Cavalier King Charles Puppies at the Pet Store in Astoria 2The Bare Bones Story

Last month, a story made the news cycles about the problem pet store owners in a posh New York neighborhood were having with people coming in drunk and buying puppies, resulting in a ban on the practice.

Typical reporting went:

Inebriated passers-by are falling in love with playful pooches frolicking in the window of a West Village pet store, and the problem has become so bad the owner has banned them from taking the pets home.

“I feel like they always come in drunk,” said Fernanda Moritz, the manager of Le Petite Puppy at 18 Christopher St. which has implemented a policy against letting customers buy — or even hold — animals if they’ve been drinking.

The shop is surrounded by bars, and Moritz said many of her would-be customers stop in after happy hour around 6 p.m.

“They come from there and say ‘let’s stop by to see the puppies,'” said Moritz.

Amazingly the store, which has supplied puppies to celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Jackman, isn’t the only one in the neighborhood forced to implement the ban.

Christopher Street’s Citipups also forbids intoxicated customers from purchasing puppies.

After regaling readers with stories of buyer’s remorse and harm that comes to the puppies as a result of drunk buying, the story concludes:

Even though turning down drunken customers might seem bad for business, Moritz and Jacoby [of Citipups] both say they’d prefer to lose the sale.

“We make sure they can take care of the dog. We make sure they go to a good home,” Jacoby said.

Well, aren’t they the heroes, those puppy store owners? What the story doesn’t talk about is how the puppy store owners acquired the puppies — and when they were stone cold sober, I’d wager.

A few sobering statistics

I’d like to offer some data from the website of Madonna of the Mills, a great documentary coming to HBO soon. (Thanks to Mel Freer of No Dog About It for her post about this topic that sent me to that site.)

  1. 99% of puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills.
  2. Nearly 100% of all puppies in pet stores have parasites when they are purchased.
  3. 48% of puppies being sold in pet stores were ill or incubating an illness at the time of purchase, according to a recent California study.
  4. 500,000 puppies are born in puppy mills and sold in pet stores every
    year in the United States.
  5. There are 35,000 pet stores in America
  6. Puppy millers can make more than $300,000 growing puppies every year.
  7. Puppy mills have been around since the early 1960s.
  8. Almost every Puppy sold in a pet store has a mother who will spend her entire life in a tiny cage, never being petted, never being walked, never being treated like a dog.
  9. Female dogs are usually bred 2x a year. At that rate, they usually burn out by age 5, at which time they are put to death.
  10. About 1 million breeder dogs are confined in puppy mills throughout the country

Pet Store Owners May Be Worse than Puppy Millers

Here’s another statistic, this one from the ASPCA: 78% of Americans are ignorant that pet store puppies come from puppy mills.

In short, the puppy store customers, especially the inebriated ones, were doing precisely what the puppy store owners wanted them to do, going with their impulses. What the puppy store owners didn’t like was the fact that the customers returned the puppies when they were sober, resulting in the loss of a sale and, probably, a puppy who would be less salable after being taken away from the pet store and then brought back again.

No one likes a traumatized puppy.

In some ways Mr. Moritz and Mr. Jacoby are worse than puppy millers. Puppy millers are loathsome but I believe they are no worse that factory farmers, who keep chickens cooped up in conditions even more horrific. Puppy millers consider their dogs to be livestock and act accordingly. We are disgusted by it because we love dogs (but often turn a blind eye when it comes to chickens or cows  — but that’s another post).

What excuse do the puppy store owners, who cater to a clientele that would be horrified if they knew the source of their puppies, have?

You tell me: What are the odds that Moritz and Jacoby belong to the 1% of stores that don’t get their puppies from puppy mills? Or that they didn’t know the source of their, um, inventory.


If I were writing this story…


Amazingly the store, which has supplied puppies to celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Jackman, isn’t the only one in the neighborhood forced to implement the ban.

My version:

Amazingly Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Jackman aren’t the only celebrities unaware that puppy store puppies come from puppy mills.

Didn’t anyone watch — or try to be on — Oprah, who ran a series on puppy mills and pet stores?

I can’t imagine that Sarah Jessica Parker or Hugh Jackman– who clearly have pets; otherwise they wouldn’t have patronized a pet store — would want to be associated with puppy mills.

Anyone know their publicists? For a small fee, I won’t let tell anyone. Oh, wait a minute, I already did.

One more thing…

When I saw the statistics about the ignorance of the general public about the connection between pet stores and puppy mills, my mind immediately went back to the drunk puppy buying and how it was covered by the press, thus perpetuating the problem.

I thought, well, at least no member of the community of pet bloggers covering that story would ignore — or minimize — its implications.

