A bill that would ban the sale of dogs from large-scale commercial breeders at pet stores is making its way through the Pennsylvania state senate. If it passes, Pennsylvania would become the third state in under two years to end pet store sales of dogs from puppy mills — facilities that breed dogs indiscriminately and keep them in inhumane conditions, often without meeting their most basic needs.
We have been fighting the mistreatment of dogs in Pennsylvania for 60 years now, whether in the laboratory animal trade or in puppy mills. Our investigations in the state in the 1960s prompted the passage of the Animal Welfare Act and several major revisions to the state’s dog laws. With this latest bill, we’re in a new phase of our campaign to help dogs in the Keystone State.
Our staff at the Humane Society of the United States experiences the horrors of puppy mills daily. A few nights ago, our senior Tennessee state director, Eric Swafford, heard that more than a hundred small dogs rescued from a puppy mill had landed at a Tennessee shelter, overwhelming the facility, which did not have the capacity to look after so many animals. The dogs had arrived in terrible physical condition, many of them so badly matted that their fur resembled muddy ropes. Many were suffering from eye, skin and dental disease, and some of them could barely see through the overgrown matted hair covering their eyes and faces.
Although we were not involved in the execution of the case or the removal of the dogs from the breeder, we wanted to prevent the dogs from ending up in another difficult and stressful situation. Immediately, Eric alerted two of our local shelter and rescue partners, the Nashville Humane Association and Humane Educational Society. Both mobilized right away to move dozens of the dogs to their facilities, while the HSUS pledged to assist financially with their medical care and recovery.
As terrible as these cases are, they keep us on our toes and motivated to fight these cruelties at every stage. We have found that focusing on the markets for sale of puppy mill dogs is especially important and effective for protecting consumers. Sellers hide the grim reality of puppy mills behind shiny pet store facades and websites, duping consumers who know nothing of the terrible conditions in which the animals were raised. Each year, hundreds of dog owners contact us after buying puppy mill dogs from pet stores, over the internet, or through classified ads, only to find out that they are sick. Puppies like the ones we helped in Tennessee could end up in states as far as New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida through these channels, and the buyer usually has no idea that their new pet came from a puppy mill.
In recent years we’ve made some remarkable strides in closing off local markets for puppy mill dogs, by pushing for legislation banning the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. More than 280 localities, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston and Albuquerque, have passed ordinances banning the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores, and over the last two years, two states, Maryland and California, have banned such sales. The bill in Pennsylvania is especially important because the state is a hub for both puppy mills and problematic puppy sellers that source from both in and out of state mills. The state has consistently ranked near the top of our Horrible Hundred annual report for the past six years for problem puppy mills, but the sellers have largely been off the hook. Pennsylvania can now set a strong precedent for other large puppy mill states that pet stores and advertisers need to be addressed as well, in order to fully tackle the puppy mill problem.
At the same time, we’re working to persuade members of the public to avoid the purchase of puppy mill dogs and promoting adoption from rescues and shelters and purchases from responsible breeders as the best options for those seeking a new pet.
The HSUS is organizing two events in Pennsylvania to help fire up the state’s momentum to end puppy mills, including a rally at the state capitol next Monday that’s open to all Pennsylvania residents, and our first-ever Puppy Mill Action Boot Camp, which will be held in Malvern, Pennsylvania, on the weekend of October 20-21. The boot camp is open to participants from any state who want to sharpen their advocacy skills specifically to help stop puppy mills, and will feature top speakers, participatory exercises, fun giveaways and four meals for just a $25 registration fee. We hope you will join us at these important events to speak up for the dogs.