Advocates, today is No Pet Store Puppies Day. Last week, we gave you a glimpse into the process of behavioral rehabilitation for one particular dog, Dusty, who was terrified of everyone and everything after a life spent in a puppy mill. Read the rest of Dusty’s story, as told by our staff behavior experts, to see the amazing progress puppy mill survivors like him can make.
April 15, 2014: We are continuing to work with Dusty on his fear of seeing people while he’s on a leash. The rehabilitation center is lucky to have volunteers who come in on regular basis and act as unfamiliar people for our dogs in treatment. Today, I took Dusty on a walk to meet one of our volunteers and asked her to toss treats to him during the encounter. If we do this enough times, most dogs start to associate strangers they see on walks with yummy treats! Dusty is making extraordinary progress and we expect him to graduate from our program soon. He is sure to make a lucky family very happy!
May 1, 2014: Dusty graduated from our program today! He’s been placed with a rescue group, Rescuzilla, and will be living in a foster home in Queens, New York!
May 9, 2014: Rescuzilla tells us Dusty blew them all away with how quickly he warmed up to his new home. In the first couple of days, he was already comfortable being walked and held—even by his foster parent’s niece and nephew!
June 1, 2014:Dusty has found his forever home! A veterinary technician in New Jersey saw him on Petfinder and fell in love instantly. She has two other rescued Chihuahuas. One of Dusty’s rescue sisters is even sassier than he is, and the adopter was so happy to see the three of them get along so seamlessly in just the first few hours after Dusty came home! His new family says that he loves his new dad—but is a mama’s boy at heart. He is just what they were looking for.
Dusty’s journey is happily over, but there are many more dogs like him—is there room in your heart and home for one? Raja, Apple and Gustavo—three dogs seized from the same puppy mill as Dusty—have likewise graduated from the ASPCA's Behavioral Rehabilitation Center and are now waiting for their forever families.
Thousands of dogs spend their entire lives in puppy mills—where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. They live in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions for years on end, and may suffer from behavioral, congenital and hereditary problems as a result of irresponsible breeding practices. Their puppies are sometimes sold to pet shops—usually through a broker, or middleman—and marketed as young as eight weeks of age.
The ASPCA estimates that there are between 6,000 and 10,000 commercial breeding facilities in the U.S. That means that as many as tens of thousands of dogs are enduring lives of abuse and neglect—all in the name of profit—and we refuse to rest until every single mill dog is safe.
If you are ready to stand with us against puppy mills, join us this Monday, July 21, as we celebrate No Pet Store Puppies Day. We believe that no dog should suffer for profit, and we are making progress toward ending this abuse. But we can’t do it alone. Here are five ways you can help puppy mill dogs on No Pet Store Puppies Day.
1. Watch and share our latest video about why puppy mills are no laughing matter to spread awareness about pet store puppies.
In January, the ASPCA was called in to assist with the rescuing, sheltering and placement of more than 40 dogs from a large, substandard breeding facility in Nancy, Kentucky. The dogs were discovered in filthy, deplorable conditions, with little or no shelter from the below-freezing temperature. Many suffered from untreated medical conditions. Others were living in overcrowded conditions inside the home, without proper care or socialization. While 37 of the dogs rescued were placed into local shelters for adoption, six others were suffering from deeper psychological trauma that meant they couldn’t be placed in new homes just yet.
Dusty Bottoms, a three-pound, tan-and-white Chihuahua, was one of these dogs. ASPCA experts at the scene noticed immediately how fearful Dusty was. When they reached into his cage, he would cower against the back of the enclosure to avoid contact at all costs and would yelp and cry even without being touched. Dusty and five other pups like him were transferred to the ASPCA’s Behavioral Rehabilitation Centerin Madison, New Jersey, where they underwent intensiverehabilitation to help them learn to trust people.
After a lot of patience, love, and hard work, we’re happy to report that Dusty has made a full recovery! In honor of Monday’s No Pet Store Puppies Day, we want to share with you his amazing story, in the words of the staff at the Behavioral Rehabilitation Center that cared for him after his rescue.
March 5, 2014: Dusty Bottoms—named after one of the Three Amigos!—is just beginning his treatment with us after arriving at the ASPCA Behavioral Center from a Kentucky puppy mill raid. Dusty has some challenges that we will need to work on. He is fearful and suspicious of everyone. When on a leash, he is reactive to strangers and often barks, lunges and snaps when handled. During his time with us, we will focus on reducing Dusty’s fear of walking on a leash, petting and handling, and new environments and people.
March 30, 2014: Dusty is coming along nicely. He is becoming very comfortable with me and the other rehabilitation trainers and is even serving as a “helper dog” for another dog from the same case! We frequently pair fearful dogs with more confident, friendly dogs who have made progress in our program. The presence of "helper dogs" reduces anxiety and speeds along treatment. To overcome Dusty’s hesitation to approach new people, we are incorporating the use of “real-life rooms” and other scenarios that he’ll encounter when he’s adopted.
