You and I know animals are not just commodities. And that puppy mills are inherently cruel. This post is for the folks who say, “It’s just a dog.” Spread the word.
Puppy Mills Hurt Consumers
So let’s define our terms. Just what is a puppy mill? And what is capitalism?
The ASPCA simply defines a puppy mill as a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad to you. After all, we’re just talking about dogs here. What’s wrong with making profit? Isn’t that the point of capitalism?
Well, scholars have been arguing over the definition of capitalism since its development as an economic system in 16th century Europe. Most agree that capitalism is defined by several key features:
- private ownership of the means of production;
- the intention to make a personal profit (yep, you were right); and,
- a competitive marketplace.
Puppy mills certainly have the first two features. They are owned by individuals or private companies to make as much profit as possible.
But is the puppy market actually competitive? And does it give consumers a good product? I argue no. And here’s why.
Puppies Are Not Uniform
Unlike blenders or cars, each puppy is unique. A puppy is a living creature created from the genetic material of two other dogs. And the results are never certain.
So while a pet store might sell every Saint Bernard for $1,800, you don’t know if the puppy is “worth” $1,800 because each dog is different.
Imagine how angry you would feel if you went to a car dealership to buy a two door car with a manual transmission just to find afterwards that your neighbor got a fully-loaded version of his car for the same price you paid? You’d probably be telling everyone in the world how that dealer ripped you off.
And yet people routinely buy puppies at pet stores at a set price without knowing if it’s actually the same quality as the puppy in the next cage.
Puppies Have Bad Warranties; or None At All
For years pet stores would offer a money back guarantee if your puppy became ill in the first week. Just return the puppy and you’ll get a refund for the price you paid.
But here’s something crazy about puppies that isn’t true of refrigerators: they’re cute. Oh, and lovable. And most decent human beings are not willing to return a sick puppy to a pet store to be killed just to get their money back. Most people will concentrate their efforts on trying to make the puppy well.
Stories from people who bought pet store puppies just to find they were seriously ill led to the passage of “puppy lemon laws” in several states, fewer than half, actually. You can find the list of states with puppy lemon laws here along with the conditions for filing a claim.
If you live in one of the 32 states with no lemon laws, you’re out of luck.
Puppies Have an Unreasonable Markup
Nothing will stop a consumer from buying something faster than knowing they’re being overcharged for something that costs very little to make. “You expect me to pay $100 for that? It only cost 50¢ to make!”
Well how much of a markup do you think that $3,000 pet store puppy has?
According to an article by the New Jersey Consumers Against Pet Shop Abuse, a commercial breeder receives as little as $10 to $100 for a puppy he’s bred. Which means the pets store mark up can be as much as 30 to 300 times the original price of the dog. That would be like paying between $60 and $600 for a t-shirt! To give you some perspective, new cars have a typical markup of 5-8%.
Puppy Mill Pups are Inferior “Products”
Because puppy mill owners do not do expensive x-rays and genetic testing on their dogs (like responsible breeders do), provide optimal raising conditions, and socialize their dogs, pet store puppies from mills are sickly, more likely to have genetic problems, and are subject to behavioral problems.
If you are buying a cute puppy for your child, don’t you want to give them a dog who will be healthy for years to come and a loving companion?
And Yet It’s About More Than Just Capitalism
Sure, you might say “It’s just a dog.” And you might not think it matters too much where a puppy comes from.
But I know you. You may spout a bunch of hardcore rhetoric about crazy animal lovers that don’t understand business. But you don’t always make decisions based on economics. And deep down, you don’t want to perpetuate a cruel system. You just want a cute puppy for your kids.
Here’s how you can straighten out the unfair marketplace where poor quality, overpriced dogs are sold to consumers with few protections. And get a cute puppy at the same time.
- Check out Petfinder. At the Petfinder search engine, you can look for puppies in your area at local shelters and rescue organizations.
- Set on a pure bred dog? Check out a breed rescue group. You can find many here.
- Breed rescue groups can also refer you to high quality, hobby (as opposed to profit-making) breeders.
- And keep your mind open. Sure puppies are adorable. But they chew and poop and cry. A beautiful older dog might be a better fit. Once again, Petfinder will give you hundreds of options.
Give in to your highest ideals to prevent cruelty to animals. Or just be a good capitalist. I don’t care which. Just don’t support puppy mills. Don’t buy your pet from stores that keep them in business, like Petland.[Photos from Flickr, found here and here.]