Sorry.. My opinion..
Sorry folks. You have a wonderful community here, and I can tell you all care about your pets very much, but I cannot agree with everything you all are saying.
When it comes to breeders, I agree with your comments, get the papers, get your references, do your homework. Make sure your breeder is reputable, or go somewhere else.
As for pet stores, it is impossible to lump them all together. Yes, some of the pet stores out there, unfortunately a LARGE number of them, do match what you are saying about them. There are however, decent pet stores around. Once again, you must do your homework before shopping with them. Just like any other business: some get away with bad things, and they all get a bad name because of it. I have worked in a number of pet stores myself, and yes I have seen many things I do not agree with. I will not name any names however. I have seen many things that I DO agree with, that are common misconceptions by customers and the general public as well. Don't be misled by silly rumours and heresay.
Just because a dog in a pet store comes down with a disease, does not mean they were born in a puppy mill. If your child goes to school sick, are you automatically accused of child abuse? I don't think so. Even puppies are not immune, with or without their shots, with or without proper care.
As for cats in pet stores, often they Do come from irresponsible pet owners. I for one an a BIG advocate of neutering your animal. However, if you do have an accident, and your pet gets pregnant, would you rather have a responsible pet store take care of them, expose them to the higher traffic and get them a home, after having them checked out by a veterinarian? Or would you rather give them away at a yard sale, with no guarantees, no shots, no background, and not much chance of finding homes for them in a short time? How many people do you know who can actually handle 8 kittens or 8 or 9 puppies in a small house?
Yes these people should be slapped for allowing their pet to run free in heat, but those animals need homes too. Simple fact is, if the pet store IS legitimate, and will take them to a veterinarian for shots and inspections, they can expose the animal to a much higher volume of traffic than any simple consumer, and can find these animals homes faster.
Just because a store deals with a homeless shelter and adopts animals out, does not give them any more credit to their cause. Do some research on many of these shelters, including the SPCA, and you will find as bad of a history of complaints as many of the pets stores you all are complaining about. In many cases, I'm sure you will find worse.
Many complaints pet stores do recieve are from well meaning people who do not stop to ask a staff member about a problem. I have seen the SPCA called into a store because there is a small peice of fecal matter in the bottom of the puppies kennel. Most people do not understand that these puppies are young enough they have not been house trained as of yet, and they do tend to make messes in their kennel, which staff will attempt to clean up as soon as possible. Immediately is not always possible, as any retail worker will tell you.
Now I am not defending any specific pet store, nor am I condoning the practice of pet stores selling puppies and kittens, etc. I will never condone the running of puppy mills, and I will be right there beside any one of you to shut these illegal operations down. However, You should take each case as an individual case. Lumping EVERY pet store together is like saying all Men are bad because your boyfriend cheated on you. It's impossible to rate every store based on the bad ones you hear about. You notice good pet stores with reputable practices don't often make the news.
All I can say is keep an open mind, don't automatically assume everyone is bad, and DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE BUYING ANY ANIMAL!!!