Pet Store Limits Are a Start, And Clearly the Public Supports Closing of Puppy Mills

Pet Store Limits Are a Start, And Clearly the Public Supports Closing of Puppy Mills

Standing up against puppy mills is exactly what Cook County has done, becoming the first county in America to do so. Also at least 50 cities have done the same, ranging from Chicago, Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles to a mounting list of mid-sized and smaller towns.  And like a runaway train, more cities are piling on. Obviously the public supports these laws, as do public officials.

Following the city of Chicago overwhelmingly approving the banning of sales of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores in March, 2014 a few of the handful of pet stores affected threatened to move to the Chicago suburbs. So, Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey led the way, as all the Commissioners voted to support a similar ordinance not to allow dogs, cats or rabbits to be sold at pet stores.

The wave to limit pet store sales sweeping America is not be led by well-funded and organized animal rights or animal welfare groups, it's been led by just plain folks, and the non-profit The Puppy Mill Project  (which was born out of a grass roots effort, and continues to be just that).

A July 29, 2014  press release from the American Pet Products Association (APPA) offers very different information than what appears to be obvious.

The release states:

By an overwhelming margin, America’s dog and cat owners say the best way to crack down on illegal puppy mill operators is not to ban the sale of dogs and cats at local pet stores, as a handful of local communities have done, but rather to enact and enforce tougher breeder standards (67% vs. 33%). The Pet Leadership Council, a coalition of pet industry leaders championing responsible pet ownership, commissioned Harris Poll to conduct an online survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older to determine Americans views on puppy mill regulations.

The Pet Leadership Council (PLC) is lending its support to efforts to enact tougher breeder standards with more rigorous enforcement. At the same time, the PLC is taking a lead role in a lawsuit that challenges a pet-store ban in Phoenix, Arizona.

“We all want to see puppy mills eliminated today,” said Bob Vetere, CEO of the American Pet Products Association, one of the founding members of the PLC. “But America’s pet lovers have made it clear that banning the sale of dogs and cats at local pet stores is not the best way to do it. What this poll tells us is that pet owners want tougher breeder standards so that they can be confident that dogs and cats are raised humanely and in the best interests of the animal.”

I have several comments regarding above from the press release:

- This poll hardly comes from an unbiased source, since the APPA is on record to fight legislation that limit sales of dogs and cats (and rabbits) at pet stores, as they are doing in Phoenix and elsewhere.  They are funded by the pet industry, including pet stores. Significantly, their own members - the VAST majority of pet stores do not sell and won't ever sell dogs or cats (or rabbits), often for ethical reasons (knowing where the animals come from). However, the small percent that do sell these animals also have at lot at stake, and money . If APPA took a poll of their own pet store membership, I maintain most would say selling dogs and cats is wrong.

- It seems the APPA is now among those throwing breeders under the bus. I maintain responsible breeders don't ever, ever sell animals to pet stores. For starters, they want to know exactly who is purchasing and aren't afraid to refuse potential buyers. Responsible breeders, who sell animals raised on small-scale and pay close attention to genetics, have nothing to do with this issue, except they are an alternative source (and a good source for those wanting pure bred dogs or pedigreed cats). Blaming responsible breeders makes no sense whatsoever, except apparently re-directing the blame. How about blaming suppliers (brokers and puppy mills) of dogs and cats at pet stores? If nothing else, perhaps breeders will now understand who is positioned where on this topic.

- This Pet Leadership Council is described as a coalition - true coalitions have members with various voices and perspectives. Does this one?

I have one nagging question which I concede I can not answer. If we all want puppy mills to go away, then why are they still here?

There's plenty of blame to go around, including all of us. After all, this has become a political issue. Governor Pat Quinn, in Illinois - as one example - favors limits on what pet stores can sell. We need to support public officials on the right side of this issue.

For decades, I've said - educate the public, and they won't buy from pet stores and ultimately then puppy mills will go away. Well, there are absolutely fewer pet stores that sell dogs or cats than compared to say ten years ago. However, large chains are still around and thriving in some places in America. And it's those chains now desperately fighting to prevent this legislation.

I've written many stories on puppy mills (and I'm hardly alone - from Oprah to network news reports - people know about puppy mills), and  the U.S. Department of Agriculture either told me, "We're dealing with the problem, give us time" or even "this is no problem - puppy mills don't exist."

At what point do we say "enough is enough?"

Maybe that time is now - maybe that is why the American public is massively behind legislation to limit what pet stores can sell.

The million dollar question: Will these laws actually impact puppy mills?

One argument which is often suggested by the APPA and the lobbying group  Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council is that preventing pet store sales of dogs and cats (and often rabbits) forces the puppy mills to go to the Internet to sell what they have. Well, the puppy mills are already online. It won't force them to do what they are already (unfortunately) doing.

The good news is that the Federal government is paying some attention, mandating some restrictions on sales of live animals. But certainly Internet sales are a huge issue, I agree....Also, the APPA notes that some rescues (even some that are 'certified' as 5013C non-profits) are awful, as bad as some puppy mills, even hoarding. All true.

