Petland behind attempts to stop localities from banning puppy mill sales in pet stores

By on January 31, 2019 with 17 Comments

Hundreds of localities now ban the sales of dogs from puppy mills in pet stores because of how cruelly the breeders, transporters and pet stores treat the animals in their care. Our puppy mills campaign has been leading this fight and last month we released an undercover investigation into the shocking treatment of dogs sourced from commercial breeders at two Petland stores. Our investigation prompted more than a hundred complaints from people who had purchased sick puppies from Petland stores.

Now, instead of correcting its own ways, Petland – the only national chain that still sells commercially raised puppies — is attempting to stop localities from passing bans on puppy mill dog sales. An organization run by the chief lobbyist for Petland is pushing for legislation in nearly a dozen states that would strip localities of their right to regulate local pet stores in order to protect consumers and promote animal welfare. The legislation would also void any existing ordinances prohibiting the sale of mill puppies in pet stores.

We have learned that these bills have been or will soon be introduced in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Minnesota, Kansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Nebraska and perhaps a few other states. If passed, they will ensure that pet store retailers can continue to source puppies from large-scale commercial breeders — breeders who often keep their dogs in tiny cages, sometimes stacked one on top of the other, deny them exercise and socialization, and even kill mother dogs who no longer produce large litters, among other abuses.

Petland was behind similar nefarious bills that were shot down in the last two years by legislatures in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as a bill that was vetoed by former Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan in December. We have also seen bills introduced in Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma and Texas that would stop local communities from regulating any activity that involves working animals. If these laws go into effect, communities would, for example, be unable to stop circuses from bringing wild animals into town, or make laws banning horse-drawn carriages on crowded, polluted and dangerous roads.

Attempts to silence opponents of animal abuse are not new and for many years now, we have been fighting a raft of measures that seek to prevent any kind of regulation of businesses that use animals, including ag-gag laws and “right to farm” constitutional amendments. The reason that these attempts fail more often than they succeed is because lawmakers realize that gagging their citizens is not the American thing to do. At the federal level too, Congress recently removed from the Farm Bill the dangerous King amendment, which could have nullified key state and local laws addressing, among other issues, the consumption of horse and dog meat, ending the slaughter of horses, the extreme confinement of farm animals, and animals in puppy mills. It is not surprising that many backers of the state laws that would preempt local animal protection ordinances were also supporters of the failed King amendment.

We are hopeful that Petland’s efforts will not come to fruition. Ironically, they may have the unintended benefit of provoking a discussion in communities about the need for local laws banning puppy mill sales. Georgia, for instance, had no local pet store ordinances in early 2017 when Petland took their first crack at passing a preemption bill there. That bill did not pass, but the resulting discussion led to 10 localities in the state, including Atlanta, banning sales of puppy mill dogs in pet stores.

Americans do not want companion animals to suffer in puppy mills. Since 2017, two states, California and Maryland, have enacted statewide bans on the sales of puppy mill dogs in pet stores and numerous other legislatures are considering similar bills. Nearly 300 localities around the country have enacted bans on such sales. Large chains like PetSmart and Petco have never sold puppies, and our Puppy-Friendly Pet Stores conversion program has helped dozens of stores convert to a model where they work with shelters to make homeless animals available for adoption instead of selling dogs from commercial breeders.

Petland, by continuing to source commercially bred puppies and by pushing for legislation that would stop localities from banning puppy mill sales, is essentially bucking a nationwide trend and attempting to set the clock back on all the progress made over the past several years to end the cruelty of puppy mills. You can be sure the HSUS will be at the frontline to help defeat these bills as they come up, while keeping up the fight for more states to pass laws banning puppy mill sales in pet stores.

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Lisa Howard says:

    Sickening and frightening for these poor pups and mums. I’m appalled that there aren’t better laws in place for helpless animals.

  2. Yolanda says:

    This cannot be allowed! No pet stores should be alllowed to sell puppies that come from Puppy Mills!

