Purebred Puppies for Sale Cheap – Believe it or Not
As we drove towards Ripley, MS, I really didn’t believe the Monday Trade Market could be as it was described by several area shelter directors. They had to be exaggerating.
Nancy and I surveyed the barren landscape of the drive between TN and Ripley, MS and joked on Facebook – “We’re headed to Ripley- believe it or not.”
When we arrived at the market, we missed the first entrance and turned in the next, which happened to be the dealer’s entrance. At the attendant’s booth, we learned that a spot in the dog lot was $5 a day (unless you had a trailer and then it was $8, or if you had merchandise or poultry in addition to your dog then it’s a whopping $10). We explained our mistake, told her we had no dogs to sell, and turned around to go back to the other entrance.
After we parked, we took a moment just to watch the people streaming out of the enormous outdoor market with chickens under their arms and bags of pork rinds. It reminded me of a country fair, minus the rides and the music. We have been toying with creating a podcast, so we recorded a few minutes of our reaction and thoughts and then climbed out of the Jeep and headed into the chaos.
I’d purposely not worn a shirt that said anything about rescue on it and kept my notebook and pen in my bag, not wanting anyone to think I was writing about them, judging them. Nancy hesitated with her camera, taking sly pictures here and there to capture the scene.
But soon enough, we both realized that no one cared if we took their picture, asked pointed questions, or planned to write about them. To their minds, this was just the monthly market, like all the ones before. In fact, this particular market has been around for 125 years.
We walked along the rows of booths, tables, and pick up trucks selling pretty much anything you could ever want and I asked Nancy to snap a picture of the Dewalt tools for sale to send to my husband.
Soon, though, we spotted a young couple with a tiny puppy. The young woman cradled the blue pitbull puppy that couldn’t have been more than four weeks old. Much too young to be away from its mother and siblings. She snuggled it against her side as her boyfriend tried out rifles at a booth, checking their sights. Nancy aimed her camera at them and she repeatedly turned away, probably the only camera-shy person we would meet that day.
Next, we stopped at a booth that was selling Aussie-doodle puppies for $600. They were crowded in a small metal cage and fought with each other likely out of boredom. Two little nondescript puppies in the next cage, ‘Boston Terrier-Chihuahua mix,’ were only $100. Below them in a cage, curled up in the hay, was what looked like an adult King Charles Cavalier. He starred at me blankly when I offered him a treat. Next to him was a grey scruffy dog who barely had enough room to sit upright.
The woman asked if we wanted to hold a puppy and I declined but asked how old the puppies were. Seven weeks.
We walked away and I wondered if they were vaccinated, where their littermates had gone, whether anyone who handled the puppies that day had also handled an unvaccinated dog. I thought of the puppies I fostered at my house. At seven weeks they would only have had one vaccination; I would never let anyone touch them who hadn’t washed their hands. I wouldn’t let one of those puppies leave my house, let alone be plopped down in an enormous market full of grabby strangers and unfamiliar animals.
Next, we met two Rottweiler puppies in the back of a pick-up truck. They were large and curious about us.
One of them had a small bald spot on his head that looked suspiciously like Demodex mange and I wondered what that puppy might look like in a few days after his new owners got him home and he’d been subjected to even more stress. I tried to ask about the puppies—how old they were and the odd spot but the men didn’t speak English and just shrugged at me.
We moved on to a gentleman parked in a folding chair beside a small puppy pen where two tiny shepherd puppies lounged on a filthy piece of foam. One of the puppies had a long scar down one side of his rib cage where the hair parted and red skin flared. The man told me they were seven-week-old purebred German Shepherd puppies.
Now, I’ve never seen a purebred German Shepherd puppy, but I’m pretty certain that at seven weeks, they would weigh much more than seven or eight pounds which would be a generous estimation of these puppies. As if to verify his claim, the man showed me fuzzy pictures of ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ on his cell phone—scrawny dogs cowering behind chainlink fences.
He told me that the boy pup was $175 and the girl was $200. Again, I know nothing about German Shepherds, but I imagine that purebred German Shepherd costs much more than $200. Nancy snapped pictures as we talked. He asked if I’d like to hold one and I declined, not wanting to further stress those puppies or possibly carry any kind of germs from them to the next puppies we saw. A moment later, two little girls approached and asked if they could hold the puppies, the man said, “Nah, you might drop ‘em.”
We spoke briefly with a colorful woman selling pot-belly pigs who told us she hoped to sell enough of them to pay for one of the beautiful blue mastiffs for sale up the row, a “Harry Potter dog,” she called it.
We went in search of the mastiffs and found them romping around in the back of a pickup. The couple selling them said they were Italian mastiffs and were eleven weeks old. They looked much healthier than the other puppies we saw, although later as Nancy studied the pictures she noted their runny eyes.
