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.)