What Happens to Puppies that Don’t Sell?

Have you ever wondered what happens to pet store puppies that aren’t sold?  If you’ve been to a pet store recently and saw an older puppy, you might have experienced a gut-level concern for that puppy. Customers may have been overlooking the older puppy in favor of playing with the new arrivals, and it made […]

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Have you ever wondered what happens to pet store puppies that aren’t sold? 

If you’ve been to a pet store recently and saw an older puppy, you might have experienced a gut-level concern for that puppy. Customers may have been overlooking the older puppy in favor of playing with the new arrivals, and it made you want to take the older puppy home. After all, who knows what will happen to the poor little guy if you don’t save him from being overlooked at the pet store?

There has been a huge rise in animal welfare with regard to pet store puppies specifically. Some responsible pet owners avoid patronizing pet stores all together because they assume all pet store puppies come from puppy mills. 

Other responsible pet owners do a great deal of research in order to make sure that they work with an ethical pet store or breeder. Yet, there may be lingering concerns about what happens to older pet store puppies that don’t get sold. Can even an ethical pet store be trusted to ensure the welfare of older puppies that aren’t sold?

Petland Kansas City is going to address this concern. In this article, we’ll take an honest look at all the possibilities that older, unsold puppies face. While we can’t speak in specific detail about other breeders and pet stores, we will be transparent about sharing our own protocols and policies.  


Within the pet industry, which is wildly unregulated, there are several outcomes for puppies that do not get sold. The outcomes themselves, some of which are grim and others of which are ideal, always depend on the ethical standards, or lack thereof, of the particular pet store in question.


Before we dive in, we would like to take a moment to strongly encourage you to research and talk to whichever pet store you’re considering buying a puppy from. Ask about their standards, as well as the standards of the breeding kennels they work with. And of course, ask them about what they do if and when their older puppies don’t get sold. 

The first thing you should know about “pet industry norms” is that they can range widely. An older unsold puppy could be euthanized. The puppy could be sold back to the breeder. The puppy could be gifted as part of a promotional giveaway. Or the puppy could be used as a breeding parent dog. And those are only a handful of options. Others exist as well. 


Let us first state, as a policy, Petland Kansas City does not euthanize, meaning destroy, unsold puppies. Destroying puppies is against our ethics, period. 

We’ve also mastered the art of receiving the perfect quantities of puppies from the breeders we work with. Meaning, we analyze past sales data to accurately project the number of puppies we’ll be able to sell in a given time frame. If we’re confident we can sell 5 Golden Retrievers, because our sales record showed we were able to sell 6 or 7 during the prior period, then we will request 5 Golden Retrievers from one of our breeders. 

We would rather have customers requesting puppy breeds that we sold out of, than have too many puppies that we are unable to sell. 

Secondly, in terms of the puppies we take on from our breeders, we have an established track record of successfully placing puppies in loving homes via sales. That being said, our policy is that if we are not able to sell a puppy, we will give the puppy away as a gift, whether via a giveaway or donating the puppy to a veteran, nursing home, special needs center, or similar.

But not all pet stores function like Petland Kansas City. 


Typically speaking, pet stores work with dog breeders on a contract basis. Since pet stores are not breeding facilities, a pet store will enter into business relationships with one or more breeders. Those relationships are contracted so that both parties have security. But in special instances, the relationship could be informal. 

These contracts include a clause that assigns one of the parties (either the pet store or the breeder) to carry the “burden” of managing unsold puppies. If the breeder is responsible for managing unsold puppies, then there is always a buy-back clause. Meaning, that the pet store will “sell” the puppies back to the breeder. 

Due to the fact that euthanizing a puppy comes at a cost, just like feeding and caring for a puppy does, the party who is responsible for the fate of the puppy will conduct a cost / benefit analysis which assesses the costs of temporarily caring for the puppy while trying to find it a home versus the costs of destroying the puppy to discontinue the expense of keeping it alive. 

Because selling a puppy at any cost is better than expending money, the pet store or breeder who is dealing with the older, unsold puppy will first lower the cost of the puppy again and again in the hopes that they can sell the puppy for something

The relationships that Petland Kansas City has with our breeders keeps the responsibility of selling puppies on us. We do not sell our puppies back to the breeders we work with. As part of our store policy, we lower the retail price as our unsold puppies age to encourage sales. And like we mentioned earlier in this article, if lowering the price doesn’t result in a loving family buying the puppy, then we will give the puppy away to a loving individual or family as a gift. 


When you are researching pet stores in your local area to determine if buying a pet store puppy is right for you, we recommend that you ask the pet stores what their policy is regarding unsold puppies. Also, take a look around the pet store. Are there older puppies there that are being sold at discounted rates? This could be a sign that the pet store is working very hard to place the puppies in good homes. It’s worth it to ask questions. Do they return unsold puppies to their breeders? Who are the breeders? You can research those businesses, as well.


The fact of the matter is that there are responsible, ethical pet stores out there, but it will take some extra leg work and research on your end to identify them.

You can learn more about Petland Kansas City’s puppies and the breeders we work with by visiting the Cares page on our website.

We hope that you found this article helpful and informative. If you’re in Kansas City, we welcome you to stop by any of our pet stores to speak with our knowledgeable pet counselors about the specific giveaways and donation programs that we have run in the past to home our older, unsold puppies. 

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