Our eight-month investigation into six Petland stores has revealed heartbreaking stories of puppy mistreatment and deaths. It has led to hundreds of customers contacting us with personal stories of buying animals from Petland, only to have them fall sick and even die; it has caused several ex-employees to reach out to us with horror stories of how Petland treats its puppies and staff; and it has prompted more than 50,000 people to sign a petition asking the national pet store chain to stop selling puppies, kittens and rabbits.
You would think that with so much documented evidence of the conditions of puppies at its stores and outrage from consumers, Petland would take steps to clean house, provide adequate veterinary care, and stop sourcing dogs from puppy mills. Instead, for many years, the national pet store chain has focused its resources on fighting puppy mill reform in state legislatures, and it continues to do so to this day.
This year alone, HSUS-led coalitions have warded off Petland-backed attempts to pass dangerous preemption bills in seven states — Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia. These bills attempt to ban localities from passing ordinances that ban puppy mill sales in pet stores. The HSUS and other animal protection advocates have been extremely successful in getting such ordinances passed in more than 300 localities, with many more to come.
Petland’s lobbyists have gone state to state asking lawmakers to enact these preemption laws that would not only potentially prohibit local governments from regulating pet stores in certain ways, but could also overturn any existing ordinances prohibiting the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores. But the good news is that in the last three years these preemption efforts have been defeated everywhere they have been attempted.
We are keeping a close eye on these efforts and will work to defeat them when they pop up. Meanwhile, we are also working hard to get statewide laws passed to ban the sales of puppy mill dogs in stores. Two states already have such laws on the books, including California and Maryland, and there is now a bill in Pennsylvania and another in New York that would do the same. Earlier today, Maine lawmakers passed legislation prohibiting the sale of dogs and cats in new pet stores, ensuring that no additional pet stores can open shop there and sell puppies.
Pennsylvania has three Petland stores that sell commercially-raised puppies, and if the bill there, known as Victoria’s Law, passes, the chain would have no option but to stop puppy sales in the state. Victoria’s Law is named after a German Shepherd who was rescued from a puppy mill after 10 years of breeding. Victoria, who passed away recently, was paralyzed as a result of a genetic, neurological disorder called degenerative myelopathy, a disease she likely passed down to the estimated 150-200 puppies she was forced to produce in the mill.
The bill in New York, if it passes, would impact one Petland store and dozens of other puppy-selling stores. The Pennsylvania and New York bills would also prohibit pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits from pet mills, and allow them to collaborate with shelters and rescues to host adoption events.
We are actively engaged in campaigns in both New York and Pennsylvania to bring these bills over the finish line, even as we push for similar laws in more state legislatures across the country. Our advocates on the ground are our greatest allies in the fight against puppy mills and pet stores that source animals from these mass breeding facilities. That’s why we periodically organize our Puppy Mill Action Boot Camps where people can learn how to be effective advocates against puppy mills.
Between August 2 and 4, we will hold our next Puppy Mill Action Boot Camp in Kansas City, Missouri. Missouri has the largest number of puppy mills in the country, and has topped our Horrible Hundred report on puppy mills for the last seven years. This event is an opportunity for budding animal advocates to learn how to end this scourge by building coalitions, supporting new laws, working with the media and communicating with law enforcement to fight puppy mills, all for a nominal fee of $25.
Residents of any state are welcome, and can take advantage of a group rate at the hotel if they book before July 2. You can learn more or register here to join the fight against puppy mills. Let’s work together toward the day when pet stores like Petland can no longer build their businesses on the suffering of animals in puppy mills.