Unveiling the Dark Realities of the Pet Trade

Star file pic

Much is said about the cruelties involved in the pet industry but many pet buyers who purchase their pets from pet shops are ignorant or unaware of where the breeds – purebreds, crossbreeds, or mixed breeds – originate from.

Puppy mills and backyard breeders are the well-kept secret of the pet trade industry. Often hidden from public view, these breeding facilities mass produce dogs for sale through pet stores, or directly to consumers through the internet. These establishments house dogs in horrendous conditions with serious deficiencies such as inadequate housing, and puppies in cramped, dirty quarters with insufficient food, water, veterinary care or socialization. Furthermore, the animals produced are considered commodities, subject to the whims of their owners, who can choose to keep or discard them at will.

Puppies in pet stores are primarily sourced from puppy mills, where they are handled like goods on the shelves of stores. The fact that they are sentient life forms with the ability to feel pain and suffering is completely disregarded. Pet enthusiasts who buy animals from these stores often rely solely on the owner’s assurance of the animals’ well-being, lacking firsthand insight into their actual living conditions.

Breeders are primarily concerned with quantity, not quality.  Their primary goal is breeding females at every opportunity to churn out as many litters as possible with little to no recovery time in between. When breeding females are physically exhausted to the point that they can no longer reproduce, they are either sold off cheaply or abandoned. Currently, backyard breeders are unregulated and unmonitored.  Occasionally they are into breeding mixed breeds but they frequently lie, claiming that their dogs are purebred. There is no concern about the puppies inheriting any genetic defects, undesirable traits or behavioural disorders.

Few prospective dog buyers take the time to research the characteristics and requirements of the breed they are considering.  When there is a boom in demand for a specific breed, particularly when Hollywood produces a canine film, unscrupulous breeders attempt to meet the demand due to the profit margin. However, when the dogs do not turn out like their fictional counterparts, animal shelters become overcrowded with these breeds.

Buyers may be misled by adorable pups and kittens that are torn from their mothers at approximately eight weeks when their immune systems are weak and transferred in cages for resale to pet retailers.  The experience of being separated from their mothers and transitioning to an environment where sanitary conditions may be lacking for these puppies to endure. Often, puppies that are unwell or have flaws are sold to the public without full disclosure of their exact condition at the time of sale.

Consequently, many puppies are abandoned within weeks of purchase because unsuspecting buyers are unable to deal with the animals’ unsociable or maladjusted behaviour, thereby overwhelming animal shelters and rescue groups with young offspring. Pet shops should stop selling puppies and kittens for reasons that buyers continue to buy new pets year after year while thousands of animals languish in shelters.

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) would like to welcome the Selangor government’s plan to prohibit the sale of cats and dogs in pet shops, implemented in June of last year. It is an appropriate move, as the pet industry is only interested in profiting from high-volume animal sales.  Buying pet shop animals on the spur of the moment is common, with little regard for the anguish endured by the mother dogs and cats as they see their young taken away within weeks of birth, while they lie helpless confined in a small space.

Other than puppies and kittens, backyard breeders also raise exotic pets, such as hedgehogs which were reported to be in poor health with mite infestations, fungus, wounds and respiratory difficulties.  Selangor’s attempt to prohibit the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores is encouraging, but it may not deter puppy mill breeders from breeding irresponsibly and they will resort to alternative methods of selling them, particularly over the internet.

Malaysia’s pet industry is loosely regulated because there are no specific laws governing puppy mills and backyard breeders. These establishments are currently unregulated and unmonitored, which contributes to over-population and abuse.  It is time to start enacting legislation to better regulate the pet industry.  The best option is to set a minimum standard of humane care while improving veterinary care and animal protection laws.  However, as long as profits can be made, the pet industry has little incentive to voluntarily change its practices.

The real solution lies in convincing people not to buy animals.  As long as there is a demand for pets, a profit-oriented industry will be ready to supply them. Therefore, CAP would like to call on the government to enact a legislation regulating the pet industry.



Mohideen Abdul Kader
Consumers Association of Penang

Press Statement, 20 May 2024