Beside the mastiff puppies, were three English Bulldog puppies for sale — $1500 each. They were adorable with their smooshed faces and fat bellies.
Beside them were two white German Shepherd puppies.
All of the puppies were eleven weeks old and when I commented on how much work that must be to care for so many large puppies in one house, they informed me that they had three more litters at home.
I wasn’t sure what to think of the whole scene—puppies being sold side by side with Chinese copy sunglasses, tube-socks, baseball hats, and funnel cake, but what truly broke my heart was the last booth we stopped to visit.
A skinny, older man with a wind-burned face had four dogs tied up on chains or ropes. Three were unrelated older puppies – all ‘purebreds’ that looked nothing like any particular breed he mentioned. The other was the mother of one of the dogs. They were each $50, except the ‘Great Pyrenees’ which was $100.
I asked where the dogs came from and he told me he’d bought them off a friend on Friday night, but assured me they were all real nice dogs. He picked up the ‘border collie’ and held it out to me to pet. The puppy had dull eyes and didn’t react when I fingered his ear.
I asked if they’d been vaccinated and he said, “Oh, yeah, they had a puppy pack from Tractor Supply.” When I asked if any of the animals had been spayed or neutered, he laughed and said, “They’re all-natural dogs.”
We talked for a few minutes; he had lived in the county where I currently reside in Pennsylvania and we traded a few notes. Then he said he was packing up soon.
I asked what would happen to these dogs if no one bought them and he shook his head and muttered, “Something will happen to them.”
When he registered my reaction, he laughed again and said, “I’m not no puppy-killer. Somebody will come get ‘em. People know I got puppies.”
“Will you bring them back again next month?” I asked.
He mumbled something and shook his head, and then pointed out the horse he was also selling. It stood beside the makeshift pen that corralled the mama and puppy who were chained up. The horse was saddled in case someone wanted to give it a try or maybe to hide the swayed back and prominent ribs. The horse’s hip bones stuck out sharply above his sunken flank. He hadn’t moved an inch in the time we were standing there nor reached to eat anything from the small pile of bleached hay in front of him.
This whole scene—the desperate man who obviously felt no remorse about the condition of his animals or their futures, only seeing them for the few bucks he could make; the sad dogs who never uttered a peep (the ‘great Pyrenees’ never even opened his eyes while we stood there); and that horse so obviously on his last legs—it felt like it was out of a movie. It didn’t seem real. When would the hero ride in and save these animals?
I don’t know which is more upsetting about all of it- the fact that nothing we saw was illegal in the state of Mississippi or that the people selling these animals and the people strolling the lanes thought there was nothing wrong with any of it.
It feels surreal and this is only the start of our week. We have more than a dozen more visits to make. This market was really just a curiosity stop. I heard about it and had to see it for myself. There was nothing we could do here; no way to help any of these animals. And maybe that was the most disturbing part. Even if our Powerball ticket had hit the night before and we could have bought every animal, what would that do? It would just reward these people who see an animal as no different than a rifle or an ‘I’m a Mississippi Girl’ t-shirt—a way to make a buck.
I don’t have an answer. These images will follow me around all week as we talk to shelter directors and rescue workers and listen to their stories, maybe helping us understand what they are up against in this southern culture.
I want to believe that we are better than this. That the people buying and selling dogs at the market in Ripley are simply ignorant. That if they knew better they would do better.
Until every cage is empty,
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My upcoming book, One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues (Pegasus Books, July 7, 2020) tells the story of not only our foster experience but how Who Will Let the Dogs Out began. A portion of proceeds of every book sold will go to help unwanted animals in the south. It is available for preorder now.
This is the saddest thing you’ve ever written, Cara. <3
There are people in this remote and impoverished part of Colorado who do the same. Because of the growing activism on behalf of dogs down here, they can't do it easily, they can't get a breeder's license easily.
There are licensed breeders (backyard breeders) of golden retrievers, Mini-Aussies (Teddy), pits, cattle dogs and border collies. Some breeders here are responsible responding to a need for working dogs here. People who buy those puppies get a good dog and the chance to see the parent dogs at work. Maybe that's OK. Even though I'm fundamentally opposed to breeding dogs, I understand a rancher seeking out a working dog with predictable genetics. Still, it bothers me. I have two purebred dogs right here in my living room that I got at a shelter.
Last year an Amish family sought a license to breed dogs — Aussies. There was (thank goodness) a large hue and cry, but they did get the license. They also found out that most of their neighbors don't like it and their breeding facility is inspected often. Out in the "off grid" places in the valley, though, where the well-armed anarchists live, this happens especially breeders of pit bulls. Human poverty is a huge factor here and I wish I had a magic wand. I'd put a secure income in their pockets, and provide homes for all their dogs. <3
I am so grateful for your courage. I couldn't have born what you've just seen and written about.
