The overwhelming majority of pet store puppies come from puppy mills. Puppy mills are nothing more than inhumane breeding factories. If you ever see a Kerry in pet store, DON'T BUY IT. Not only will you be perpetuating the abomination of puppy mills and condemning its parents to a life of untold misery (despite what the shopkeepers tell you!), but that puppy in the window will cause you untold heartache and expense.
A Kerry should remain with its mother for 10 weeks. However the younger the puppy is when it gets to the store, the cuter--and more marketable--it is. Puppies are taken from their mothers often at 4 to 6-weeks of age, sold to a broker, sometimes "fattened up," then sold and shipped to pet stores by the time they are 8 weeks old. "Separated from their mother too soon, and deprived of any meaningful human contact, many puppy mill dogs are poorly socialized. They may not get along with other dogs and are often not good with people, especially young children."(1) And because of overcrowded conditions and continuous inbreeding, puppy mill puppies are likely to have unsound temperaments. Aggression is common.
Pet store puppies require extra training effort and some of them may be beyond any hope of reform. You will be faced with expensive training bills or the prospect of euthanasia of your "cute" puppy because of unstable temperament.
According to animal control in Inyo and Mono counties (CA), most puppy mills they raid are "filthy, the dogs are not fed on a regular basis, and many times had no water. Often the dogs are very thin, dirty, matted, and many had coccidia." (1) During the first ten weeks, sanitation is extremely important to allow the puppy to be healthy during its development phase.
Squalid conditions in puppy mills are breeding grounds for the following conditions that are common in pet store puppies: worms, upper respiratory infections, ear and eye infections, mange, coccidia, and giardia.
Lack of sanitation during early puppyhood will cause lingering health problems. According to the HSUS, "half the puppies sold in pet stores are ill or incubating a disease." (1) Parvo, distemper, and innumerable genetic defects are common in pet store puppies, and their symptoms may not appear right away. Poor circulation and close quarters in pet stores also contribute to the passing of contagious diseases.
Puppy mills don't care about the health of the mother either. They are bred every season until they are four or five years old, receive little or no veterinary attention, are given only enough food to keep them alive, and then are euthanized, shot, or bludgeoned to death when they can no longer produce puppies.
Kerries bred by responsible breeders have few genetic problems. Pet store puppies are far more likely to carry serious genetic defects, including hip dysplasia, thyroid conditions, eye diseases leading to blindness (such as PRA--progressive retinal atrophy), liver and heart diseases, skin and allergy disorders, autoimmune disorders, and seizures. The parents of pet store puppies have not been screened by OFA for hip dysplasia, or been certified by CERF against genetic eye diseases. Neither have they been tested for Factor IX, von Willibrands, thyroid, or had any other tests for genetic abnormalities. Indiscriminate breeding in puppy mills creates serious health risks, as well as serious behavior problems. (3)
Unsound breeding practices
Puppy mills have no incentive to bred selectively to improve the breed. The AKC itself admits that its seal has never guaranteed either the pet's health or the quality of its upbringing; the papers simply record what the dog's breeder has told the AKC. AKC puppies are NOT necessarily purebred dogs! Puppy mills who have been suspended from AKC registration (often for noncompliance with AKC regulations regarding record-keeping) are simply registering their puppies with sham registries, such as the Continental Kennel Club (CKC), ACA (American Canine Association), APR (American Purebred Registry), and others.
Pet store Kerries often have incorrectly docked tails (either too long or too short). (3) And they bear little resemblance to the breed standard adopted by the AKC, put forth by the United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club. Poor head structure, body structure, and coat color and texture means that the pet store puppy will never look anything like the champion show Kerry that may have attracted you to the breed in the first place.
Pet stores won't help you match your life style with a particular breed. They will sell you whatever you like. Nor will you be able to get advice for the particular needs of the breed you selected, let alone referrals for ear pasting (recommended for all Kerry puppies--not just show prospects), grooming, training, or anything else. A respectable breeder provides all that, and much more.
A survey done by the local humane society shows that only 4% of people who bought a puppy in a pet store would go back to the store for another one. (1)
Don't perpetuate the problem
"People who think they are 'rescuing' a puppy by purchasing it from a pet store are only perpetuating this cruel business." (2) Does anyone really believe that pet stores care who is paying for their puppies, what their motive is, and what the future life of the dog will be? "It is heartbreaking to see a puppy sitting lonely and possibly ill in a pet shop display cage. But you have to look at the big picture -- how many puppies will be condemned to the same fate?" (2) Each puppy your "rescue" will be replaced with another one, while its mother is literally bred to death.
According to some vets, almost all pet store puppies with medical problems brought in by their customers were returned to the store. (3) And what happens to them then?
In summary, don't ever, ever buy your pet from a pet store. Instead interview several Kerry breeders and do your research about the breed. To find a responsible breeder, see How Do You Choose a Kerry Breeder?, by Janet Joers and Finding a Responsible Kerry Breeder, by Lisa Frankland. Adding a new member to your family--one who will hopefully be with you for 15 years or more--is an important decision. Do it right.
If you ever find a Kerry in a pet store, follow these instruction.
(1) The Shame of the Pet Industry, by Marianne Skoczek, in Pawprint, Winter 1997.
(2) Lisa Frankland, former Rescue Coordinator for the Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Southern California, as quoted on KerryBlues-L, a newslist for Kerry Blue fanciers.
(3) Edith Izant, former President of the Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Southern California, as quoted on KerryBlues-L, a newslist for Kerry Blue fanciers.