Do you know that song you might have heard as a little kid, “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?” by Patti Page? The basic premise of the song is that there is a dog, presumably in a pet shop window, who looks like a great companion, and the singer wishes to adopt him for her love. If said dog is indeed in a pet shop, however, the singer should look elsewhere for her new friend.
Although these animals may be purebred, all sparkly and full of cuteness, dogs in pet shops usually come from puppy mills. According to a 2016 article from the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, roughly 90 percent of puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills–low-grade, mass-producing dog-breeding facilities. Females are repeatedly bred, over and over again, until they can no longer breed. Then they are either sold to potential owners or put down.
Puppy mills are actually legal in most US states as long as the dogs get basic food, water, and shelter. That means the mill could be a five-star resort all for one dog, or a single wire cage carrying a dozen dogs with month-old water and rotten food. Since puppy mills are all about profit, they go for cheap conditions and pricey dogs. What you see in the pet store is a shiny front covering up an awful truth.
Puppy mills are not only horrible in themselves, they are also escalating an already problematic dog overpopulation issue. In doing so, they indirectly result in the killing of dogs in shelters. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized, of which 1.2 million are dogs and 1.4 million are cats). And that is just in US shelters; countless others die as strays all around the world.
Unscrupulous breeders create puppy mills in their own backyards, even in states where such conditions are illegal, and that is a big problem. Even when they get caught, clean up their act and relinquish their dogs, in a year or two they are often back at it again. No matter what is done by the government, puppy mills always seem to come back, laws or no laws.
The best way to take care of both shelter deaths and pet overpopulation at once is to adopt pets rather than shop for them. Shopping would be getting that doggie in the window. Adopting would be getting that doggie from a shelter.
Since puppy mills generate pet store dogs, which intensifies the dog overpopulation problem and also causes more euthanization in shelters, the best thing potential pet owners can do is to stop buying from mills and spread the knowledge so we can take out these major issues at their source. If there is no market for puppy-mill dogs, there will be no puppy mills.