PhotoAmong all the concern about terrorists, refugees, and the like, there are people who have more local concerns, like the stores in their communities that sell puppies.

Most of these stores portray themselves as having puppies that came from “local small breeders.” But forget the image you have in your head of a nice family who breeds their female dog once a year and sells the puppies after meeting prospective families. And forget the image of the experienced breeders who supply the championship dogs that you see at the Westminster Kennel Club shows.

The breeders who sell to puppy stores don’t fall into either category. Instead, they most resemble farmers who raise crops to sell. Their dogs are a commodity, nothing else.

USDA Certified

Puppy stores also brag that their breeders are "USDA Certified," but that distinction means very little. The USDA requires a fee, performs an initial inspection of a breeder’s facilities, and then issues a license to breeders whose facilities meet minimum standards set by the Animal Welfare Act. The AWA, however, was passed in 1965, before dog breeding became big business.

According to the USDA website, after that initial inspection, the agency “uses a risk-based inspection system in order to make the best use of its resources.” Meaning that if a breeder passes a subsequent inspection, he may not have another inspection for several years, since there are more than 1,700 dog breeding facilities in the country and only 120 inspectors.

These breeders are not concerned with the temperament or genetic issues of the dogs in their kennels. They breed their female dogs as often as three times a year, or every time the dog comes into heat. The puppies are taken away as early as 8 weeks and shipped, often out of state, to pet stores. There they will be sold to anyone with the money to pay.

Genetic issues

Because the puppies are taken away so young, genetic abnormalities are usually not apparent until the dog is much older. Most puppy stores offer some kind of health guarantee for a limited time after purchase, but the burden is on the buyer to prove that the puppy had an illness before purchase, and most of these guarantees do not offer needed veterinary care, but instead require returning the puppy for another dog.

By the time the puppy gets sick, though, the family has usually fallen in love and doesn’t want to return it, especially knowing that their cute little ball of fluff will probably be euthanized rather than treated.

Change is coming, however. In 2015, Phoenix, AZ and Beverly Hills, CA became the latest cities to ban sales of commercially-bred puppies in pet stores. Instead, the stores are required to offer only rescue dogs for adoption. Across the country, there are 60 cities and counties that ban sales of dogs in shops, and another 25 communities in Canada have passed similar legislation.

The ASPCA has more information on its website

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