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You walk into your local mall, or maybe see an ad online and the cute wiggly puppies instantly draw you in. Their big, bright eyes and happy smiles pull at your heartstrings. Sadness sets in and your animal-loving heart makes you want to “save” one of those puppies by bringing him or her home. You’ve heard the stories of where pet store puppies really come from but buying a puppy just this once surely won’t do any harm.

Before you act, take a moment to think about what you’re really doing. Sure, the puppy you purchase will have a great life, but what about the parents? Who is going to rescue them? The harsh truth is, by purchasing that adorable puppy, you’re condemning its parents, along with countless others, to a life of misery inside a puppy mill.

Dogs sold in pet stores, at flea markets, or even online can fetch up to thousands of dollars. So what’s the real difference between the cost of a dog rescued from the shelter, compared to a dog bought from a breeder or a pet store? Let’s break it down.

The Cost of a Puppy Mill Dog

Having a puppy is exciting, and from teaching a child about responsibility to wanting a “certain” type of dog, many people like to buy puppies, instead of adopting from their local shelter. But puppies that are bought from pet stores can come from large-scale commercial dog breeding operations, also known as puppy mills.

Puppy mills are large commercial dog breeding facilities, typically run on a “factory farm” model that prioritizes the owner’s profit above the dogs’ health and well-being. Breeding dogs in such facilities are typically confined to tiny, crowded wire cages and provided with the bare minimum of care required to keep them alive. A chronic lack of space, insufficient nutrition, poor hygiene standards, and routine overbreeding of the dogs are par for the course in puppy mills, causing a number of serious health issues for the dogs. These issues can include severely matted fur; eye, ear, and throat infections; dental problems; and severe genetic deformities such as cleft palates.

Purchasing a purebred dog from a breeder can cost anywhere between $500 to $3,000 dollars. And what are you getting? The dog. That’s it.

Buying a dog may get you an American Kennel Club (AKC) Dog Registration Application form, but this simply allows the buyer to register the new puppy. The registration does not guarantee anything about your new dog.

But dogs from puppy mills need homes too! Who cares about the money, I want to help the dog! Well, when you buy a puppy from a pet store, even if the conditions in the store aren’t all that great, don’t allow yourself to believe you’re rescuing that animal. What you’re really doing is creating an open spot for another puppy to be sold for profit – and the parent dogs stuck in the puppy mill who pay the ultimate price.

The Cost of a Rescue Dog

If you go to your local animal shelter and adopt a dog, the adoption fee is usually anywhere from $50-$150. But for such a cheap price, something must be wrong with the dog … right? Nope. Nothing is wrong with the dog. The adoption fee goes towards the cost of care your dog received while at the animal shelter.

What’s more, many animal shelters regularly offer specials on dogs and cats, with waived fees or discounted adoption fees in an effort to help reduce the number of animals in their care and open up space for more animals.

So what all are you paying for when you adopt a dog? A lot!

Spay and Neuter: The average cost to spay and neuter an animal varies between your city, the size of your dog, as well as their overall health. The average range for a dog spay or neuter can range from $45-175 for an animal shelter, not including pain relief medication. If you were to get your dog spayed or neutered on your own, the cost could range from $200-$500.

Shots: Vaccinations add up and for a dog to receive vaccinations to prevent Distemper, Parvo, Kennel Cough, and rabies, the cost could easily add up to $40. If you were to pay for the vaccinations yourself, you’d be looking at a range between $20-$150.

Microchip: Almost all animal shelters won’t let an animal leave until they have been microchipped. Shelters constantly see lost dogs and cats and if the animal isn’t microchipped, the odds of them being reunited with their people are slim to none. For a shelter to microchip an animal, it costs about $20. If you were to microchip your dog on your own, say at your veterinarian’s office, the cost could range from $45-$60.

Extras: Some animal shelters will throw in ‘extras’ such as a free bag of food or possibly even collars and leashes to take your new friend home with.

Since dogs from puppy mills are often wrought with health issues from unsanitary conditions and inbreeding, typically shelter dogs are healthier, so in the long run, you will probably save money.

And the cost of knowing you rescued a deserving dog from your local shelter? Priceless! Because you decided to rescue a dog, instead of fueling the puppy mill industry by buying a dog, one lucky dog will now shower you with unconditional love every single day. Plus, you freed up space in the shelter so another animal can come in and be saved too!

What You Can Do

Puppy mills will stay in business as long as the public keeps buying puppies, so the only way to end the cycle of cruelty is to stop buying from pet stores. By refusing to give them business, you’re not only taking a stand against puppy mills but preventing cruelty towards other “milled” animals. If you’re ever concerned about the conditions inside a pet store, the best thing you can do is report it to local authorities or a humane agency.

Adoption is the best option. If a pet store is hosting an adoption event or featuring animals from a local shelter or rescue, by all means, bring that cutie home! When you adopt, you are truly saving a life and creating an open spot for another animal, who may have otherwise been euthanized, to have a second chance.

If you want to know how you can help put an end to abusive puppy mills, check out these other One Green Planet articles:

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