Dismantling Puppy Mills in Creative Ways

By on October 23, 2015 with 6 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Frankie was one of 50 small dogs rescued from a puppy mill that closed down. She was already 10 years old and was missing more than a clump of her fur due to mange. Harley lived for years at the end of a short, rusty chain, tethered to a tree, with a patch of dirt serving as the bed she shared with her three young puppies. Leroy and his fifteen brothers and sisters were only five weeks old when they were found abandoned in a pile of brush in a strip mine. Their mother lay dead nearby.

These animals were in dreadful and dire situations. But thanks to The HSUS’s Puppy Friendly Pet Stores conversion program, Frankie, Harley, and Leroy – who faced almost certain euthanasia – have been medicated, rested, and rehabilitated. They are now in a position to have a next chapter of their lives. These dogs, and almost 5,000 more, have been placed in loving homes or are being prepared for adoption.

The HSUS has been conducting a hot war on puppy mills on a number of fronts, and this year we’ve had two federal court victories, in Cook County, Illinois, and East Providence, Rhode Island, cracking down on the sales of puppy mill dogs through pet stores. More than 85 localities in the United States now prohibit the sales of puppy mill dogs through pet stores. We have also been working at the state level to establish more humane breeding standards, and we are conducting public education efforts against puppy mills and Internet sellers of animals.

Harley, who lived for years at the end of a short, rusty chain, tethered to a tree, is now being rehabilitated at Pets Plus Natural and will soon be ready for adoption.

Harley, who lived for years at the end of a short, rusty chain, tethered to a tree, is now being rehabilitated at Pets Plus Natural and will soon be ready for adoption. Photo by Pets Plus Natural

The pet stores conversion program is an important tool in our campaign against high-volume puppy mills, which traditionally sell most of their puppies through pet stores or Internet sites. Instead of indefinitely viewing pet stores as part of the problem, and as sales centers for puppy mill dogs, we are now treating them as part of the solution. Many pet stores are converting their business models and adopting out dogs with the assistance of their shelter/rescue partners, instead of selling puppy mill dogs. For interested stores, HSUS staff members offer free, customized guidance through the entire conversion process, answer questions on the benefits of providing adoptable shelter animals at the stores, put managers in contact with other stores that have converted to a more humane model, and help to find animal shelters in the area for the stores to partner with, among other benefits.

Two of the leaders in the conversion program so far have been Alsip to the Rescue, which has two pet stores in Indiana and Illinois, and Pets Plus Natural, which has eight locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Each of these chains has rescued approximately 2,000 shelter dogs since converting, as well as some cats and small animals. Both chains have a “no moms left behind” policy, taking in homeless nursing mothers along with their puppies, and making sure that both moms and puppies find good homes. Many shelter/rescue partners, like Animal Aid USA, are involved in getting puppies and other animals to Pets Plus Natural.

Frankie was adopted out through Alsip to the Rescue and Leroy was adopted out through Pets Plus Natural. In addition, Harley, now being rehabilitated at Pets Plus Natural, will soon be ready for her forever home. Even if you are not in the market for a new puppy, supporting stores like Alsip to the Rescue and Pets Plus Natural (or Petco and PetSmart, which have long only adopted out dogs and cats) when you buy your pet supplies is an easy way to help our economy go humane. They’re the leaders in thought and action on this front, and they are deserving of your support. To find a pet store near you that has taken the pledge not to support puppy mills, text “PUPPY” to 77879(message and data rates apply).

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  1. Ciara says:

    Hi – this is fantastic news! How do the pet stores make money?

    • Ben says:

      Ciara, I work for Alsip Home & Nursery, we launched Alsip to the Rescue (ATTR) and they are now an independent 501c3 non-profit organization. Our stores help to collect donations for the Rescue, and they also receive funding from the adoption fees for the rescued animals and other fundraising events and generous donations from customers and businesses in our local communities.
      More information can be found, and donations can me made on their website: http://www.alsiptotherescue.org

    • Vaishali Honawar says:

      Hi Ciara, I am the blog editor. According to John Moyer, The HSUS’s Corporate Outreach Manager, each pet store’s situation is different, especially based on their own business model. A store owner that is very diversified (offering supplies, grooming services, boarding, etc.) can make an overall profit based on these other items. Stores that have converted to a more humane model are excited about being part of the solution and working with shelters/rescues to offer adoptable animals into the right homes. These pet stores understand that they may break even (or make a smaller profit) on an adoption, but hope that the community supports their life-saving efforts and buys their supplies from that store’s location(s).

      As mentioned, each case is different with its own set of circumstances and we open the dialogue with a meeting so everyone can ask questions (financial, etc.) at the beginning. Each store owner can base their decision to convert based on everyone’s (the store owner, shelter/rescue group, etc.) input. In order for these arrangements to be successful, everybody needs to be happy with the situation. The reason why we offer to tailor the program to each store’s circumstances is to make sure that everyone is happy with the arrangements.

  2. E.goodman says:

    Why can’t all the rescues ban together, representing us, and demand that our government shut down all puppy mills?! This is the only answer to stop this ongoing cruelty and neglect. It shouldn’t be delayed. Every day, the dogs suffer.

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