By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
It’s no secret that puppy and kitten mills treat dog and cat mothers and fathers like moneymaking machines, bred over and over with little to no regard for their health or well-being. It is simply no way for a dog or cat to live.
The suffering of these animal families is what drives us in our work toward a future in which the public understands the injustices done to these animals, and puppy mills no longer have anywhere to sell their “products.” Because of an increasing awareness of these dismal facilities, the image of the puppy or kitten frolicking behind a pet shop window is becoming more chilling than adorable.
Thankfully, we and so many of our supporters are ardent in our fight to be a voice for these animals. In 2021, we prevailed in several key battles against the powerful, well-funded puppy-selling pet store lobby in states and localities across the nation and helped push enforcement agencies into raising standards and shutting down bad breeders.
Here’s a closer look at just a few of our top victories this year:
- Thirty-five pet stores will have to stop selling puppies due to new state laws and ordinances that passed in 2021. Twelve of the 35 stores are Petland stores. Illinois and Washington both enacted statewide prohibitions on the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores, adding up to a total of five states and over 400 localities that have taken a stand against the puppy mill industry.
- Our campaign against Petland, the largest retailer of puppy mill puppies in the U.S., is succeeding. Despite expending massive resources to protect its cruel business model, we prevailed in ordinance battles against Petland in two key Florida counties (Orange and Manatee), as well as in the Illinois statehouse. With so many communities taking a strong stand against the puppy-mill-to-pet-store pipeline, the day when cruel puppy mills have nowhere left to sell is in sight.
- Just Puppies, which operated two notorious pet stores in Maryland, closed its doors after it was successfully sued for selling puppies in violation of the state’s retail puppy sales ban. It faces fines of up to $500,000 if it doesn’t comply, providing a sober warning for other pet stores that break the law.
- We investigated and exposed one of the largest pet stores in New York City, American Kennels, leading to explosive media coverage and renewing interest in a statewide law to end the sale of puppy mill puppies in New York. Local authorities are currently investigating our evidence.
- Our fight against online puppy marketplace PuppyFind was settled, and PuppyFind agreed to pay back consumers who had purchased sick and dying puppies, to stop removing negative reviews of breeders on their website, and to make an effort to keep puppy mill sellers with cruelty convictions from advertising on the site.
- At least six breeders associated with our Horrible Hundred reports have closed this year, including four in Missouri and others in Kansas and Pennsylvania, resulting in the rescue of hundreds of dogs.
- The Puppy Protection Act, H.R. 2840 and S. 1385, was introduced in the 117th Congress in April. If successful in becoming law, it will require much higher standards of care at USDA-licensed breeding operations.
- Additional victories on the federal level included the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s publication of a final contingency rule, which requires puppy mills and other licensed dealers to have emergency plans to save their animals during disasters, and the publication of an internal audit on USDA enforcement. Also, as a result of unrelenting pressure to enhance enforcement, USDA worked with the Justice Department to shut down a horrific breeder in Iowa, Daniel Gingerich, which resulted in the rescue of more than 500 dogs.
- More than 45,000 dogs have been saved since the beginning of our Puppy Friendly Pet Stores program due to pet stores that we helped convert to more humane models; these stores now work to help place shelter dogs.
How to help
Although it should be clear to the puppy-selling pet store sector that its days are numbered, its leaders are not going down without a fight. We are gearing up for a major battle in Florida, where Petland has already introduced 2022 legislation that would prevent any additional localities from regulating pet stores and void the Manatee and Orange County ordinances that passed in 2021. We are also expecting legislation in Illinois, backed by Petland and Furry Babies, a local chain, that would repeal the Humane Pet Store Law that passed in 2021.
We’ve stopped preemption bills—state bills that would prevent localities from regulating pet stores and overturn existing ordinances —and repeal efforts before, and we’re confident we’ll do it again, but we must take these well-funded threats seriously. Florida residents can help by calling their state lawmakers to ask them to oppose SB 994 (Petland’s preemption bill), and Illinois residents can help by asking their state lawmakers to oppose any effort to repeal the Humane Pet Store Law next year. Residents of other states can urge lawmakers to support the Puppy Protection Act.
Everyone can join in the effort to stop puppy mills: Check out our puppy mills research page and our Advocates Guide to Stopping Puppy Mills. Follow our Stop Puppy Mills team on social media and connect with your HSUS state director to stay appraised of the big fights against puppy mills we are taking on in 2022.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.