Readers responded with a slew of comments to our investigation of Pets of Bel Air, which exposed the store’s deceitful tactics and reinforced the connection between pet stores and puppy mills. Among the commentary:
The puppy mill/inhumane breeder issue is out there for all to see but I still come across people who insist on buying a puppy/dog from a pet store or inhumane breeder. It is so heartbreaking to me. Frustrating, too! I want to stay positive and continue educating people about puppy mills/inhumane breeders but I have to admit, it feels hopeless at times. I look forward to the day when puppy mills and inhumane breeders no longer exist! Thank you Wayne, Jana and The HSUS for all you do. —Dana in Chicago.
I am so pleased with your fight against puppy mills. I recently adopted a 10-year-old breeder dog rescued by our local Paws and Claws, who are a wonderful group of volunteers. This dog has an ongoing eye problem and paws that fester with bloody cysts that come and go from a life in a cage. It took time for him to get used to grass and to adapt to a new home but now he is part of a pack of seven rescue dogs and shows love for the attention he gets. —Sue Kent
I just had to write after reading the above. I managed a pet store for 10 years in my area and I am proud to say that we did not sell puppies and kittens. One, I wouldn’t work for a company that supports puppy mills and, two, I still don’t understand the need to breed when there are so many animals in shelters that are just as worthy of our love. Working in a pet store I would see numerous people come in with new puppies and nine times out of ten these puppies (bought at other pet stores) were from puppy mills and always had Parvo. I would listen to the stories of how the store would not take these puppies back and how these people just don’t have the money to "fix" the puppy. Yet, they spent a couple grand to purchase the purebred. None of it makes sense to me. I personally would never go out and purchase a puppy (or a kitten). I catch stray cats and dogs constantly, that’s how I’ve acquired the cats I have now. However, if I was ever inclined to do so, I would make 100 percent sure that I saw where my new baby came from. It’s a long battle to fight, these puppy mills, but I will be fighting it with you until puppy mills are a thing of the past. I’m hoping that’s a dream that comes to fruition real soon. Thank you HSUS for all you do for animals everywhere. —Myndi Hughes
Thank you!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!! I just wish we had dozens more people that can expose these so-called pet stores, many of which are located in major malls across the nation. I bought my precious Lhasa Apso from a pet shop in a mall in the San Diego area seven years ago and granted, I received breeder information and history of his birth, but when I went to Google these so-called breeders they seem to not exist. I may be one of the fortunate ones to have a healthy dog, but now that I know of these puppy mills, never will I ever buy from a pet store. —Carole L. Divine-Snowney
People just don’t realize… and they seem to believe whatever they hear. Just about a month ago I was in a local pet shop that is under new management and noticed they were selling runny eyed, sniffling puppies when they never did before. I asked the manager where they come from and she told me "Mostly from the Midwest." So I asked if they came from puppy mills and she said "We try not to buy from puppy mills, but you never know…" I left there knowing full well where the dogs came from and what conditions they existed in. I have been thinking about the nonchalant attitude of the pet store manager often since I was in there and it gives me such a sick feeling. Is there anything an average person like me can do to stop this? Can we report it to anyone? I know the most important thing to do is NOT to buy a puppy from a pet shop and to spread the word about that, but is there anything else we might be able to do? I am all ears! —Amy Wojcik
Wayne you did good today… Standing there and acting like you were taking the high road and all the while duping the media and the American public… shame on you. That pet store broke no laws but you tried to destroy the guy’s business. Of course he buys puppies from USDA breeders; it is the law that he do so.* You failed to mention that part. And you already know that most breeders are individual breeders; it is a cottage industry. So he did not lie. And the kennels in your video were state-of-the-art USDA design buildings. Please stop being such a fraud. —Joe
The "USDA-approved breeders" line needs to be called out, too. As we all know, the USDA inspects large-scale puppy mill operations, not Farmer Bob and his one breeding golden retriever. Yet pet stores lead us to believe that their puppies were born in someone’s cozy living room. Because of understaffing and other problems, the USDA has allowed many appalling puppy mills to stay in business. "USDA-inspected" in no way means "not a puppy mill." —Inchworm
I would like for The HSUS to consider a "Virtual Puppy Mill" award for newspapers like The Spokesman-Review in eastern Washington State, and others. They are the marketing arm for thousands of breeders of dogs and cats who are sold unaltered and without health checks to unsuspecting buyers of these animals. Without them their sales are limited to signs in the front yard and the trunks of cars in shopping centers. They are responsible for far more sales than nearly any pet shop you can imagine. Let’s make it a well known and publicized effort. They deserve lots of publicity for this service. —Dan Storie
I have been a regular supporter of The HSUS for years and I will continue to be especially after your investigation re: Pets of Bel Air. I always wonder how much good my support is doing for the animals when one hears about the administration costs some charities have which eats up the funds. And there are so many who ask for help, it’s hard to spread out the support to those who are really doing something positive. I am so glad to hear you are effective and this hits home for me. I used to own a shop next to the pet shop when it opened. I suspected the dogs were not healthy, I hated seeing how the staff handled them, and I was always upset to see any dog sold from a professional breeder. The store originally opened selling only supplies, but Tom wanted to sell animals so he convinced the landlord it would be lucrative for all and the "kids in the neighborhood" love to visit the animals. I asked Tom why he wouldn’t offer rescues for adoption and he had some evasive answer. He also referred to the dogs as "inventory" which always bothered me. He assured me that all the dogs came from reputable private breeders, but now I know my suspicions were true. All about profit, not helping those dogs who need a home. I am so fortunate to have found a rescue dog in South Central L.A. that I found while I had my shop. She became a real "Pet of Bel Air" and is so grateful and loving. It was hard for me to even look in the windows and see the dogs in the cribs. He also would auction his "inventory" at fundraising events, I am sure to promote and advertise his business. I felt so bad for those puppies being paraded around at barely 6 weeks old. I got very vocal at one event and those involved thought I was overreaching and wrong. Apparently not! —Barbara
*Editor’s Note: Pet stores are not required by law to buy puppies only from USDA-licensed breeders. It is legal for pet stores to buy dogs from small, hobby breeders, but small breeders would not supply the constant inventory that most pet stores desire. For more information, please see our Pet Store Doublespeak. Visit humanesociety.org/puppymills for ways you can help to stop puppy mills.