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What Reader’s Digest Missed in Its Coverage of Pet Store Practices


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In the August issue of Reader’s Digest, contributor Michelle Crouch wrote a column ostensibly about pet store practices. PIJAC made several attempts to contact Reader’s Digest with corrections on important matters related to sourcing, dealer partnerships, overcrowding, pet illnesses and pet store-recommended veterinarians.

Reader’s Digest has not responded to PIJAC’s concerns. Therefore, we are publishing the below corrections to Crouch here to amend the record:

First, Crouch claimed that pet stores sell dogs from puppy mills. This is a slur by animal activists that has no basis in fact, as a) federal law prohibits the purchase of dogs from unlicensed breeders, b) a number of states have stringent breeder regulations that are backed and, often, introduced by pet stores, c) the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reformed and dramatically improved its oversight processes since the 2010 report Crouch referenced, and d) the responsible pet industry, including pet stores, abhors unethical and illegal breeding practices.

In fact, several states with the most stringent breeder regulations had those standards introduced by pet stores. For example, pet stores introduced Virginia’s law, which was enacted this spring, and a law in Illinois, which is expected to be signed by the governor. These laws are in addition to the Canine Care Certified standards, which are industry breeder qualifications that go far above any existing laws. 

Second, Crouch claimed that pet stores “sometimes work with unethical dealers.” This statement fails to distinguish between dealers that are ethical but make a mistake and actual unethical dealers. Furthermore, numerous laws and industry standards hold dealers to best practices, which means rare cases such as the one cited by Crouch are quickly handled.

Regarding alleged overcrowding, pet stores typically house animals for just a few days—and in spaces that are designed to be the right size for each pet. Crouch’s concerns about overcrowding and ethical dealers have already been addressed by pet professionals—both independently by most dealers and stores, and industrywide through a series of uniform standards that our organization developed and introduced for bird, reptile, and small mammal breeders and distributors.

Crouch also erred in saying prospective pet owners shouldn’t “be surprised if the pet we sold you has parasites, a respiratory infection or a more serious disease.” It is best practice for pet stores and breeders alike to have pets seen by a veterinarian before being sold. A number of states have the same requirement. These are in addition to industry standards of veterinary checks, flea prevention measures and more—included in Canine Care Standards and PIJAC’s uniform standards.

It is notable that states with consumer warranty laws only apply them to pet stores. No other entity is held to this appropriate level of customer and pet accountability.

Lastly, Crouch says veterinarians recommended by stores are not to be trusted. In fact, veterinarians take an oath to serve the “health and welfare” of animals. Furthermore, just as Crouch is trusted by her readers, retail businesses are frequently a trusted partner to pet lovers. Quality veterinarians should be recommended by pet stores for the health and welfare of pets and pet lovers alike.


Laura “Peach” Reid is the CEO of Fish Mart, Inc. and the first female chair of the board of directors for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). Mike Bober is president and CEO of PIJAC.

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