In the latest blow against the scourge of puppy mills, Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth largest city, this morning banned all sales of puppy mill dogs in pet stores and at outdoor venues like flea markets. The unanimous vote by the Philadelphia city council on the bill introduced by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson signals growing support among lawmakers and citizens in Pennsylvania – a state with 900 puppy mills – against these operations that typically keep and breed animals in deficient and abusive conditions. With today’s action, the City of Brotherly Love joins more than 140 other localities around the United States, including Chicago and Los Angeles, with similar ordinances restricting puppy mill sales. Together, these developments are driving the market toward shelter and rescue adoption and responsible breeders.
Reform has a funny way of finding a pathway when there are roadblocks set in place. After Congress failed to set minimum standards for the treatment of laying hens in the egg industry, for example, we went to America’s biggest food retailers and ran the table with them in changing their purchasing practices and instituting cage-free policies.
On the puppy mill front, in recent years, there’s been too little action at the federal and state levels to crack down on the mills, so grassroots advocates are turning more and more attention to local ordinances and getting their communities to set up firewalls against the sale of dogs from mills.
This political movement focused on municipal action will wither when there is legitimate reform at the state and federal levels. But some segments of the industry have fought sensible reforms every step of the way.
We are starting to see some progress on this front, after a few years of stasis. Connecticut last year passed a bill banning breeders with severe Animal Welfare Act violations, and just yesterday, the Louisiana state senate passed a bill to crack down on the sale of puppy mill dogs at pet stores. Maryland last month passed a bill that requires pet shops to only source from breeders licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and without the most egregious Animal Welfare Act violations. The bill also bans outdoor sales of puppy mill dogs. It is now awaiting the governor’s signature.
New Jersey is now considering the most comprehensive puppy mill sales bill ever in any state. Introduced by state Senator Raymond Lesniak, a great champion of all animals, the bill would ban the sale of puppy mill puppies at pet shops and at outdoor venues. And, emulating the USDA’s 2013 Retail Rule, it would make New Jersey the first state to ban puppy mills from shipping puppies “sight-unseen” to customers, requiring that the customer visit the breeder’s facility (or, in the case of a responsible breeder, their home) and meet the dog prior to sale.
Our campaign against puppy mills leaves nothing to chance. We work with local law enforcement officials to carry out rescues at puppy mills, like one just last month where we pulled out 295 dogs living in filth and horror at an Arkansas puppy mill. We have been working with pet store chains to convert to a humane model of adopting out puppies from rescues and shelters, instead of selling dogs. To date, our pet store conversion program has helped 15 pet stores change to this model and these stores have adopted out more than 6,300 dogs and cats, many from shelters with high euthanasia rates. Courts have ruled in our favor when local puppy mill ordinances have been challenged in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Rhode Island.
Our goal is simple: to end the era of production of dogs in mills and to drive consumers to rescues and shelters, and to responsible breeders. Philadelphia’s decision today is just the latest indicator that there’s a growing movement to spurn the mills.