Pet Store Puppies: The Ugly Truth

According to the Puppy Mill Project, “Nearly all puppies sold at pet stores come from puppy mills. Pet stores are the primary sales outlet for puppy mills and are essential for keeping puppy mills in business”.

Hello everyone, you’re probably reading this over finals break or even afterwards, or whenever you are reading this, you might be not in the best mood and I might be making it worse. Yet, this is an important topic and I think most people have an idea about it yet don’t know the extent of the situation.

With that, I am an animal lover. I love them and I especially love dogs. In addition, I have three at home with one of them being my own dog. One is Vanessa, who is a Chihuahua; one is a Golden Retriever, Lilly; and a Pomeranian named Argos (my dog).



So with that, I recently adopted Argos from the Erie Humane Society on 04/06/2019. He was a neglect case so when the shelter received him, his fur was so matted and his teeth were in poor condition. So they had to shave him and the poor guy had 16 teeth removed, and I still have to take him to the vet for another dental as well. And they estimate him to be around eight years old. But this little guy is my life. I’m one of those crazy dog moms and he has brought me so much joy. He is my emotional support animal as well. Before I got him, I knew when looking at dogs I wanted one from a shelter. It was always in my head of “adopt don’t shop”. So after I got him and had to give a persuasive speech in a class, I did it on puppy mills, specifically looking into the heartland pet store in Erie (Millcreek Mall).

When doing research for this project, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I was disgusted. First, let's go over what a puppy mill is. According to Merriam Webster definition, a puppy mill is a “commercial farming operation in which purebred dogs are raised in large numbers and often in substandard or poor conditions” (Merriam Webster). So that is the definition but that probably doesn’t mean much to you so let me tell you some facts about puppy mills.

According to the human society organization, there is roughly “10,000 puppy mills currently active in the United States”. With that, over “194,000 dogs are kept for breeding in USDA-licensed facilities. And last but not least, there are “two million puppies sold each year after originating from a puppy mill” (humane society).



So, you might be an animal lover but this might not strike you as much since you might be thinking, “Well this doesn’t happen around me”. I mean, that was one of my misconceptions about puppy mills in that they are nowhere near me or what not. Yet, if you ever been to the Millcreek Mall in Erie, PA and passed heartland pet store, then you have seen puppy mill puppies. Now this has essentially been proven since the Erie news did a whole profile on this back in 2015. JET 24’s investigation team “traced Heartland’s dogs back to known puppy mills, gathering pet profiles, and researching breeders on the USDA website and found countless violations (yourerie).

According to the violation reports, the “Heartland’s breeders have been cited for things like insufficient heat, dogs with red swollen gums, others with loosed injured jaws, bird waste on feed bags...dogs living on sharply twisted metal flooring. Countless breeders were cited for chicken-wire flooring, which allows dogs to slip through and become injured or stuck” (yourerie).

So with these problems greatly impact the parents of those puppies, and thus those puppies. Bad breeding conditions along with possible genetic defects in the parents of the litters, it leads to a lot of problems. Puppies born in puppy mills are usually removed too soon from their siblings and mother. The American Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals said that “this can cause underdevelopment and long-lasting emotional and behavioral problems” (ASPCA). The emotional and behavior problems can be genetically inherited as well, just like it can be in humans. Stressful puppy mill conditions that hurt the mom, such as living conditions and being constantly bred without any rest time and no social interactions can harm the unborn babies from the mom’s stress (ASPCA). With a puppy mill dog that can have underdevelopment and other health issues, you are looking into thousands of dollars into vet bills on top of the price you paid for the dog (which are well over $1,000 att heartland pet store).

With that, I called the heartland pet store myself. Unfortunately, I did not get the person’s name I was talking to but I believe it was the owner himself, Richard Winslow. So the first question I asked was, “Where do your puppies come from?”.

He said that the puppies only come from quality USDA inspected and licensed breeders. So that part is true as it was researched by the Erie JEt 24 team. But as proven, those qualifications don’t matter. The USDA follows the 1966 Animal Welfare Act which during the Erie News now interview, Erie veterinarian Dr. Radford called it “outdated, insufficient, and inhumane” since the dogs can be kept in wire cages their entire lives, don’t need to go outside or receive adequate vet care (yourerie). I also asked if the puppies were from puppy mills. And he assured me they weren’t. When I asked him why the store had so many bad reviews and people proving they have puppy mill dogs, he said they were all fake and lies. Not to mention all his answers seemed rehearsed.

Now if you are a pet lover like me, you want to help all the dogs. But, I strongly suggest not buying a puppy from the pet store since you will contribute to the sales and continuation of puppy mills and this can be a very costly investment. Pet stores, especially Heartland pets, dogs cost over $1,000 for these puppies. It is insane. Instead, I would go check out your local animal shelters. I especially recommend the Erie humane society. The staff is super nice and there are so many good dogs and animals looking for homes. I got my recent rescued dog from there and it was a smooth process. And I love him to pieces. And you get a dog who is already spayed/neutered and vaccinated for roughly $180! That is almost a steal in terms of what you a getting and you are benefiting everyone. You saved an animal and made a space for another animal to be saved and placed in the shelter to find a new home.

And even if you want a specific breed, you are in luck! According to the best friend organization that is against and stopping the puppy mills says that it is estimated up to 25% of dogs looking for forever homes through shelters and rescue groups are purebred” (bestfriends). And if you can’t find them through a shelter, there are those specific bred rescues online such as the French Bulldog rescue group, S.N.O.T. (short nose only rescue team), Tall Tails Beagle Rescue, etc.!

With that, spread the awareness about puppy mills and hopefully we can one day stop the horrid pet shops from selling those dogs. If you are looking for an animal, I hope you now have more of an interest in looking into a rescue. And if you do decide from a breeder, please just make sure to check out the living conditions, the dogs are well socialized, and parents on site! And as the saying goes,  if it is too good to be true, it probably is!





Pictures courtesy of my own personal photos and Google Images




Best Friends Animal Society,


The Humane Society of the United States,

“The Long Journey Mass-Produced Dogs Take from Puppy Mill to Pet Store.” YOURERIE,

The Puppy Mill Project,