I was wrong. When I googled “drunk puppy buying,”  two stories from well-respected pet sites came up in the top five on the topic.  The first was on the blog of The Bark, which covered the story by saying:

While it’s good that pet stores won’t sell animals to people under the influence (at least visibly), being intoxicated is just one of the qualities that would prevent me from selling a dog to someone. Lack of proper screening is one of the reasons that makes pet stores so problematic in my mind (in addition to the whole puppy mill issue, of course). Adding a pet to the family is a big decision that does not always get the necessary thought and planning that is so critical. As a business, pet stores rely on the impulse buys that contribute to irresponsible pet ownership.

That parenthetical bit (emphasis mine) is the only reference — one which goes completely unexplained —  to the link between puppy mills and pet stores.

The other story is on The Dog Files, another favorite site of mine. It’s the bare bones story, presented entirely without context. Only in the comments section do several people point out the puppy mill/pet store link.

My intention is not to diss these blogs, which, as I’ve said, I respect and which bring a great deal of awareness to important animal issues. But if it’s not immediately apparent to these pet savvy bloggers that the real story here is not drunk puppy buying by customers but, rather, sober puppy buying by pet store owners, how can we expect the general public to be aware of what’s going on?

33 thoughts on “Drunk Puppy Buying Banned, Pet Store Owners Portrayed as Heroes”

  1. great article. I cannot believe they are saying how these people are “heros” when I would love to see where their puppies come from. I rescued a dog from a puppy mill and she was probably 8 when I got her, sweetest, most amazing dog ever but spent her entire life in a cage and the repercussions of that are still seen. It has taken lots of work but she is basically a normal dog now, minus not being able to do stairs and still feeling much more comfortable in her bed. I don’t think people realize what puppy mills are and what they actually do to the dogs they breed there.

    1. Good for you, Kristen, for giving a puppy mill dog a new life — with all the difficulties that taking care of such a dog involves. Not everyone would have the patience.

      It’s a fact: People DON’T know what goes on in puppy mills. They would be appalled.

  2. My thoughts exactly when I read the original article a while ago. But there is hope they will change.

    I am in Canada – here just this week our largest pet store PJ’s Pets has announced it has stopped selling dogs in order to work with shelters to help gets dogs adopted. I can’t excuse their past selling puppy practices but thankfully going forward they are making a new effort.

    1. Glad to hear about PJ’s! All we can hope for is change, really — which comes about when people know the facts. Sure, it’d be great if the pet stores hadn’t sold puppies in the first place, but I’m okay with them stopping and helping with adoption now.

  3. I remember going on a small rant to my coworkers when I read that article, though your post is much better put! My first month volunteering at the shelter where I later worked, we helped bust the largest puppy mill in the state. The conditions were horrific, the dogs were pathetic, and the story of how those dogs have adapted to life as pets is incredibly touching. But the worst part of the whole experience was the sheer anger of the local pet stores, who claimed a mixture of ignorance (not an excuse at the best of times) and overly sensitive rescuers. They thought there was nothing wrong with that “legitimate breeder” who supplied them with 12 different breeds of puppies in questionable health. It was a great feeling to put an end to that puppy mill, although the pet stores didn’t miss a beat in finding out of state “breeders” to stock their shelves with sick puppies. It is a tough cycle to break, but education is a powerful weapon. Sadly, the media did nothing to help stop that cycle when they published this article, but at least Oprah is on our side!

    1. Thanks for weighing in here; I never had personal experience with any pet store owners but, sadly, what you say about their reaction to the puppy mill bust doesn’t surprise me in the least. How could they not know who their suppliers were and that many of the dogs were sick??

  4. Amen sister!

    To be honest, I had only heard a snippet of the drunk puppy/pet store story and didn’t know all of the details before now. All I can say is I am VERY glad you called out the missed opportunity. There is nothing like your acerbic wit and supreme writing abilities to bring attention to this matter and to remind us that there are opportunities for all of us, pet bloggers and media alike, to educate people about the truth of how pet stores acquire their puppies.

    I am beginning to realize how much we have to do to educate folks on pet stores and puppy mills.

    As a side note, when I first heard about Madonna of the Mills last year and read the stats, I remember thinking that Daisy was one year away from being one of those “burned out bitches” they mention in the video clip. As it was, by age 4, she had had so many litters my vet said she could have had a tummy tuck. I feel so very lucky that she escaped and that I was lucky enough to find her and adopt her. I wish all could be saved from their life of hell.
    Thanks for writing a wonderful post Edie. I am grateful.

    1. Thank YOU, Mel, for bringing the issue of ignorance to my attention with your post, which was very powerful because you spoke there, as you do here, about your personal experience with a dog who was part of that awful system.

