Last week, the city of Poulsbo, Washington, became the 250th locality in the United States to enact a law prohibiting the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores, unless the animals are sourced from shelters or rescues. Cities, towns, and counties of all sizes and demographics are registering their concerns about the national epidemic of large-scale commercial dog breeding facilities inhumanely treating dogs. These local governments are indicating they want no part of this systemic exploitation of our canine companions.
Working with local governments is just one channel for this work. Last October, California became the first state to enact such a policy, requiring dozens of puppy-selling pet stores to convert to a more humane model by the end of this year. We expect to see other states take up similar legislation.
In addition to the humane concerns involved, lawmakers at all levels of government are taking the consumer protection aspect of this work seriously. HSUS investigations reveal that pet stores often mislead consumers about the source of the dogs, resulting in countless would-be pet lovers enriching puppy mills, and often bringing dogs with physical or behavioral problems into their homes. It’s also not uncommon for such consumers to spend thousands of dollars on veterinary bills caring for the sick pet store puppies they’ve purchased, in some cases only to suffer heartbreak when an animal succumbs to serious illness.
To make matters worse, contact with pet store puppies has become a public health risk for people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest Outbreak Advisory, the campylobacter infection linked to pet store puppies has sickened 97 people across 17 states, putting 22 people in the hospital. The advisory noted that this particular strain of the outbreak is especially difficult to treat because it is “resistant to commonly recommended, first-line antibiotics.” It is not surprising that a virus stemming from pet store puppies would be antibiotic-resistant considering that it is common practice for puppy mills and pet stores to pump puppies full of antibiotics to cover up the illnesses so common to animals raised in closely confined, unsanitary conditions.
While the momentum is certainly on our side, with more compelling reasons than ever for lawmakers to cut off the puppy-mill-to-pet-store pipeline, some state legislators are going in the other direction, actively seeking to protect puppy-selling pet stores with preemption bills that would prevent localities from regulating the sources of pet store puppies. These lawmakers are placing themselves on the wrong side of the puppy mill issue, and they will face strong opposition from The HSUS and their constituents.
At the federal level, Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Charlie Crist, D-Fla., have introduced a pair of bills to crack down on puppy mills. Their bills, H.R. 4691 and H.R. 4693, would improve standards of care at breeding facilities and also stop delinquent puppy mill owners from relicensing under the names of family members to continue running their scofflaw operations.
We are also working hard via partnerships on the corporate front. Through our HSUS Puppy-Friendly Pet Stores conversion program, we’ve helped 21 stores successfully convert to the humane model, adopting out homeless animals at their stores instead of selling puppies from mills. These stores have collectively adopted out over 12,500 shelter and rescue dogs, substituting that beneficial work for the sale of dogs from mills.
You can be part of the solution by never buying a puppy from a pet store or online, and instead adopting your next pet from a shelter or rescue or seeking out a responsible breeder. Let your local, state, and federal lawmakers know you will not tolerate puppy mill cruelty nor puppy mill sales outlets, and urge them to support reform efforts. And, if you’d like to join our ballot measure campaign in Ohio — to require Ohio commercial breeders and those selling into the state, regardless of where they are located, to adhere to humane standards of care — visit www.stoppuppymillsohio.com.