P.S. Both Bear and Teddy were bred as working dogs. They’re some old lady’s pets. 🙁
Thank you, Martha. It was incredibly sad. I don’t know why we went to see it, probably because I couldn’t believe it was really happening. So heartbreaking on many levels, but what continues to haunt me is that SO many people know about this market and no one does anything about it.
Poverty is a big piece of the problem. Pretty much everywhere I’ve gone where dogs suffer there is poverty too and the worse the poverty, the worse it is for the dogs. We probably can’t ever fix our dog problems until we fix our people problems. But the dogs can’t speak for themselves, so I feel compelled to continue to share the situation in the hopes that those who care will try to bridge the gaps and help these animals, at the very least move them to better places.
I live in Mississippi and all decent animal owners are ashamed of what happens in Ripley. We have tried in vain to get the laws changed. We are as heartsick over it as anyone who loves and cares for the animals the good Lord has entrusted us with. Most of my friends rescue or foster animals and/or spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on their own pets each year, ensuring they are healthy and have the best quality of life possible throughout their lives. Puppy mills and Ripley are not acceptable by anyone I know, and I am sad to read them described as part of our culture.
you are not alone – we met so many amazing individuals stepping up for animals in MS. hopefully as more and more people find out about what goes on at Ripley not just in MS, but everywhere, pressure will build to put an end to it. Keep speaking up. I believe MS will change, right now it’s too slow for my (and I’m sure yours) heart. so we will keep talking, posting, reporting, sharing. Change will come. #togetherwerescue
Sadly, this isn’t the only market. Since visiting and writing about it, I’ve been told about dozens of others. What is hardest for me to believe is that communities stand for it. If there weren’t plenty of people shopping these markets for puppise and dogs, the ‘breeders’ and dealers would find something else to sell. I also learned that sometimes there are medical schools who are there buying animals for teaching and testing. The sadness of this situation takes my breath away.
Here in South Carolina, seeing dogs for sale at flea markets or “jockey lots” is a common sight. In fact, that’s where I got my first dog, when my husband and I were first married and knew nothing about what was going on. I still have that puppy – he is sleeping at my feet as I type. He will be 13 years old this year. That particular flea market had a row of stalls known as “puppy row.” You could buy cocker spaniels, Yorkies, bulldogs, German Shepherds, dachshunds – just about any breed, at well below what you would pay from a reputable breeder. It’s a thriving business.
We found our puppy in a stall in another part of the flea market – a pom-a-pug-a-poo, so we were told. The seller told us she didn’t like to sell in puppy row because of all the diseases, and that our puppy was raised in the house with the family. She gave us papers and everything. We thought we were making a better choice. We thought we were buying from a “real” breeder. Was it true? I have no idea. But I know that’s a decision I would never make again.
The point is, I think you are right that so much of this is fed by ignorance on the part of the buyer. That was the case for us. We figured these were families breeding a few litters in the backyard and selling them the best way they knew how. We were so naive.
When you know better, you do better. What you’re doing to spread awareness is so very important, especially here in the south where dogs are basically commodities. Thanks for making a difference
Once I found a six year old Siberian husky on Craigslist. I arranged to see her. When I arrived at her “home” I saw she was a breeding bitch for a backyard breeder. Well, I thought, “OK, she needs a home and I’m an experienced husky owner.” I planned to have her spayed within the next couple of day. She had NEVER spent a night in a house. Within a few minutes, she tried to kill one of my dogs. I tried crating her and she broke out of an extremely secure crate. We made it through the night by me leashing her to the post of my bed. In that VERY short period of time she had (wild thing that she was) bonded to me like super glue and had decided that all other dogs must die. Very strange for a husky, but given her life story, I wasn’t surprised. I had to take her back to those miserable people. I know the people were afraid I’d call the cops on them. I wish I had.
Thanks for sharing this – I think your story is very common. So many simply don’t know better – that doesn’t make them bad people – just uninformed people.
Cara, this is so troubling to read, but I’m sad to say that none of it shocked me. I live in a rural county in Florida, north of Tampa, and what you described is pretty much the mindset around here. There are those of us here who are outsiders who are different, but the majority of the natives think of dogs, horses, pigs, chickens and the like as animals. Period. They are worth something to sell or eat, and apparently they are worth something to collect, judging by the tied-up dogs and ribby horses that you see in front of nearly every ramshackle mobile home in the county. They may have tarps on their leaky roofs because they have no money for repairs, but they have horses, chickens and a couple of hunting dogs. Our local shelter is small, smelly, noisy and overloaded with dogs and cats. I’m not judging these folks; they are caught in a vicious circle of ignorance and poverty. They don’t seem to want anything different as they think there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way things are. Unless it’s REALLY awful – dying animals in hoarding situations – nothing much is done by officials, who are overwhelmed or simply look the other way because of a very extensive good old boy network. We have a chronic offender in the neighborhood who has had animals removed from his property. Inevitably he gets more. Currently he has a dog tied to a tree, and an elderly, lonely mare living in the garbage in his front yard. I do what I can by donating food and supplies to the shelter, or giving that good mare alfalfa cubes on my morning walks. When our old lab passes we will adopt someone’s unwanted dog. For now it seems like it will be us and them until there is real social change in this country. Thank God for those who care as much as you do, and for putting a spotlight on these ugly truths.