And while these issues should be dealt with - I agree absolutely ...but they are different issues. If we can close at least one source for puppy mills, why not? Of course, the real answer - as it often is - money.

But I ask, 'What about the animals?' If they come first - preventing pet stores from selling puppy mill animals seems to be a no-brainer.

(Personal note: I do appreciate and admire all Mr. Vetere and the APPA  have done and continue to do for animals, though we disagree strongly about this issue. I am always happy to participate with others to find solutions, true coalitions working toward a common goal. There's a broad concern here, which includes puppy mills - which many are overlooking other issues including sourcing of pets today and in future years.) 

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  • fb_avatar

    The reason the mills are not going away is because dog-breeding is considered agriculture and thusly dogs are considered livestock.
    The ag lobby is NEVER EVER going to allow us to effectively regulate dog breeding because they fear we will come for their pigs next.
    This has been proven over and over in every state that has tried to do something about abusive volume breeders.
    No legislator has the cajones to fight the ag lobby.
    This will never change.

  • In reply to TWard:

    Certainly truth to what you're saying - or so it seems, no matter what anyone says....Bottom line Dept. of Ag hasn't changed their tune in decades, and puppy mills still exists pretty much as they did 30 yrs. ago. Maybe a tad fewer...but they are still here. I'm thinking even if we cut off some of their supply, how can that be a bad thing?

  • fb_avatar

    How do you propose to cut off the supply?
    Only legislation can do this and so far that has been a near complete failure.
    Some small progressive localities maybe, but certainly never in ag states.
    This is all you need to know.

  • In reply to TWard:

    TWard We can cut off the supply by educating people about puppy mill cruelty and the direct connection to Pet stores that sell puppies, direct Internet sales, newspaper ads, Farmers Markets and even people selling puppies out of the back of vehicles. Most people will not want to support animal cruelty while getting ripped off financially for a carelessly bred puppy. When we know better we do better. Also, there has been some amazing legislation that will force pet stores to either switch to a humane model or go away in some of the largest cities like LA, Chicago, and Cook County. The way to shut down supply is to shut down demand and we are focusing on that. When we know better, we do better and as people learn the truth, most will realize they can get a better dog cheaper through a responsible breeder, shelter, or breed specific rescue. 3 years ago, over 70% of people surveyed did not know what a puppy mill was. That is changing. People think registration papers guarantee health and quality but they do not. Only that the parents of the puppy are the SAME purebred, even if they have numerous health issues, some of which take years to manifest.

  • fb_avatar

    Interests Outside of Missouri are Financing Proposition B

    An analysis of Proposition B campaign reports clearly reveals that organizations and individuals outside of Missouri are bankrolling the campaign to further regulate Missouri dog breeders. Almost 82% of the funds reported thus far are coming from out-of-state organizations and individuals, with most of the funds coming from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) based in Washington D.C.

    “We don’t need out-of-state interests setting public policy here in Missouri,” said Charles Kruse, president of Missouri Farm Bureau. “We already have Missouri laws on the books regulating dog breeders. Proposition B will do absolutely nothing to shut down unlawful dog breeders and will instead cause reputable and lawful dog breeders to close their businesses.”

    “Furthermore, if Proposition B passes, these radical animal rights organizations and individuals won’t stop there. As experienced in other states, they will work to further regulate Missouri farmers, driving them out of business as well and driving up food costs,” said Kruse.

    HSUS also has sport hunting and fishing in their sights, as evidenced by their opposition to Arizona Proposition109 that is on the November 2nd ballot. HSUS has given more than $250,000 to defeat the proposition that would give a constitutional protection to the right to hunt and fish in Arizona.

    Through October 21, the Proposition B Campaign is reporting receipts of $4.363 million. Of that amount, $3.09 million is from out-of-state organizations and $486,099 comes from residents outside of Missouri. This equates to 82% of the campaign funds raised to promote Proposition B.

    Following is a breakdown of the receipts for the Proposition B campaign through October 21:

    $4.363 m. Total campaign receipts

    $3.09 m. Total contributions by out-of-state organizations

    $2.12 m. HSUS (Washington D.C./Maryland)

    $511,119 ASPCA (New York)

    $250,000 Best Friends Animal Society (Utah)

    $110,000 The Fund for Animals (New York)

    $80,000 Doris Day League (Washington D.C.)

    $10,000 Animal Welfare Advocacy (New York)

    $10,000 Big Cat Rescue (Florida)

    $486,099 Total contributions from out-of-state individuals
    primarily from the states of California, New York,
    New Jersey, Florida, Ohio and Connecticut.
    - See more at:

  • In reply to TWard:

    When we educate people not to buy from pet stores in our states that buy from mills in other states, including Missouri, we are effecting the demand at those out of state mills which in turn slows down the supply. Education is key and doesn't need government enforcement.

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