Staff members of the HSUS puppy mills campaign frequently hear from individuals who have had bad experiences with dogs sourced from puppy mills. For example, they heard from a pet owner who had bought an English bulldog puppy from a pet store in Miami. The owner reported being told to return to the store a week later to pick up the puppy because he had a cold. A week after bringing him home, the puppy’s condition got worse and he had to be rushed to the pet clinic because he could barely breathe. The owners learned he had severe pneumonia and over the next few weeks, they incurred more than $5,000 in vet bills.
Another pet owner bought a puppy at a pet store in Largo, Florida, only to realize that the dog was extremely sick and had to be admitted to the hospital where he was fighting for his life.
Around the country, growing awareness about puppy mills and their terrible conditions, which often cause sickness in the animals, has led to more than 250 localities enacting laws banning the sales of puppy mill dogs and requiring pet stores to source animals from shelters or rescues only. Last year, the state of California enacted a law, and similar bills have recently been introduced in Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, Illinois, and Nebraska. Major cities like Chicago, Boston, and Austin have also enacted these laws.
But lawmakers in two states – Florida and Georgia – are bucking that trend by taking up bills that would preempt local laws to protect puppy mill sales.
In Florida, there are nearly 60 local ordinances banning the sale of mill puppies, including in Fort Lauderdale and St. Petersburg, while Georgia has eight localities with such ordinances. The bills include radical, overly broad language prohibiting local governments from regulating where pet stores source puppies. These pro-puppy mill bills are the result of pet store lobbyists going state-to-state, asking legislators to shield them from local control. Surely, a better option for these pet stores is to clean up their act, stop sourcing from cruel mills, and stop selling sick puppies so local governments won’t need to regulate them.
In Florida, lawmakers introduced an amendment to an unrelated tax bill (H.B. 7087) this week that would prevent local governments from prohibiting the sale of personal property subject to sales tax, which includes puppies. The amendment would prevent localities from banning the sale of mill puppies and void the nearly 60 existing ordinances in that state. This amendment would have far-reaching consequences well beyond pet store regulation.
In Georgia, bills recently introduced in both chambers (S.B. 418 & H.B. 948) would prevent local governments from restricting the sale of goods regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Beyond stripping localities of their right to prohibit puppy mill sales, this would prevent local regulation of thousands, possibly millions, of goods and products.
The dangerous bills in Florida and Georgia must be stopped. The HSUS is doing all that it can to stop them, but residents of these states must also speak up and demand that their elected state officials vote “no” on these bills. Lawmakers protecting the outdated, socially unacceptable, and destructive puppy-selling pet store industry at the expense of animal welfare should know their constituents disapprove.
If you live in Florida or Georgia, please call and email your state representative and senator and urge a “no” vote on Florida’s H.B. 7087 or Georgia’s S.B. 418 & H.B. 948. And no matter where you live, make sure your local, state, and federal lawmakers know you’d like to see an end to the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores.
P.S. Our Puppy Mills Campaign is working on a study that looks back on 10 years of sick puppy complaints received by The HSUS – more than 5,000 complaints. Florida tops that list for pet store puppy complaints, and for consumer complaints about sick puppies overall. We will bring you more on that study when it is complete.