Money talks in the fight for puppy mills

Money talks in the fight for puppy mills
Before puppies arrive in pet stores, they are bred in puppy mills.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around an interesting issue lately. How can people who claim to love animals back puppy mills? It has become the $55 billion question as some of the biggest players in the pet industry are stepping into the spotlight in support of puppy mills as more communities ban the sale of commercially bred pets in pet stores.

Puppy mill dogs are bred excessively, receive no vet care or socialization and haven't met a groomer.

Puppy mill dogs are bred excessively, receive no vet care or socialization and haven't met a groomer.

Money talks and money makes the world go around. And, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), last year alone we spent just under $56 billion on our pets – that is billion with a “b”.

That’s a very important statistic as the APPA joins forces with the industry’s largest pro puppy mill lobbying group – the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) – to fight bans on the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. The line has been drawn in the sand and it’s over the money – blood money – generated by puppy mills around the country.

Dogs in a puppy mill.

Dogs in a puppy mill.

It’s funny because while the pet industry is a huge business in America, the amount of money made last year off pets sold by commercial breeders was $2 billion – less than two percent of that total. Yet, movers and shakers throughout the pet industry are fighting to keep the puppy mill pipeline alive and well instead of fighting to shut them down.

Here are some of the key players fighting the bans on the sale of puppy mill dogs and kitten mill cats in pet stores –

  • PIJAC - If you read this blog on a regular basis, you’ll know why PIJAC wants pet store sales to continue. Two of the largest players in the industry – Ryan Boyle of the Hunte Corporation, the largest broker of puppy mill dogs, and Joe Watson of Petland, the larger seller of puppy mill dogs – are both powerful directors for the group. Petco has two board positions. My question is this, why aren’t they taking a public stand against PIJAC’s support of puppy mills?
  • APPA – This organization represents over 1,000 pet product manufacturers. The Global Pet Expo, one of the largest of it’s kind in the pet industry, is the show case event for this group.
  • World Pet AssociationThe industry’s oldest trade group and host of trade shows like Super Zoo.
  • The American Kennel Club (AKC) is also actively fighting legislation in many states that will toughen standards for commercial breeders and prevent the sale of commercially bred pets in pet stores. Why? A large percentage of the funds brought in for AKC papers for that organization come from puppy mills.

The Puppy Mill Project works to educate about the pet store/puppy mill connection.

The Puppy Mill Project works to educate about the pet store/puppy mill connection.

As these groups take a stand and issue statements representing their large memberships, here is something you should know. Most of their members probably don’t feel the same way they do. These groups have not polled or even reached out to members on what position they should take on the issue.

I work at a large veterinary clinic and no one polled our professionals on the issue. Yet, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association and the statewide group have come out against the ordinances banning the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. I don't personally know any veterinarians that back that opinion. I've also heard from dues paying members of these trade groups and they've not been asked for feedback either.

APPA even has their own press release out showing that consumers back the continued sale of pets in pet stores...even though public opinion polls show the opposite. In that same press release, these associations push for tougher laws to shut down puppy mills. But, they fight tooth and nail (or is that canine tooth and claw) when anyone tries to enact common sense legislation. Just ask our friends in Iowa how hard it is to get that accomplished.

Yet, these trade associations are taking their considerable money and mucho clout to go to war to fight the bans currently being enacted by communities on the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. They say they are making sure that only dogs from “good breeders” are sold in pet stores. But, 99 percent of these pets come from the same place, puppy mills and there are no good puppy mills…so that is a non-argument.

These organizations talk about fighting for their survival (remember…the less than 2 percent of their revenue). They talk about pet lovers losing their right to choose (you still can choose, just from a rescue or put more effort into finding a decent breeder). They talk and they talk and they talk.

But, let’s do the math instead.

Earlier this summer, 67 people attended a pet store protest in Naperville.

Earlier this summer, 67 people attended a pet store protest in Naperville.

Puppy mills breed dogs and put profit over the well being of the animals in their care. They sell puppies for around $50 to brokers. Brokers (the Hunte Corporation and others) sell them for a few hundred ($200-$400) to pet stores. Pet stores (Happiness Is Pets, Furry Babies, Petland and mom & pops) sell them for $800 or more. Nice profit margin (for less than 2 percent of the business).

Ka-Ching….Ka-Ching….Ka-Ching. Who has the deep pockets now?

We’ll be hearing a lot from the flacks at PIJAC and these other groups in the coming weeks as Naperville’s city council looks further into the pet store and puppy mill connection. The community may consider enacting bans like Chicago and Cook County, which will would have a major impact on two Naperville pet stores – Happiness is Pets and Petland.

Stay tuned…there is so much more to come on this issue.

Note: The Puppy Mill Project will hold a peaceful protest outside Naperville's new Happiness is Pets on Sunday, August 24 at noon. Details here.

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    Raining Cats and Dogs

    I am a crazy cat lady and puppy mill warrior that blogs to advocate and educate about pet issues. In American animal controls, millions of pets are abandoned each year and an estimated 4 million die just because there are not enough homes. It truly seems like it’s Raining Cats and Dogs.

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