Animals trapped in puppy mills are often denied adequate food, water and even the most basic veterinary care or enrichment. They will almost never know a kind human touch. Photo by Michelle Riley/The HSUS
A recent industry publication paints a grim picture for the future of puppy mills, after several hundred localities and three states have banned the sale of puppies in pet stores in recent years. According to a report from IBIS World, a market research firm, fewer pet stores selling puppies led to a 12.2% revenue decline for commercial puppy breeders in 2017, with continued declines expected for the foreseeable future.
This is great news, and it shows that our broad and tough-minded campaign against puppy mills is paying off.
Importantly, the authors of the report note a year-to-year reduction in the number of kennels raising puppies, and attribute that directly to the poor reputation the commercial pet breeding industry has earned for itself.
The research also directly contradicts industry lobbyists and trade groups, who have downplayed the effect that humane pet store ordinances have had on puppy mills. But anyone with a basic understanding of economics knows that when you shrink the marketplace, production has to shrink as well. With fewer outlets selling mill puppies, greedy dog mills churn out fewer puppies. Meanwhile, responsible breeders, who breed sparingly and never sell to puppy stores, will still be able to keep breeding healthy animals in caring home environments. That’s how it ought to be.
The animals trapped in puppy mills are often denied adequate food, water and even the most basic veterinary care or enrichment. They will almost never know a kind human touch. Every year, we witness this cruelty dozens of times first-hand, when we assist with puppy mill rescues or help shelters flooded with puppy mill animals after a rescue. The animals we see are often emaciated, many suffer from untreated diseases and infections, and often their spirits are broken. While dogs are incredibly resilient and many of those we rescue bounce back after weeks of TLC, no animal should have to endure such misery in the first place.
That’s why we fight puppy mills so hard, and work with such energy to end them. We have been the driving force behind successful bans on puppy mill sales in pet stores in the states and localities, and we are pushing others to do the same. We are also working to advance the passage of bills in Congress that would regulate puppy mills. Last week, we released our eighth annual Horrible Hundred report, which lists problem puppy breeders and sellers in the United States. Our researchers work tirelessly all year, scouring state and U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection reports to pull this information together so lawmakers and consumers are aware of puppy mill cruelty wherever it exists.
Through our undercover investigations of Petland, the largest national chain that still sells puppies, and that often sources animals from puppy mills, we have focused attention on how pet stores contribute to and exacerbate the puppy mill problem. In fact, several of the puppy mills featured in this year’s Horrible Hundred report sell to Petland. One breeder in Clark, Missouri, who supplied puppies to at least five Petland stores in Florida, was keeping his dogs in enclosures with excessive feces. The animals had dirty and matted fur and the breeder even sold dogs without the proper vaccinations. Another breeder in Middlebury, Indiana, who supplied to a Petland in Olathe, Kansas, had a wheaten terrier with a softball-sized vaginal prolapse. The breeder had reportedly known about this condition for six weeks but had not notified a veterinarian. A prolapse is painful and, if left untreated, can be fatal.
The news that this cruelty is on a decline is exciting, and satisfying, but we cannot stop now. Soon after the coronavirus crisis began, our investigators documented a surge in sales at puppy-selling pet stores. This is especially unfortunate, given that shelters around the country are receiving more surrendered animals and need folks to foster and adopt as this crisis continues. Responsible breeders, shelters and rescues should be the only sources for a new pet. To truly get the problem of puppy mills under control, we will need each animal-loving American on our side, keeping an eye out for puppy mill abuse, raising their voices in support of laws that regulate puppy mill excesses, and helping members of the broader public to make the right decisions when they decide to bring a companion animal home.
Published at Fri, 29 May 2020 19:23:54 +0000
By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
We have heard from numerous consumers who bought puppies they were told were healthy from one of the 19 Petland stores nationwide, only to have their joy turn to heartbreak when the animals fell sick or died. Above, a sick puppy at the Florence, Kentucky, Petland store. Photo by the HSUS
Pet stores like Petland and internet puppy sellers routinely deceive unsuspecting customers into buying animals who are bred in inhumane puppy mills and who could be sick or even dying. Today, we are calling on the Federal Trade Commission, the agency charged with consumer protection, to crack down on these deceptive sales and marketing practices that often result in terrible suffering for pets and the people who bring them home.
The FTC has been mostly silent on retail pet sales. The agency has also not issued a regulation declaring these deceptive practices to be unlawful—a request we made in a legal petition filed in 2018. In the two years since, we have conducted undercover investigations at eight Petland stores. We have also heard from numerous consumers who bought puppies they were told were healthy from one of Petland’s stores across 19 states nationwide, only to have their joy turn to heartbreak when the animals fell sick or died.
With our renewed legal petition filed today we hope the FTC will finally move to protect these and other future consumers. These are people like Stephanie Rappard who was sold a “completely healthy” German shepherd puppy by the Petland in Topeka, Kansas. The puppy, named Jade, died just a month later from multiple preventable ailments. Or Stacy Parreno, who bought a basset hound from another Petland in Orlando, Florida, only to find out he was suffering from pneumonia and a genetic lung defect. When Stacy brought the dog back to the store, he was resold to another family.
Our undercover investigators documented similar findings at other Petland stores. Buyers were routinely assured that their puppies were healthy and came from reputable breeders, when in fact they typically came from unsanitary mass-breeding facilities like the ones we list each year in our Horrible Hundred report on problem puppy dealers and breeders. Petland, we found, also neglected to provide proper veterinary care for animals who were noticeably ill, and used “preventative” antibiotics and other ad-hoc remedies to mask symptoms of infectious diseases long enough to sell the puppies to unsuspecting consumers. For instance, in our undercover investigation of a Florence, Kentucky, Petland store, the manager told a secret shopper that a goldendoodle—who was infected with campylobacter and had been suffering for weeks with diarrhea and lethargy—was perfectly healthy and had been tested for the infectious disease, which can be transmitted to humans.
Puppy sellers like Petland also often pressure or mislead consumers into high-interest financing agreements that they cannot afford. In some tragic cases we cite in our petition, consumers continued to accrue interest and make payments on puppies who had passed away shortly after purchase.
In addition to duping customers, pet stores like Petland keep the puppy mill problem alive and thriving. The mills churn out a steady supply of puppies for sale at the stores, often labeling them with made-up terms such as “teacup puppies,” or “hypoallergenic” to boost sales in response to consumer trends.
The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund are working on many fronts to root out the puppy mill problem and end sales of puppies in pet stores. As a result of our efforts, three states and 355 localities now ban pet store sales of puppies. In Congress, we are pushing for the passage of the Welfare of Our Friends (WOOF) Act, H.R. 1002, to make it easier to close down dog breeders with violations, and the Puppy Protection Act, H.R. 2442, to upgrade standards of care for dogs.
Last week the Florida attorney general’s office brought a lawsuit against a Petland store—Petland Orlando East aka Petland Waterford Lakes—alleging the exact same kinds of deceptive practices we discuss in our petition. Clearly, a growing number of disgruntled consumers are speaking out, and we applaud the attorney general for taking action.
But ultimately, this ball is in the FTC’s court. The federal agency has the authority and responsibility to ensure that American consumers are not being hurt by unscrupulous business practices. We reminded the agency of this responsibility when we filed our first petition in 2018, and we are urging it again today to grant our request. We will keep showing up until it does.
If you believe you have been deceived by the practices of the retail pet industry, please submit a complaint to the FTC and ask them to help stop these practices. You can also report your story to us by filling out our Puppy Buyer Complaint Form.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund
Published at Thu, 28 May 2020 15:09:48 +0000