindly following government decree. The problem with a pet shop is not that it charges money for an animal, it is not that it makes a profit. The problem with a pet shop is that the profit motive, and the fact that it is legally a business, interferes with decisions that maximize health (particularly genetic health), good placement, and especially keeping the animal out of a shelter by (a) maintaining a relationship with the buyer and (b) accepting responsibility for the animal if the buyer can't or won't keep it.

But, I do agree that there should be standards of animal treatment.

There are standards for animal treatment. For the most part those things won't touch the reason why we kill millions of dogs and cats every year. We kill millions of cats and dogs every year largely because sellers sell and buyers buy paying no attention to what it will take to make the placement successful.

A logical extension of your argument would be kin to saying we should go to jail for buying Nikes because there made using Indonesian child labor...when I really have no say where there made.

No that is not a logical extension as I never call for criminal liability for any of those poor practices described above, much less the buyer for supporting and encouraging them.

However the analogy is correct in saying that a buyer who believes a practice is unethical should not buy from those who engage in those practices. You DO have a say in where your shoes are made. It is YOUR choice whether to benefit yourself at the expense of those children or not. If you choose to accept the benefits of child labor you hardly have the right to cluck your tongue at the practice.

Boycott and protest are wonderful tools in America for furthering agendas, However they are proactive measures...not a criminal liability.

Exactly. I don't believe in criminal liability for these things. I believe in the power of the marketplace, and people who make choices based on their personal ethics. I can explain that a sellers choices can either reduce or increase the risk of a pet dying in a shelter or suffering crippling genetic disease. It is up to the buyer to decide whether they care about these things.

And Before you make such BROAD allegations about all pet shops, it might help your case to prove it a little more. Are all pet shop owners so unscrupulous!!! Probably not, I checked a few locals out, some were secretive, however some were also very honest about where they get there pups.

Honesty is a good thing, but it won't help the dog facing the needle of death. That a seller has good intentions or loves dogs is good, but just having those feelings won't benefit the dog in the shelter. What matters to the health and welfare of the pet animal is what the seller does in the way of placement and breeder requirements.

One significant problem with pet shops is based in contract law. It is extremely rare for pet shops to make conditional offers for sale. Most will do something like posting a sign that says "Golden Retriever $800". When they do so they prevent themselves from legally being able to refuse to sell even if they know the placement is inappropriate. Contract law on this issue is pretty straightforward. That kind of sign is an offer for sale. The only thing remaining in the offer is for someone to accept it. When someone tenders the money (offers to meet the terms and pay) the contract is complete and enforceable. Absent some really narrow circumstances once the money is offered the seller is obligated to sell.

Many uneducated private sellers make a similar error, e.g. a newspaper ad. (Although some courts will accord different standards for commercial sellers Vs casual seller). In contrast the educated responsible breeder will simply state that the puppies are available for sale. Having not stated the terms of the sale there is not yet anything the buyer can do to obligate the seller to sell. So the buyer and seller must negotiate to determine the terms of the sale.

It is in this process of negotiation that each party can determine whether they even wish to enter into a contact. The parties can decide whether they want to support and encourage the other party by doing business with them, or whether they prefer not to support and encourage the other party and thus walk away from negotiations.

In theory it is possible for a pet shop to be a responsible seller. In fact I've never known a pet shop that has those qualities. Those qualities include not merely humane treatment of animals, but practices that improve the chances for good genetic health and temperament, improve the chances of successful permanent placement, and take responsibility for when those efforts fail.

If all sellers of companion animals took those steps we, as taxpayers, would experience a dramatic drop in the costs associated with incarcerating and killing millions of pets a year. And we, as caring beings, would see a dramatic drop in the numbers killed or suffering genetic disease.

A friend of mine has a standing reward offer for anyone that can find a pet shop with truly responsible selling practices (including proper breeding for good genetic health and lifetime take back of their animals). I don' know the exact terms of her offer but I do know that there are dozens of responsible hobby breeders that meet the criteria and yet no one has been able to find a pet shop that does and thus collect the reward. I'm not offering any rewards but I do know responsible breeders who meet this criteria ( ) and have never known a pet shop to do so.

And as for my original premise that the buyer is to blame the situation my own hometown is an excellent case in point. Shops that sell cats and dogs are not illegal here but you'll have a hard time finding one. Shops woo customers by posting large signs that they do not sell cats or dogs. In other words sellers are aware of and complying with customer demand. No laws involved, just people not shopping where they disagree with the practices. When people understand why there is a problem they will make better choices overall.

For more information on getting a dog see my Breeders Ethics Page. And see What's Wrong with Pet Shops?



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