      Something you wrote struck a chord that brought me back to last month when I first heard about that dumb drunken puppy buying ban; I didn’t write about it then because I probably figured that most people knew better than to see the pet store owners as the victims. According to that ASPCA statistic, apparently not!

  5. Thanks for posting this. I live in Jersey City and work in NYC and regularly pass the pet stores mentioned. I admit I oogle the cute pets in the window. I am sure they come from puppymills but part of the problem is the owners of these stores are very clever, more clever then stores Ive seen in other neighborhoods. They really make it seem like the puppies dont come from mills and the stores are clean and there are less puppies then in other stores. Im srue they all still come from mills. I do think stopping drunk puppy buying is a good idea, but what about pet store puppy buying in general. It would be so much better to support reputable breeders and rescue

    1. Thanks for the on-the-spot reporting, Kate! The fact is, NO reputable breeder would let their dogs be sold in a pet store. Reputable breeders are very, very careful about who they send their dogs home with; they would never put them in a situation where anyone could walk in and purchase them, whether they’re sober or drunk, celebrity or regular person. So you’re correct, they’re clever marketers.

  6. Great post, Edie. I saw the news articles about the drunk puppy buying too. I’m so glad you covered the “rest of the story” and made the connection between puppy mills and pet shops clear. You’re right…these pet shop owners are far from being the heroes they’re being made out to be.

    1. Thanks, Lorie — and I see from the link you’ve provided through CommentLuv that you’re covering a similar topic, an animal creep made into a hero. Ugh. I’m going to go over and check it out!

  7. I am a vet tech in Southern CA and I can fully vouch for the fact that pet store puppies are the sickest animals we see! (Unless the owner bought off the internet from the same puppy mills, but at that point they think they are getting straight from the “breeder.”)

    They all have parasites, which usually turn out to be rare or strange ones. Many have heart defects. Probably 75% of the parvo cases we see are from puppy mill animals. The saddest medical cases come from the “teacup” varieties of pups, who often go into hypoglycemic shock, or have severe neurological problems.

    We live 30 minutes from the Mexican border, and people often bring us Tijuana street dogs that they have rescued. These dogs are 50x healthier than your average pet store dog!

    I don’t understand the mentality of wanting to buy a pet store dog. Yes, I know it’s a cute young puppy, but from an economic standpoint it just doesn’t make sense. A pet store dog is on average $300. With no vaccines/deworming/neutering in the picture. They still need to be neutered ($200), have their first shots ($25), be microchipped ($60), and dewormed ($20). So… after spending $300 on said dog, they must spend (at least) another $305 at the vet.

    Shelter dogs, on the other hand, cost between $55-120 and all those treatments are already included!

    I know, I know. Its because people want puppies and they want pure-breds. But we need to re-educate the public not only about the horror of puppy mills, but the incredible health and value you get from the shelter!!! 🙂

    (P.S. love your blog, was directed here by Dr V at Pawcurious.)

    1. Thanks for coming by, Leigh, and thanks for your input on this tragic situation. I think people want pet store puppies precisely because they are expensive and therefore believed to be more valuable. In the case of this fancy Manhattan shop, they get the added cachet of celebrities coming in; people can say they bought their puppies from the same store where a Sex in the City or X-Men star shopped. I believe if people knew the truth, they would never patronize these shops. They just don’t have a clue.

  8. Very good topic and post. I saw the original drunk puppy buying stories last month and also wondered why very few stories mentioned anything about the real underlying problem of where the pet stores are getting the puppies.

    You mention that the upscale and celebrity clients of these puppy stores would be horrified at where the puppies come from. I believe that a good number of these clients are turning a blind eye to what they don’t want to know, especially with our society’s need for instant gratification. No one wants to wait a week or two for the shelter or rescue to check references, no one wants to wait for the ethical hobby breeder’s upcoming litter that is several months in the future. The upscale puppy stores are clean and attractive, and the owners claim to use licensed breeders (never explaining what licensing means, of course), have a screening process (again never explained), and that puppies are vet checked (not explaining the very bare minimum this entails either). Well, gee, it’s so clean and they do all this checking, so the puppies must come from somewhere good, right? Sadly we know that isn’t true, but yeah, how to get the word out so it isn’t ignored?

    1. You’re right; I should clarify. I suspect that the upscale and celebrity clients would be horrified to be associated with puppy mills. Who wants to be the poster boy or girl for that horror. In L.A., there’s a lot more awareness of the pet store/puppy mill connection; I suspect it’s because of Oprah’s presence in southern California (in addition to her show) and other celebrities getting on board. Maybe something similar could be done in New York, with Broadway stars taking up the cause. I just linked to Sarah Jessica Parker (on People) and Hugh Jackman (on TMZ). Maybe someone checks those links…

      Thanks for coming by, Kathi.

