In a sweeping victory, San Antonio, Texas, voted last night to prohibit the sale of commercially raised puppies and kittens in pet stores. The city is home to one Petland and three other puppy-selling stores, and it has been a focal point in our work to end the sales of puppy mill dogs.
San Antonio joins more than 370 localities across 26 states that have passed similar laws. DuPage County in Illinois also enacted a similar ordinance earlier this week. But the battle for an ordinance in San Antonio was an especially hard-fought one. Petland and other pet stores hired at least three different lobby firms to oppose it, but in the end all they could secure was a single “no” vote. Nine city council members voted to pass the ordinance, citing 243 written public comments in favor of the ordinance. Only 54 comments opposed it, and most were from outside the state.
In another telling sign of how fed up the residents and lawmakers of San Antonio are with puppy mills, the council also approved an amendment that speeds up implementation of the ban from July 2021 to January 2021.
Texas, and especially San Antonio, has a disproportionately large number of homeless dogs and cats in shelters compared to the rest of the country, so a win here is especially welcome. Before the vote yesterday, Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio made a heartfelt personal appeal to the council, saying that his family had been blessed with four dogs who were previously abused by puppy mill breeders. “I have, for the last six years, been waiting for this,” he added.
Among those testifying in favor of the ordinance was a former employee of the San Antonio Petland store who described the many sick puppies she saw when she worked there, and the lack of appropriate care that these puppies desperately needed. This is consistent with what HSUS investigators have found during our undercover investigations of Petland stores in eight locations across the country.
We have turned a red-hot spotlight on Petland because it is the only national pet store chain that continues to sell dogs at its stores, and sources them from puppy mills. The company has also put its might behind challenging efforts by states and localities to end puppy mill cruelty, while refusing to do what so many other pet stores have done and what consumers want—convert to a more humane model.
The Humane Society of the United States’ Puppy-Friendly Pet Stores Program has helped thousands of stores nationwide transition from selling commercially raised puppies to offering shelter dogs for adoption. One San Antonio area pet store, Polly’s Pets, made the decision several years ago to stop selling commercially raised puppies and instead offer shelter dogs for adoption. Polly’s Pets, which works with San Antonio Animal Care Services and has found homes from nearly 1,000 shelter dogs, has clearly thrived after changing its business model.
We are seeing terrific momentum in the fight against puppy mills because consumers are increasingly growing aware of the terrible conditions these operations keep their animals in, profiting off them while denying them the most basic care. Each year, our Horrible Hundred report exposes some of the most problem puppy mills in the country, and increasingly, lawmakers are using it as a source to crack down on these operations.
In Missouri, Attorney General Eric Schmitt this week announced his office has filed 24 criminal charges and a civil action against unlicensed dog breeder Marlisa McAlmond of Cedar Ridge Australians. Charges filed include 21 counts of animal abuse, two counts of felony property damage, and one count of canine cruelty.
Schmitt’s office sued McAlmond, who appeared in four of our Horrible Hundred reports, earlier this year for substandard breeding conditions and operating under an expired license. McAlmond, however, continued to breed dogs and in September killed 21 dogs in her care that she had been directed to turn over to the state. She also moved 60 other dogs to numerous third parties without the knowledge or written approval of the Department of Agriculture, according to the charges filed against her. McAlmond’s puppy mill was the fifth from our Horrible Hundred list that Schmitt’s office has taken action against in the last two years.
In Pennsylvania, James E. Burkholder, the owner of the puppy mill Whispering Spring Kennel LLC, which also appeared four times in our Horrible Hundred reports, was charged with 24 counts of misdemeanor and 10 summary offenses. State regulators accused him of trying to hide the dogs in his operation from inspectors and failing to keep records that the animals were vaccinated against rabies, as well as other violations. Our investigators found that he also failed to get veterinary checks for dogs during at least 15 different inspections over the last decade and was repeatedly found interfering with inspections and hiding dogs from inspectors.
With courts and lawmakers increasingly acting to cut the pet-store-puppy-mill pipeline, businesses that are clinging to a cruel, outdated model will continue to be left behind. Americans are making a clear choice to not participate in puppy mill cruelty. The unsavory business of selling puppy mill animals will come to an end. And the sooner Petland and other puppy selling stores adapt to this changing reality, the better off the animals, the consumers and their businesses will be.