The Store-Bought Puppy.

It’s a rare human being who is able to resist a puppy. The sweet puppy breath, soft fur, pink bellies and paws. Yes, people flock to a litter of puppies like migrating birds heading South for the winter. It’s true. We witnessed this phenomenon during a recent Bark in the Ballpark at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Generally led by a female human, her first reaction upon seeing the puppies was to let out a high shriek, “Look, puppieeeezzzz!” This was followed by an Oh-My-Gawd hand to mouth motion which alerted the other women in the flock, all running towards the puppy pile. The age of the girls did not matter – from youngsters to grandmothers – the reaction, once the puppies were discovered, was always the same. The puppies, in this case, were being hosted by the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. Thankfully one or two were adopted as a result of their appearance that day.

Puppies have a way with our hearts. All our senses are lost, replaced with the impulse to buy and no regard to the cause and effect of this spur-of-the-moment decision. We’ve heard, and repeated this fact before: people spend more time researching and contemplating the purchase of their cars than they do on the acquisition of a puppy.

After President Obama and his family were presented with the gift of Bo, a Portuguese Water Dog, sales of that breed increased across the country. At the time, upon hearing of Senator Ted Kennedy’s gift to the Obamas, Dr. Jana Kohl, an animal-rights activist said, “This will fuel the breeding industry, which will fuel the puppy mill industry, which will increase homeless dogs at shelters and increase the numbers of dogs euthanized every year.”

A Florida groomer we recently spoke with said that after Bo arrived at the White House, she saw four new clients, each with Portuguese Water Dogs. That was somewhere between 2009 and 2010. The groomer told us that those dogs are no longer with those families, and more than likely ended up at the shelter. People forget that puppies grow up, oftentimes to be big, slobbery, peeing, pooping and eating machines. People also don’t realize the expense that goes in to caring for a dog, whether it is healthy or not.

But, even more troubling is the fact that by purchasing a puppy over the internet or in a store that profits from selling puppies, the puppy mill industry continues to thrive. Many Florida pet stores obtain puppies from out-of-state #puppymills and dupe consumers into thinking their newly purchased puppy came from a local breeder.

Stuffed into small cages, covered in their own waste, the breeder dogs languish in horrible conditions. The dogs are often exposed to the elements, suffer chronic illnesses and rarely, if ever receive veterinary care. Consumers who typically purchase these puppies online (sight unseen), or in a storefront have no clue as to the conditions under which the puppy was bred and raised.

Recently, #TheNewBarker dog magazine was invited to photograph six “survivors” of a puppy mill. The dogs were part of a rescue effort of around 60 dogs pulled from a North Florida puppy mill, transported to the Bay Area by Laura Fletcher of Loving Friends Transport. VIP Rescue Florida volunteered to foster 20 of the dogs.  At least two of the dogs were pregnant. In fact, Terri Ensign of VIP Rescue Florida telephoned several hours after we had taken the photos to let us know she was, at that very moment, “birthing puppies.” The rescue group is currently in dire need of foster homes. And, by the way, the North Florida puppy mill was not shut down, only fined. “Guess what we’ll be doing in another six months,” Ensign rhetorically asked.

Once you’ve seen a breeder dog, smelled a breeder dog and looked into the eyes of a breeder dog, you will be forever changed. It will bring you to tears. Sunday, September 22 is National Puppy Mill Awareness Day. To those of you who are volunteers with a rescue group, thank you for your hard work and dedication. This work is not for the faint of heart.

A Puppy Mill Dog, photographed by Anna Cooke for The New Barker dog magazine.
A Puppy Mill Dog photographed by Anna Cooke for The New Barker dog magazine.
NFLA Puppy Mill
A Puppy Mill Dog, photographed by Anna Cooke for The New Barker dog magazine.
A Puppy Mill Dog, photographed by Anna Cooke for The New Barker dog magazine.


Briefly, about The New Barker... In our 15th year of publishing original stories with award-winning photography. Reaching 30,000+ dog lovers in print each quarter. Each cover features an original work of art by a different Florida artist. Over the last 11 years, we have donated over $210,000 in cash, product, media space and money to animal welfare organizations across Florida. 30 days after the magazine is distributed and mailed, the digital version is uploaded. The New Barker: Where to stay, play, dine, and just have fun in Florida with your dogs.

4 thoughts on “The Store-Bought Puppy.”

  1. I have fostering the dog who is in the second picture down. He is learning about life outside of a cage, humans and love. If you could only spend 15 minutes with this little fellow you would NEVER again buy a puppy from a pet store of any type!

  2. Personally I have gone to a very good farmer and we are planning a puppy. The two doggies are getting to know each other but have not worked it out yet. In the meantime I am reading books, made arrangements with a local vet, purchased proper crates, toys, getting to know the proper leashes, collars and foods that are good for the puppy/dog. Waiting patiently and getting the good information first.

  3. Gwendolyn, this article is specifically about puppy mills, not dog breeders as a whole. Two separate subject matters. In fact, in the spring issue of The New Barker, we discussed best practices on how to purchase a dog, if adoption is not in the equation. One of those practices included visiting the home of the litter, meet the dog parents of the litter, see the conditions under which the dogs are living.

  4. Wow, I had the New Barker do a story on me many years ago. This article came off as “once you meet a dog is the bottom of the barrel.” I agree totally with what the USDA lets go on at the licensed breeding Puppy Mills. But not all dog breeders are like that. I know at least 1 and that’s me. I am not licensed through the USDA, which gives a breeder the right to sell to pets stores. I would never sell to a pet store because their only qualification to purchase is you have the money. I chose who is a good home for one of my pups. But I am licensed through the local Pinellas Animal Control for the past 8+ years and have had numerous pop visits and have never been cited for anything. Yes, I have had a shelter dog most of my life as a pet and now for many years my guard dog. I strongly support rescues. But if someone wants to purchase a particular breed, do it from a breeder that is licensed and monitored through a local animal agency. If they are allowed to sell to a pet store, they are playing the numbers game and are puppy mills. Many pet stores are now trying to find breeders that will sell them some of the more expensive type dogs that are not fixed for their own personal desire to own that type of dog. ?? All those French bulldog breeders out there that are not licensed, don’t do it! I am and have been for a very long time the only legal French Bulldog breeder in Pinellas that’s why I can say that.

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