  9. Hear, hear, Edie. Great post. Olive, our little Boston Terrier, is a puppy mill rescue. She’s 5 and God only knows how many puppies she had to have in the horrible place she lived, before Kyla Duffy brought her to us. And, because she did not receive proper care, she lost an eye! Now, she’s a happy-go-lucky gal – although, she still distrusts all small dogs. We ended up with her because she took to our big dogs right away and…she won our hearts with her enthusiasm for being in a happy home. I wish there was a way to close all pet stores – I wish we could really put puppy mills (and kitty mills, they exist, too) out of work! But, the most we can do is keep being the voice for these animals, supporting and participating in rescues, and making sure the ones we save get proper homes. We LOVE our Olive!

    1. I’m so glad to hear Olive is doing well — and good for you for taking on the care of a dog who has been through so much. Of course closing pet stores is just part of the equation — I just saw an article about a puppy mill pretending to be a rescue and selling dogs on the internet! All we can do is keep writing and trying to educate people — something you and the other folks at BlogPaws are doing, in spades!

  10. Great post, Edie. These people are being portrayed as heroes and the pet store angle has been largely ignored. I think your point about SJP and Hugh Jackman is good one – in order to make other people aware of puppy mills, it really needs to start with famous faces. I know that Bernadette Peters founded Broadway Barks which promotes rescue, but I’m not aware if they also share the facts behind pet stores and puppy mills.

    1. You just reminded me of a great book I read a while back: Broadway Tails: Heartfelt Stories of Rescued Dogs who Became Showbiz Superstars. It talks about Bernadette Peters’ role in the program at the end, if I recall, but one of the details I’d forgotten was that SJP played Annie against one of the first superstar rescued dogs, who played Sandy — and was terrified of dogs! Hmmmm…..

        1. No, she doesn’t. But you should know you’ve inspired me to write the Broadway Barks folks, Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore, on the contact form of the site. They probably get tons of weird emails and one sending them to read a blog post referring to Drunken Puppy Buying might not work… but you never know! I’ll keep you (and everyone else, if it works) posted.

  11. The public education component is so critical, but in my experience, people believe what they want to believe. I have two friends who bought puppies from pet stores in the last few years. One I spoke to prior to the purchase; my husband, her spouse-equivalent, and I all tried to convince not to buy the dog she’d fallen in love with because it was probably a puppy mill product. The store owner, however, had convinced her that she never buys from puppy mills, only breeders… except the dog was a Yorkie/Maltese mix, and “real” breeders don’t mix like that! Now, to make matters worse, she bought a second, female Yorkie and is breeding the two, selling the pups for about $400/$500 each. At least she’s not mistreating them, though.

    My second friend had already bought his dog from a pet store. When I told him to expect health issues and explained the puppy mill connections, he assured me that there were no puppy mills in that province (like dogs can’t be shipped even if that’s true), and remained convinced that his dog had come from a reputable store through a reputable breeder.

    People believe what they want to believe. It can be very discouraging. Good for you (and Mel, and other crusaders) who fight the good fight.

    1. And good for you for trying to get the message across, one person at a time. Maybe the message — at least with the second person — sunk in, or will as he, sadly, realizes that your health concerns were not misplaced. And of course you have a platform now too with your blog. You’d be surprised at how “publication” makes people authorities, for better or worse, on the internet. In your case, you’ll be using your powers for the good -)

      But the bottom line is that I think if people hear this information over and over from famous people they’ll believe it. So…all we need to do is find famous people. Maybe I’ll write Bernadette Peters.

  12. I don’t have much to add as I think everyone else has said pretty much everything that can be said already. The problem is, as I said to Mel, getting people to pay attention to the stories who don’t already pay attention to animal welfare issues. We can talk and make movies and put on commercials but apparently none of this is going to reach the people who don’t already know there is a massive problem. How do we get the non-animal-welfare people to care? If Oprah can’t do it, who can?

    1. I think it will happen; these things just take time to filter into the popular consciousness. I think, for example, that Cesar Milan is finally going out of fashion as a result of a constant barrage of science-based information. Inspired by AJ (aka Pup Fan)’s comment, I went to the contact section of Broadway Barks and sent them a copy of this blog post. So far I haven’t heard back, but you never know. If we all start spreading the word, it’ll eventually get heard.

      Re Oprah: There are a lot of people who disdain what she says by virtue of the fact that she is middle America popular –and, I admit, sometimes advocates woo woo causes. The more different types of people speak out, the more others will listen.

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