A Good Match or a Good Start: Pet Store Adoption Events and Puppy Sales By Rita Rice, NADBR VP

A few weeks ago, the National Alliance for Dog Breeding Reform shared a post by our founder, Ron D Sturgeon, in which he commented that he didn’t care whether puppies were sold in pet stores or from homes – as long as they were well nurtured and from breeders who take care of their dogs.

He received a LOT of criticism for this – because it’s trendy to call pet stores who sell puppies and kittens bad.

If the pet store model is bad, why is it the primary method of “adoption” used by shelters? Walk in, fill out an application, choose an animal, leave.

Let’s think about this together. If you think people make bad decisions at pet stores, where they have to lay their credit card on the line and pay $500-$2500 for a puppy, then doesn’t logic follow that the same model, used at a shelter for a $75 dog, will also encourage bad decisions?

When a shelter or rescue chooses to hold an adoption day at a pet store, they do so knowing that an adoption event at a pet store is an effective way to find homes.

You won’t ever see my dogs for sale in a pet store, because I choose not to cater to the “buy it now” market. But that market is a HUGE part of the pet owning public – and so, while many “anti-breeder” groups continuously decry the horror of selling puppies to the “buy it now” crowd, they endorse it at the same time – with rescues.

If selling puppies as an “impulse buy” is bad, then “adopting out” rescues as an impulse buy is equally bad. Personally, I believe it’s worse, because the majority of shelter dogs are mixed breeds ranging from late puppy to adult. These dogs often have no history and there is no reliable information to give the potential home any indication of temperament or training.

I worry about all of these dogs, whether in shelters or pet stores. I worry that their probable poor start in life, along with the lack of experience in the average pet home, will combine to make an already difficult life (for the puppy) even more challenging for the adult dog.

I was a rescuer before I was a breeder. I am still a rescuer. In my early 20s, I learned the value of purebred rescues and locally active rescues (for mixed breeds). Those rescues are able to take time and evaluate dogs while in foster homes, then evaluate potential adopters and work to fit the dog with the home. I value responsible breeders for the same reason, for their ability to know the puppy or adult dog and match that dog to the right home.

I don’t believe we will ever prevent dogs and puppies from being impulsive purchases. Every law that’s been passed, every group that has tried something different, has only succeeded in driving those purchases to a different market – in 25 years, I’ve never seen that new market to be in the best interests of the dogs.

NADBR believes it’s time for a new strategy. We believe that the best result for the “puppy impulse market” is for those buyers/adopters to be able to easily find dogs that have had the best start possible. For the shelters, that strategy suggests that they continue placing rescue dogs in the public eye – and hopefully combine that prominence with a staff that is knowledgeable about the dogs that are available. For breeders, that strategy is to regulate and encourage responsible breeding, so that buyers are able to find locally raised puppies who have had the best start possible.

As a breeder, I worry about impulse buyers, and keep my puppies far from that environment. As a rescuer, I want to help those buyers/adopters find good dogs, dogs who will make it easy for the new home to grow to cherish that impulsive acquisition the way I cherish my own dogs – for life.

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