On a recent cold and rainy Friday, Victoria, a striking 11-year-old German Shepherd, sat in a wagon, draped in a purple blanket, outside the steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Victoria’s story was a telling one: she was a puppy mill breeding dog who spent nearly a decade of her life producing puppies non-stop before she was rescued last year by Grace Kelly Herbert. She suffers from a crippling congenital condition called Degenerative Myelopathy and can no longer walk. The puppy miller who bred her effectively passed on the same condition, which has no cure, to hundreds of her puppies by continuing to mercilessly and recklessly breed Victoria again and again.
Victoria, Grace and the dozens of people who gathered at the courthouse that Friday, all dressed in purple or wearing purple ribbons, are now fighting to pass Victoria’s Law, a bill that would make Pennsylvania the third state in the country to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. (Maryland and California have already enacted this policy, and similar bills are being considered in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Oregon, Connecticut and Washington). Last week, our Puppy Mills Campaign honored this intrepid pair with the annual Advocates We Love award, given out each year on Valentine’s Day to 14 people around the country who are making a real difference in ending the cruelty of puppy mills.
After rescuing and adopting Victoria, Grace, who is also the co-founder of Finding Shelter Animal Rescue, has been working tirelessly, first, to persuade lawmakers to introduce Victoria’s Law, SB 44, and second, to get the law passed in this, a state with one of the worst records on puppy mills. These commercial breeding facilities offer the animals in their care no love, compassion or even the most basic needs. Dogs like Victoria are bred continually and when their time is up, they most often end up abandoned or are put down.
The other award winners are just as motivated in their commitment to stopping puppy mills.
- Carla and Bryan Wilson of Winter Springs, Florida, helped pass ordinances that prohibit the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats in pet stores; they were also key players in the “Yes on 13” campaign to end greyhound racing in Florida.
- Clarissa Uttley of Thornton, New Hampshire, and Renee Sundberg of Columbus, Ohio, devoted many weeks to helping the HSUS’s Animal Rescue Team take care of dogs that we rescued from large scale commercial breeders.
- Laurie Newton of Westminster, Maryland, worked to help pass a statewide ban on the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores in Maryland.
- Ashley Tucker Cunnyngham of Franklin, Tennessee, led the fight to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores in her city last year and succeeded despite a vigorous lobbying campaign mounted by the American Kennel Club and a local pet store.
- Kara Moran of Virginia Beach and her group, Virginia Pawsitivaty, helped pass two Virginia state bills in 2018 related to puppy mills and pet stores as well as local ordinances in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach to require inspections of pet shops and establish permitting policies to enable the local government to close problem pet shops.
You can find the full list of our 14 award winners at the Advocates We Love Facebook album. Please join me in congratulating these amazing people who are making a real difference for animals in their communities. And to learn more about how you can be an advocate to end puppy mill abuse, check out our Advocate’s Guide to Stopping Puppy Mills.