By Zoe Spooner


What should you consider when deciding whether to buy a puppy from a pet store or an animal shelter?




Pet store
Pet store puppies sometimes come from puppy mills, which means they are not the result of careful breeding and are usually not well cared for before coming to the store. Some common illnesses and conditions are neurological problems, eye problems, hip dysplasia, blood disorders and Canine Parvovirus.


Animal shelter
Although you don’t always know the history of shelter animals, all animals undergo rigorous veterinary treatment to ensure they are in the best physical and mental state before adoption. Dogs that may be affected by common illnesses are treated with the appropriate medication, and never adopted out until a clean bill of health has been given. Add to that, shelters often invite you and your pet back for further treatment or advice.


Behavioural problems


Pet store
As breeding is often done at random and without careful judgement, behavioural problems are not usually weeded out. You’ll also find that the staff in a pet store are not likely to have had much training in identifying any behaviour issues that animals may have, so the puppies continue to do the wrong things, which become habit.


Animal shelter
Animal shelters are often run by experienced animal professionals that are equipped in identifying and dealing with any behavioural issues the animal presents. Animals will undergo behavioural assessments upon arrival to determine their demeanour to other animals, children, etc. Furthermore, animals may receive further training to overcome many of these issues to make them more “adoptable”.




Pet store
Pet stores pups are often pulled away from their litter at around four or five weeks, which is far too young. The earliest a puppy can be separated from his pack is eight weeks, but really it should be 10–12 weeks. This lack of time socialising with his siblings means that puppy will not develop important canine skills.


Animal shelter
Puppies that are brought to a shelter will have an age assessment and will not be adopted out until they are age appropriate. If possible, animals of a similar age will be housed together, to ensure proper socialisation occurs, and young animals may undergo socialisation training.


Available information


Pet store
Staff at pet stores may have limited knowledge about specific breeds, or dogs in general. Purchasing a puppy from a store means you are not likely to get the full low-down on that breed or help with any behavioural or other questions.


Animal shelter
Shelters aim to hire staff members that have a broad range of animal experience, especially animals housed within that shelter, such as dogs and cats. These staff members will have experience identifying and dealing with animal training, animal socialisation, behavioural and medical issues, and are generally overseen by experienced managers.


Can I return?


Pet store
Most pet stores do offer a warranty of sorts (around one week) where you can bring the puppy back if it has any issues, such as health problems declared by a veterinarian. However, what they don’t tend to tell customers is that the puppy’s fate, once returned, is most likely euthanasia.


Animal shelter
Most shelters will offer a one or two day trial for you to get a feel for the animal in your own home so you can make an informed decision. Although shelters will allow you to return adoptions if the fit isn’t right or there are severe problems, in most cases, the staff members will work with you and encourage you to continue trying. They will recommend training and behavioural solutions that suit both you and your animal. If you still feel the need to return the animal, then the staff members will endeavour to find a better fit for that animal.


Adoption fee


Pet store
A puppy from a pet store generally costs between $400 and $2,000.


Animal shelter
Adoption fees at shelters are almost always less than a pet store. The fee you pay to adopt an animal goes towards helping other animals in the shelter, and will include ensuring the animal you adopt is microchipped, vaccinated and desexed.


Animal shelters in the northern suburbs:


RSPCA – Epping
335 O’Herns Road, Epping
(03) 9408 7356


The Lost Dogs Home
2 Gracie Street, North Melbourne
(03) 9329 2755


Lort Smith
24 Villiers Street North Melbourne
Kennels (03) 9321 7260
Cattery (03) 9321 7240

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