As the debate continues over whether or not to allow the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats in pet stores, the public rhetoric is heating up as well. On one side, you have pet lovers fighting for change and against animal cruelty. On the other side, you have big money special interest groups battling to keep their pockets full. As the pet store debate continues, there’s a lot of misinformation floating around.
The Regional News posted an editorial Friday night – Words of advice for ‘puppy mill’ debaters - that pilloried those fighting for change in the pet store debate by offering condescending advice, much of it inaccurate. As the editorial looked down on those who have been fighting to change the status quo, the author confused some of the players, publically calling out one group for the actions being done by another.
As I read the editorial, I wondered if the writer has truly been watching the pet store debate and taking notes. As the writer winds up and lets loose against The Puppy Mill Project, I don’t think he even realized that most of his complaints about behavior are focusing on activity that has gone on in the debate…but by other groups in this fight.
The Puppy Mill Project
I’ve been on the streets, in meetings, at hearings and close to the work that has been done by The Puppy Mill Project for the past two and a half years. This is a group that does copious amounts of homework before they protest (peacefully) or work to change laws. When they talk about the puppy mill/pet store connection, there are reams of paperwork from USDA inspections and deliveries to pet stores throughout Illinois to back up those claims.
At the Chicago and Cook County hearings, what you describe doesn’t fit with the ladies who testified and provided information. It's insulting to say that is how they behaved. The actions you described didn't happen in Orland Park either. They articulately make their point with out the drama and negativity they are accused of in this "editorial."
When the debate moved to Orland Park, there were many players in the room. The Puppy Mill Project was one of several there to testify. They didn’t shout at those that disagree or act like angry children on a playground. The slanderous t-shirts or waging war against one particular pet shop weren’t being worn by The Puppy Mill Project…their shirts say “Learn the Truth”. I should know, I own one.
Setting it straight
So, if you want to write an editorial to slam one group…get it right. To use your own words, stick to the facts and focus on what can be substantiated. Here are a few key other components to the debate:
- When people are promised one thing and sold another, it’s consumer fraud not just disgruntled dog owners. When owners have purchased sick dogs, there are veterinary records from before and after the sale, USDA breeder records, testimony from pet store workers and contracts to back up that emotion-based testimony.
Comparing the consumer fraud that is currently happening to pet stores with a disgruntled customer at Jewel is ‘nonsensical.’ At pet stores, consumers are told they are purchasing one thing – a dog from a respectable breeder – and sold another – a dog from a puppy mill. Those dog breeding operations are poster farms for animal cruelty…it’s much more than disgruntled customers.
- An inhumane breeder is an inhumane breeder. That is true and there are breeders in many religious groups. However, the number of puppy mills in the Amish communities continues to rise and if you look at the USDA reports, some of the worst of the worst are in those communities. Under the guise of their religion and beliefs, you have a group of breeders that faces fewer checks and balances than those not living in seclusion under a protected society. And, as a group they may be pacifists to other people…but not to the dogs being bred inhumanely in their mills.
As a group, The Puppy Mill Project hasn’t gone to war against one particular pet store. They have worked with several stores to move to a humane model that features the adoption of rescue animals. They do work to educate consumers and to help them do their homework before adding a pet from a pet store to their family (you should do your homework prior to adoption as well).
- The Puppy Mill Project isn’t moving to ban all pet sales, just those from irresponsible breeders. There are many breeders out there that are careful about how they breed. They are not in it for the profit and don’t sell their dogs through pet stores. In fact, their breeder groups prohibit that behavior.
- Commercial breeding operations must be in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act. To be in compliance, breeders must meet minimal standards for food, water and care. Breeding dogs that don't get enough clean water or enough nutrition can be kept in cages just six inches larger than they are for life...that is considered "OK". Breeding dogs are not checked to see that congenital issues are passed down, don't get veterinary care, don't get positive human contact or socialization. Plain and simple - they don't get to just run in the yard like a normal dog.
I encourage you to go down to your local pet store, check out the breeder reports that should be displayed on the cages, and then Google the breeders. Under the Pet Store Disclosure Act, this information should be readily available at pet stores...but is not. Look at the USDA reports for those breeders including the violations, number of dogs, etc find out how many “good breeders” are selling to the pet store in your neighborhood.
I guess the truth is in the headline anyway...anyone that sets off puppy mills in quotes is generally still in the camp that it's an urban (or in this case rural) legend. They are real and they do supply pets to pet shops in your neighborhood.
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