I’m so glad that people like you are out there – setting an example for your neighbors and trying to help the animals you can. As more and more people become come to see animals differently because of personal experience, education or example, things will change. But you’re right – until the economic issues are resolved it is hard for many people to view companion animals as more than property or livestock– something they can discard or neglect or try to make a buck selling. Thank you for giving your neighbor’s mare the alfalfa cube –I like that visual, you helping to make her day a little easier, just like when we hand treats and toys to the dogs we visit in these difficult situations.
Hello Thanks for the info on these beautiful puppies!
It’s been very hard finding an affordable puppies in this Coronavirus era. My Baby pass away last October. I was planning to get another Family member in April 2020. But It’s been very difficult find one. Keep Safe in keep me posted!
Desire ‘ Hayes
Cara, I have visited this market just recently, as I live in Saltillo – a small town just north of Tupelo. I have seen first hand the tragedy these babies are living in. One in particular sticks out in my mind. He/She was a very small beagle mix. Chained with a heavy chain in the hot sun, water filled with dog food and flies, and so emaciated. I was heartbroken, but you could tell this pup was on it’s last breath. It didn’t move other than the shallow breaths it took while we tried to decide if it was alive or not. I hope and pray that the owner of this market finally gets what’s coming to him. He’s been denying any wrong-doing at all for years, and even went so far as to tell the local news (WTVA) that the photos they posted on their channel weren’t even from his market.
It is, by far, one of the saddest places I have been. It’s so hard to believe it’s gone on so long. All we can do is keep telling people and posting videos. It astounds me that the local government or the National Humane Society MS rep have not stepped in to stop it. We will keep talking about it. I’m working on a podcast about our visit that I hope to finish soon. Keep telling people, keep speaking up. That’s the only way change will happen!
Thank you for writing about this. I grew up being taken to this god forsaken place. It is hell for animals. I now run my own rescue in West TN called Funny Farm Rescue Ranch and we adopt mostly to the northeast where they dont have the massive overpopulation problem we do. And they dont seem the have the same stereotypical attitudes about pets like so many southerners. They actually treat their pets like family members. I’m so thankful for what I call our northern angels. Ive been doing this 14 years now and it just doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Its terribly sad that we are in the 21st century and still treat animals so poorly.
Thank you for what you are doing in an area that desperately needs TN angels. It is well past time that we fix this situation. I am determined to shine a light on the dogs (and people who care for them) who are suffering in too many parts of the south (and elsewhere, but mostly the south). It is crazy that this dog-loving country would allow it to go one and I am certain that if they know about it, they will help. The next time we are down in TN, I’d love to visit and share your story. #togetherWeRescue
Rescues and shelters in east central Mississippi work with the College of Veterinary medicine at Mississippi State University to send animals north in a program called Homeward Bound. There are shelters rhroughout our state that are operayed and supported by intelligent, compassionate staff, volunteers, donors and fosters.
That is so refreshing to hear! We only made a few stops in MS. Next time we are down that way, we will look up Homeward Bound and be sure to shine a light on the work they are doing. Thanks for letting us know!
I was completely out of my mind when I heard from a rescue group in. An Amish family had lots of crates with moms and babies in them. When the mon was too old, they would shoot her and get another mom. These crates were tiny. They couldn’t stand up in them, the moms. I mean, they just laid their babies were born and no longer useful. This rescue convinced the father to leave them by the road they would rescue them. It was a very long Tim’s before they could even stand up. Thanks for listening.. sherry
It is so incredibly heartbreaking when dogs and puppies are viewed as a commodity or a way to make money instead of as a living being with a heart and soul. We have to put an end to this – we as a compassionate society should not stand for it.
Our bulldog of 12 years recently died from cancer. She was a part of our family., that we miss very much. We are at a point seeking another dog/family member and are reaching out to adopt . Please respond if you have a network to these beautiful dogs. Sdwhitt@hotmail.com Thank you.
Dean – you can often find bulldogs and bulldog mixes at shelters and rescues. In fact, bull dogs are too often destroyed in shelters and dog pounds for want of an adopter. I hope you will choose to rescue. If you need help finding a shelter or rescue, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see if we can find one in your area.
I lost my dad and want a puppy