By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
If you’ve been following our advocacy for dogs and cats in puppy and kitten mills, you already know that these mega-breeding facilities treat dog and cat mothers and fathers like moneymaking machines with little to no regard for their health or well-being.
Thankfully, each year, more and more people understand this treatment as an injustice, and 2022 brought major victories in our fight for a more humane world for these animals. Thanks to all our hardworking staff, local animal advocates and supporters, in 2022 we scored some big victories in our fight to end puppy mills and stop the sale of puppies in pet stores.
Here are some highlights:
- As we were writing this roundup, Washington, D.C., passed a bill that prohibits the sale of puppies and kittens in pet shops.
- Just last week, New York became the sixth state to prohibit the sale of puppies in pet stores. It also prohibits the sale of kittens and rabbits. Plus, the Illinois humane pet store law went into effect earlier this year. With these two laws alone, puppy mills will lose more than 80 retail sales outlets.
- Humane pet store laws are now on the books in 441 cities and counties across the U.S. Thirteen puppy stores in Nevada will stop selling puppies after Clark County passed a humane pet store ordinance this year, and with the passage of ordinances in Houston and Dallas, every major city in Texas now prohibits the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores.
- The notorious American Kennels pet store in New York City closed early this year after our investigation last December showed sick puppies being mistreated and denied proper care. Many puppies were rescued from the store and placed in new homes.
- The last puppy-selling pet store in Maryland (Maryland Puppies) closed and was heavily fined after failing to follow the state pet store law.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture ended its Teachable Moments program, which hid violations from breeder inspection reports since at least 2016.
- Twenty-four puppy mill dealers who appeared in our Horrible Hundred reports (our annual compilations of problem puppy mills in the U.S.) have closed so far this year. One, in Kansas, was charged with animal cruelty, and 68 dogs were saved. Another, in Missouri, had her USDA license revoked and was fined $12,000. Altogether, more than 220 dog dealers from our Horrible Hundred reports have closed over the past decade.
- Our research proved that the size of many puppy mills is shrinking. Ten years ago, the average USDA-licensed breeding facility had 87 dogs, and now the average facility has 57. This indicates that our policy and outreach wins are having an impact.
- Our exposés of Petland stores continued. We revealed undercover footage of two Petland stores in Wichita, Kansas, and shocking details about violations at an Overland Park, Kansas, Petland. We also assisted with a consumer lawsuit against a Houston area Petland store. We will continue to call out Petland’s cruelty, and assisting in policy changes and consumer lawsuits, until the cruel pet store chain stops selling puppies.
- The USDA increased enforcement actions against problem dog dealers by 75% in 2022, compared to 2021. While this is encouraging, we still think it’s not enough: Most of these actions were warning letters. We believe more problem puppy mills should have been hit with fines and penalties. We will continue to press for stronger actions in the year to come.
- The federal Puppy Protection Act (S.1385/H.R. 2840) received bipartisan support this congress with 42 Senators and 222 Representatives cosponsoring the bill. This piece of legislation would end some of the worst puppy mill cruelties at breeders who sell to pet stores and internet outlets, if passed.
- Six bad pet store bills were defeated. After we launched a major veto campaign, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida vetoed a bill that would have prevented localities from cracking down on puppy-selling pet stores. We also stopped bills that would have protected puppy mills and/or puppy-selling stores in Indiana, Wyoming, Utah and Pennsylvania, and stopped an effort to repeal Illinois’ Humane Pet Store Law.
We will continue our big fights into 2023 as we seek to end the pet store sale of puppies in even more states and localities, to defend the laws that did pass and make sure they are fully enforced, and to fight against bad laws that are promoted by the pro-puppy mill industry. We also hope to see more puppy mill owners brought to justice, and their dogs brought to safety.
You can help by spreading the word this holiday season about why adopting a shelter pet is the very best way to bring a cat or dog into your family. Please encourage family and friends never to shop at pet stores that sell puppies, and consider shopping at one of the stores on our Puppy Friendly Pet Stores list instead. If you have a humane pet store near you that does not sell puppies, encourage it to join our program. And continue to follow our progress on Facebook.
With your help, we are making great strides toward a world where our dogs and cats are treated the way we know they so deserve.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.