I worked at a pet store when I was in college. It was a family-owned franchise, and I will say they ran about as good a business as you can for a pet store. They visited each breeder they worked with, and adhered to very strict guidelines on how many litters (and how often) could come from a breeder, in an attempt to avoid puppy mills.
The owners turned away potential customers if they felt they weren’t the right fit, and truly seemed to care about the puppies’ futures after they left the store. It wasn’t unusual for us to stay all night if puppies were sick just to be able to tend to their needs. If a puppy fell asleep, we weren’t allowed to wake her up to show her to customers, because the owners understood that they were babies and they needed their sleep.
My experience there was so nice that when the time came for me to find another job, I once again sought out a job at a pet store.
This one was part of a large commercial chain. Unlike the first store I worked at, where the puppies would come in healthy and our job was to keep them that way, these puppies started out by coming in sick and full of worms — and our job was to sell them before they died.
As soon as a “shipment” of puppies arrived, it was store protocol to deworm them and start them on antibiotics before they even saw a vet. We threw them on a scale and medicated them according to a little chart on the wall telling us what to give the puppy according to his weight.
The meds, which were stocked in bulk and came from who knows where, were very hard on the puppies’ tummies, so almost immediately they would have diarrhea. They were kept in metal grated cubicles that gave them cage sores, and now they were defecating in them and exposing open cage sores to more bacteria.
With the puppies’ immune systems already worn down, upper respiratory viruses ran rampant throughout the store. Because the owner didn’t want to pay us overtime, we were instructed to put the dogs three and four at a time into the nebulizer unit (a plexiglass box that pumps in medicated vapors) to get their treatments done faster. This meant that several sick dogs with different viruses and infections would be crammed together in essentially an airtight container, breathing each other’s germs.
We spent so much time cleaning up dog poop and taking care of sick puppies that it didn’t leave a lot of time to get other things done. In an effort to cut down on the time we spent washing the glass water bottles in each puppy cubicle, we were instructed to put a tiny bit of bleach into each bottle so that they were self-cleaning.
When it came to making a puppy sale, we were encouraged to show the sick animals to the customers. If they were feverish and sleepy, “Well, this one is very docile and quiet, great for someone with young kids!”
Our manager spent nearly all of his working hours fielding phone calls from unhappy customers and trying to quiet the ones who would come in screaming about “the sick animal you sold me.” I personally watched the police remove several livid customers from the store — people who just wanted answers as to why they had been sold an animal who was so sick.
I lasted two weeks before the bosses mysteriously let me go. They never fired me; they just told me that they were overstaffed and would call when they had an open time slot.
I have to believe it was because I was the one who stayed late nebulizing the puppies one at a time. I was the one who turned a customer away from a feverish puppy. I was the one who refused to put bleach in the water bottles.
Unfortunately the puppy business doesn’t have time for people like me on their schedule; they have sales to make, whatever the cost.
Views on pet stores are to the animal world what discussions about abortion, gay rights, vaccinations, and war are to the rest of the world. There’s a pretty good chance we won’t ever all agree, and everyone will have a pretty strong opinion on why his or her view is the right one. Like I said, not all pet stores are bad. There are in fact a few great stores; you just have to look really hard to find them.
The puppy becomes a breeder dog
In the best-case scenario, animals that are not picked out go back to the breeder.
They may hang around the pet store for a while but after they have outgrown the age of selling, they are taken back.
Since the breeder had initially sold them to the pet store, they will have to buy them back.
In most cases, they give healthier younger puppies in exchange for ‘unwanted’ older puppies.
The latter will then become a breeder dog to keep the puppy mill going.
What does Petland do with unsold puppies?
What happens to pet store puppies who aren’t sold? As with other unsold inventory, they go on sale. Stores buy puppies for a fraction of what they charge their customers.
The Controversy Surrounding Petland
For a long time, Petland’s reputation was that of a good corporation with deep care for animals.
When you visit the website, you will instantly love what the company does. It promises to sell puppies from reputable breeders that raise them in healthy conditions.
The company even runs campaigns for adopting pets and has charities that support animal welfare.
Well, things took a bad turn when the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) published an investigation on the company in 2008.
The investigation which took 8 months revealed shocking things about the operation of Petland stores across the United States.
HSUS visited 76 Petland stores located in Ohio, Nevada, Florida, Indiana, and Minnesota.
Additionally, investigators spoke to 35 brokers and breeders linked to Petland and checked the health certificated of about 17,000 puppies from the store.
They discovered that Petland purchases puppies from puppy mills and sells them to unsuspecting buyers.
The puppies are raised in barren, filthy cages full of urine smells. They are not well taken care of and socialized.
What’s worse is that Petland doesn’t seem to screen breeders before buying from them.
In certain cases, the company doesn’t even know the name of the breeder before making the purchase.
As if the HSUS investigation is not enough, Petland faced a class action lawsuit on their mode of doing business in 2017.
Also, the company doesn’t have a very good name on Consumer Affairs.com where there are over 500 negative reviews with many claiming the company gets their dogs from puppy mills.