by Marcy LaHart, JD
Lies, Damn Lies and Pet Store Lies
Below are a few whoppers pet store employees will tell you when trying to convince you that you should buy their product :
1. “Our puppies don’t come from puppy mills.”
Pet stores blatantly deny that their puppies come from puppy mills, and instead assure you that their puppies came from “private breeders” or “reputable commercial breeders.” Pet store puppies are produced by puppy farmers who breed to make money, and whether the pet store calls them “private” or “commercial” or “reputable” the simple truth is that profit is the breeder’s bottom line. If the pet store is so sure the breeder is reputable- ask if you can have the breeder’s name and phone number so you can find out how many dogs the breeder has and chat about the genetic screening they do prior to breeding.
2. “Our puppies come from USDA licensed breeders—not puppy mills.”
A USDA license does not mean that a breeder is humane or produces well bred dogs, or that it is not a puppy mill. USDA regulations allow a medium sized dog to spend her entire life in a cage the size of your refrigerator with several other dogs, and the breeder is in full compliance. Commercial breeders typically house their dogs in unheated wire cages, and USDA regulations do not require that the dogs ever be allowed out of those cages to relieve themselves or get exercise. Not daily, not weekly, not ever. Enforcement of the woefully inadequate regulations is almost non-existent; there are too few inspectors and even when violations are found the breeders are rarely fined—the USDA issues a warning to “encourage compliance.”
3. “Your puppy passed a rigorous exam and comes with a certificate of good health.”
Florida law (and that of many other states) requires that each puppy sold in the state be accompanied by an Official Certificate of Inspection that lists the vaccines and medications that have been administered. If the veterinarian that conducts the pre-purchase examination is honest, he or she will tell you that the pre-purchase exam is precursory at best, they sometimes exam 40 or more puppies in an hour. And if a veterinarian finds too many puppies unfit for sale, it is likely that one of his or her competitors will soon become the pet store’s new “recommended vet.”
4. “We recommend that you use our vet, Dr. Incahoots, because he is the best in town!”
Pet store veterinarians do not charge pet stores for signing health certificates and treating sick puppies during the statutory warranty period in exchange for getting referrals of new clients from the pet store. The pet store refers you to that vet so that he or she will keep giving the store free services. In fact, if your vet has such a relationship with a pet store, you have a good reason to take your business elsewhere to a vet that does not support the inherently cruel puppy mill industry. Good veterinarians build their client base by referrals from current happy clients, not by finagling a monopoly on pet store customers.
5. “If your puppy gets sick in the first 14 days, you must go to our vet or we are not liable for the expenses.”
The pet store wants you to use their vet during the warranty period because that vet doesn’t charge them for his or her services. But some states (reference the Florida Puppy Lemon Law) requires that the pet store reimburse a consumer for reasonable veterinary expenses incurred in treating the animal for illness or disease during the first two weeks up to the purchase price of the dog and specifically allows the consumer to use an independent veterinarian rather than one that has a relationship with the pet store. Because the pet store vet is not getting paid he or she may not be treating sick animals as aggressively as an independent veterinarian would.