There are some 10,000 puppy mills active in the United States – a mammoth number, by any measure. Animals in these enterprises are condemned to a life of squalor and suffering with no relief in sight. At a typical puppy mill, dozens or even hundreds of animals are housed in stacked wire cages or small enclosures they will never leave. They will never have a toy to play with, usually not enough food or water, and often scant medical care. It is no way for a companion animal to live, and that’s why we have made ending the horror of puppy mills a top priority here at the Humane Society of the United States.
It’s a daunting problem, but we have made immense strides. We have created and helped pass important laws to end the sales of puppy mill dogs in pet stores, in two states and 309 localities. Our Humane Society Legislative Fund staff has worked with members of Congress, like Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Charlie Crist, D-Fla., to introduce the WOOF Act, H.R. 1002, and the Puppy Protection Act, H.R. 2442, targeted at ending the worst conditions in puppy mills. We continue to bring to light the plight of dogs in puppy mills, through our investigations of pet stores and through the hands-on work we do to rescue animals trapped in these situations.
But to truly deal a body blow to this scourge, we need consumers to stop buying puppies from dubious sources on the Internet and from pet stores. That’s why educating the public on how and where they acquire their pets is an equally, if not more, important piece of this puzzle.
It may be hard to believe, but some animal lovers still don’t know what a puppy mill is. Even if they have heard the term before, they may not realize how widespread the problem is. Our puppy mills campaign staff works tirelessly to educate Americans about puppy mills, and the importance of adopting animals from shelters, rescues and from responsible breeders.
These are just a few of the ways in which we raise awareness:
- Humane education kits: Each year, we provide hundreds of free educational kits about humane dog care to elementary teachers and educators, to teach thousands of children about responsible pet acquisition. These kits, called Nose to Tail: Lessons to Inspire Care and Compassion for Dogs, are geared toward students in grades K through 5. By reaching out to youth early about responsible puppy care and acquisition, we hope to inspire a new generation of compassionate pet stewards.
- Billboards: The Stop Puppy Mills Campaign provides pre-designed billboard art to individuals and groups around the country who want to help educate consumers about the dangers of buying puppies in pet stores. Such billboards have been posted in more than half a dozen states and in major cities such as New York City and Chicago. Individuals start by identifying a nearby billboard location and finding out the fee to rent the space. If the individual wishes to rent the billboard, or can get the sign owner to donate the space for free, the HSUS provides the artwork at the correct specifications free of charge, and works with the company to get it posted. For more info on this program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Horrible Hundred reports: Our Horrible Hundred reports list examples of problem puppy mills in the United States and provide consumers with a valuable tool to fight puppy mills when they choose to bring a companion animal home. You can read all of our Horrible Hundred reports from past years here to see where your state ranks on puppy mills, and which breeders to avoid.
For those who are interested in becoming more engaged in advocacy, we also provide a free Advocates Guide to Stopping Puppy Mills with information on everything from how to conduct a lawful pet store demonstration to how to write a letter to the editor or reach out to lawmakers. The guide, and other fact sheets and research on puppy mills, can be downloaded from our website.
We also host Puppy Mill Action Boot Camps, where future animal advocates can get training from our experts in ending the problem of puppy mills. Our first boot camp was held in Pennsylvania in October 2018 and was a roaring success, attended by almost 100 budding advocates.
Next month, we’ll host our second boot camp in Kansas City, Missouri, from August 2 to 4 where we will be joined by three super star dogs, including puppy mill rescue and Instagram star #EllaBeantheDog and her mom, Hilary Sloan, who is a member of the HSUS’s Humane Generation NY committee and will talk about social media advocacy; Izzie, whose person, Rory Kress, an investigative journalist, was so curious about where her dog came from that she travelled all the way to Missouri to find out and ended up writing an expose of the puppy mill industry, The Doggie in the Window; and Faith the Pug, who was rescued by the HSUS during a puppy mill raid in Arkansas several years ago. Faith, who will attend with her person, Rosie Gordon, lost her eyes due to neglect at the puppy mill, but she now leads a happy and busy life as a certified therapy dog, visiting adult day cares and other places where people need a ray of hope.
Registration for the entire event is only $25, which includes 10 workshops and four meals. There’s still time to sign up for the boot camp and meet Faith, Izzie and Ella Bean, and all the human members of our team. Click here to register or read the complete list of speakers and events.
P.S. With Tropical Storm Barry bearing down upon Louisiana, we are standing by to help local shelters move animals to safety and assist in the aftermath of the storm. We will bring you more details in tomorrow’s blog.