Consumer Fraud

You don’t get what you pay for when you buy a puppy at a pet store.

  • Pet store puppies aren’t healthier.
  • Pet store puppies aren’t better quality.
  • Pet store puppies aren’t cuter.
  • Pet store puppies don’t make better pets.

The truth is that behind the adorable, well-groomed puppy in a pet store, the parents likely look like this. We know these images are hard to see, but this is the reality for millions of dogs.


Eight years in a mill breeding puppies for profit to be sold in pet stores.

Dog_#50_resized (1)

Rescued from a southern Illinois mill. Nine years of suffering.

This is the parent of a “specialty, designer breed” dog.

The Myths

Pet stores often tell consumers that pet store puppies are carefully chosen from the best breeders. They will cite their breeders’ exemplary records with the United States Department of Agriculture and experience in breeding healthy, happy puppies. Many will refer to their breeders’ experience breeding “specialty” breeds. The consumer believes they are purchasing an animal with superior breeding and health.

The Reality

The reality is that pet store puppies are not healthier. We know this from years of experience receiving complaints from consumers who purchased sick puppies from pet stores. We know this from years of tracing the sources of pet store puppies and seeing the conditions where they come from. Here are a few additional resources that may be helpful to consumers:

  • Read this study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School on pet store puppies.
  • Read The Humane Society of the United States’ five-year study of puppy buyer complaints here.

Pet store puppies’ origins are no more known or guaranteed than those of shelters pets. With a pet store puppy, the consumer only has the pet store’s assurance as to the quality of a breeder. The consumer hasn’t seen the breeder, doesn’t know the health history of the parents, and is typically given a misleading account of the conditions the puppy was bred in.

While shelter pets may also have unknown backgrounds, the consumer is making an informed decision. Shelters and rescues often carefully evaluate their animals assessing both their physical health and personality. Shelters and rescues often treat any outstanding medical conditions, spay or neuter the animal, and take great efforts to ensure a proper match between the animal and its new guardians.

While Illinois law requires pet stores to disclose the name and location of the puppy’s breeder, this information is not sufficient to inform the consumer. The consumer does not know how many animals are kept on the property, the conditions the dog live in, whether the breeder has any violations. The average consumer has no reason to know about the deficiencies in United States Department of Agriculture licensing and oversight. It is completely possible for an educated consumer who asks the right questions to be misled.

If you need to research a breeder, click here.

If you need to report purchasing a sick puppy, please complete our Sick Puppy Form.