    • Dee Graff says:

      ALL pet store pets come from Mills. “Reputable” breeders (and I use that term loosly) do NOT sell to pet stores, PERIOD. End of story.

  3. Kim Dobson says:

    ALL puppy mills need to be shut down. The support of animal cruelty to make the almighty dollar is ridiculous. If you support this, you are just as guilty of animal cruelty as the puppy mills are, and should not be a licensed pet store. You should be shut down as well. Now, not one of my family members will ever do any kind of business with Petland, and I have a lot of family.

  4. Midge Tressler says:

    I thought we got rid of these people years ago! Lets kick them to the curb!!!

  5. JoAnne Thacker says:

    Profits are obviously more important to Petland than the animals they are selling / pawning off as healthy / purebreds!

  6. Polly says:

    What is being done to circumvent PetLand’s objective?

  7. Mary Conard says:

    Petland has come into our SC community and most of us do not want them here. Their tactics include threatening towns and protesters with lawsuits. The selling of these pups threatens our no kill shelters. Petland knows this and they do not care, it’s all about profit to them.

  8. Carl Swanson says:

    As much as I understand why many feel the way they do about retail pet stores and Petlands, I would like to offer another perspective. Just like all breeders are not created equal, one can say not all retail pet stores or Petland’s are also. Actually, while this may (unfortunately) be the case with some pet stores, many have actually re-thought how animals are sold and realize that not only will customers not buy pets that come from bad breeders (or puppy mills), but it’s also unethical and just plain wrong. Instead, the industry has are started a movement to get pet stores and breeders to up their game when it comes to selling well-treated animals from reputable breeders.

    Banning the sale of pets in pet stores WON’T stop the puppy mill problem, just like banning drugs doesn’t stop the drug problem. It only removes the necessary regulations to keep both pet stores and breeders accountable for the way they are going about the business. We need to work together to help REGULATE the industry, not BAN it completely, as that’s not going to help either the animals, pet stores, breeders, or your communities. Banning Pet Stores from selling pets WON’T stop the puppy mill problem, as it would just remove necessary regulations to keep both pet stores and breeders accountable and allow other unregulated puppy sources to flourish with no oversight. The wild wild unregulated west of the internet will continue and puppy mills, as they do now, will flourish as banning pet stores does not address the problem.

    Believe it or not, there are actually reputable pet stores who are 100% transparent about where they get their animals – from local breeders. Adopting dogs from a rescue or shelter comes with many problems as well. Many are violent and have hidden health issues that may be very expensive and will leave the now owner with a broken heart.

    The preeminent study by Cornell University of Veterinary Medicine on the health of puppies from various sources demonstrates, on average, pet store puppies are as healthy as, or healthier than, those from any other source. Nearly 25% of dogs and cats adopted from shelters had reported health problems one week after adoption and an additional 10% had reported health problems within the 1st month after adoption (source: The Journal of American Veterinarian Medical Association). In recent years, pet store puppies had fewer health claims thus prompting pet health insurance carrier DVM/VPI Insurance Group to reduce its premiums for pet store puppies and kittens by as much as 22% (Source: DVM/VPI Insurance Group).

    There is a huge difference between professional breeders and puppy mills. There is more oversight of breeders who sell puppies to pet stores than any other type of breeder, shelter or even rescue. Professional breeders are inspected by the USDA, individual states Department of Agriculture, breeder associations, the American Kennel Club (AKC), state veterinarians, breeder veterinarians, pet stores themselves, employees of pet stores, even veterinarians from the pet stores have visited the professional breeders these puppies are being sourced from. In fact, if you care to visit some of these pet store breeders you will find them to be responsible professionals, their facilities are clean, providing proper sized kennels, flooring, walls, and safe surfaces far beyond any minimum mandates that might be required by law. You will find these facilities provide socialization, good ventilation, temperature, and pet care including exercise, feeding, watering, and a sanitized environment. This is unlike puppy mills that are unlicensed and not inspected, little record-keeping and veterinarian care, poor housing and sanitation, and often terrible conditions. Breeders that meet this definition are “puppy mills’ and should definitely be shut down!


    It’s a disturbing trend that’s taken off in the past decade: The importation of puppies from overseas. Hundreds of thousands of dogs are being imported yearly now from countries like Romania, Ukraine, Egypt, and Turkey. The threat of infectious disease, rabies and other zoonotic diseases is real based on trends suggesting that the annual number of vaccinated puppies being imported into the United States has increased substantially. A dog imported from Egypt to a Kansas shelter, ‘Unleashed Pet Rescue’ in Mission, Kansas, was infected with rabies! The shelter and rescue systems recognize that dogs are ‘big business.’ In the United States, they are importing dogs from these countries to meet the public demand and build their profits. The NAIA site has a story from the Puerto Rico Daily Sun about 107 puppies that died of distemper on their way from the island to the New York area. In fact, as many as 300,000 puppies a year are being imported based on yearly estimates, according to Gale Galland, Veterinarian in the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (Sources: NAIA and ABC News 2006). Now that was in 2006! It’s no secret that most of the middlemen in this new import game are puppy millers and less-than-scrupulous puppy retailers. As conditions for commercial breeders (aka puppy millers) get tougher in the United States, meeting the demand for purebreds means outsourcing pup production.

    In reality, many rescues are working to ban puppy sales from pet stores on the incorrect bases that these stores are fostering ‘puppy mills’, however, they are in actuality fostering the growth of puppy mills in the countries that are supplying puppies to them, and these countries are not regulated!

    • Marcela Garcia Bonini says:

      NO reputable breeder would sell his puppies at a store. There is no way of defending the puppy stores. All fronts have to be aimed at, all you mention. Starting by STRENGTHENING the laws and banning puppy mills. I don;t really get your comment though I see you point at some issues that have to be tackled as well. The most important element is to EDUCATE the public so that they know they must not purchase dos from unreliable sources, NEVER to buy a dog online, NEVER to buy a dog without visiting the premises

    • Jeri Kissling says:

      NO REPUTABLE breeder would ever sell a dog to ANY pet store. We screen our buyers, show the parents and health check all our dogs before breeding. Any reputable breeder usually belong to their parent club and has a Code of Ethics they have to abide by; which includes not selling to pet stores or letting puppies go for auctions. All of our pet puppies go with limited registrations and spay/neuter agreements – puppies from pet stores have no regulations. We spend way too much time and effort to sell to pet stores who do not care where the puppies go and often those people spend less time deciding on a lifetime commitment of a puppy than buying a new pair of jeans.

    • Denise says:

      Most everything you’ve stated is incorrect. Puppy mills, back yard breeders are all bad. Your info, gleaned from wherever, is wrong.

  9. Michell Weaver says:

    Why can’t they make puppy mills totally illegal!! They are the worst kind of animal abuse ever!! They put people in jail for abusing animals why can’t they do the same to puppy millers?? I HATE Petland and puppy mills.

  10. Randi L Morgan says:

    Carl, no. Just no.

  11. RESA ROSE says:

    Those who are of the opinion businesses/flea market vendors etc that SELL puppies and those lower than scum breeders/brokers/transporters who supply ‘inventory’ HUMANE ED/participation in the legislation process in your area to benefiting animals is a KEY COMPONENT to bankrupting ALL the moving parts of puppy mills.WE MUST do a better job in gathering our composure, presenting verifiable facts about puppy mills to garner respect for our Humane Ed efforts which should ALWAYS include the ONE common component connected to animal issues re-EU for space, packs of strays in neighborhoods, starving-sick animals-SPAY NEUTER!!!!!! THANK YOU HSUS for your Pets For Life program-ALL the problems associated with intact animals Boomerangs back to SN efforts or sadly lack of all the moving parts related to aggressive SN efforts in soooo many communities. I am blessed to be invited to attended three workshops in Big D.

  12. Pam townsend says:

    Please let’s all do our part to shut petland down for good !!

  13. Dr Alicia Salland says:

    Ban puppy mills. They represent torture and animal abuse. Just No

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