April 5, 2014: Dusty continues to make progress. During treatments, unfamiliar people toss him food while sitting on the floor in a non-threatening manner. Most times, Dusty builds enough confidence with them to be able to approach an outstretched hand and touch it with his nose to earn food rewards. This is helping Dusty build a positive association with people and their hands, which frighten most dogs with Dusty’s background.
Earlier this week, legislators in Suffolk County, New York—which occupies the eastern half of Long Island—passed a local ordinance regulating the sale of puppies in pet stores, becoming the first locality in the state to take advantage of a recent change to state law that allows municipalities to regulate pet dealers. While New York State finally allows local governments to enact and enforce tougher laws on pet stores, they cannot enact outright bans on the sale of puppies. Despite this, there are still some very effective alternatives to keep puppy mill puppies out New York’s pet shops.
We commend the county for its desire to do what our state’s government is not doing—it is the right instinct, and we hope this well-intentioned legislation will have some positive results for dogs and consumers.
However, we urge other communities interested in fighting puppy mill cruelty to pursue more targeted and effective models for such legislation. The Suffolk County approach prohibits pet stores from selling puppies who come from breeders with certain violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), relying on these standards as indicators of humane care. The problem with this approach is that federal standards are too minimal to screen out many significant, well-established welfare problems. For Suffolk County, this means that puppy mill puppies will still likely be sold in pet stores. Given what we’ve learned from years of helping law enforcement handle puppy mill raids, we believe that basing regulation of pet store sales on the inadequate and poorly enforced USDA standards is a limited approach, especially given the shortcomings of current federal law.
Under USDA standards, dogs in commercial breeding facilities can legally be kept in tiny wire-floored cages, stacked on top of one another, for their entire lives. We have witnessed and treated the sores and painful injuries dogs endure when they live 24/7—with no relief—on these wire floors. We have walked into puppy mills that were considered compliant with USDA standards and found female dogs whose bodies are broken down from continuous, unrelieved breeding—breeders do not, legally, ever have to skip a cycle and give a mother dog’s body a chance for recovery. These dogs stare back at us through lackluster eyes reflecting their broken spirits and worn out bodies, legs bowed from depleted bones and coats dull from the endless nursing and exhaustion.
Take a look at our gallery of breeder photos taken by federal inspectors during routine inspections of licensed facilities and see for yourself where most pet store puppies really come from and what it means for a breeder to be USDA-licensed and compliant with the regulations this new ordinance deems acceptable. To illustrate what’s legal, the photo below depicts housing conditions that are totally legal under federal law. The dogs in the picture can be kept in the cages shown for their entire lives, churning out litter after litter of puppies.
Sutmiller, Dorothy & Johnny & Shawn, USDA License #73A2583. Inspection on June 12, 2013.
Even if the standards were adequate, they're poorly enforced. Take a look at a scathing report from the Inspector General on the USDA's lax enforcement of the law regulating breeders (heads up, it's a little graphic!) and judge for yourself whether basing pet store regulation on the USDA system is enough to keep all puppies from puppy mills out of pet stores. We don't think it is. Violations like the ones in the pictures below demonstrate just how systemic the problems are and how both enforcement and the standards themselves are lacking.
Puppies’ feet falling through wire flooring. Miller, Eli, USDA License #43A5541. Inspection on August 18, 2011.
Sores between a dog’s toes from living on wire flooring. Lapp, Elmer, USDA License #32A0363. Inspection on December 14, 2011.
An over-bred female Beagle. Miller, Roy, USDA License #31A0276. Inspection on September 26, 2012.
We realize that a small step forward could be worth taking in some situations, but we believe local governments in the Empire State can do better. New York State’s recent move to allow local governments to enact these ordinances demonstrates an appetite to reduce the cruelty of the pet trade. There’s a better way to achieve this goal than the Suffolk County approach. We know that there are many towns, cities, villages and counties in New York that are considering regulating pet store sales, and we stand at the ready to help them do it in the most effective way possible.
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Most people understand there's a difference between selling a puppy and selling a toaster oven, but do our laws? It depends where you look. Across the country, puppy mills—which in many cases are legal—are allowed to put profits ahead of pet welfare in the sole interest of their own profit-driven desires, churning out puppy after puppy like household appliances on a conveyor belt.
The good news is that states are finally addressing cruel breeding and animal-selling practices, as well as strengthening industry accountability, with a variety of laws designed to protect and save lives. While some of the laws are stronger than others, they’re all no-brainers to those who see animals as more than products, yet many state legislatures are still resistant to regulation. Two current battlegrounds are North Carolina and Illinois, but many more states are tackling these issues.
You can play a part in ending puppy mills by refusing to buy anything, including both dogs and pet supplies, from a pet store that sell puppies, as well as supporting enactment of strong state humane laws. While the federal Animal Welfare Act sets minimum standards of care, these standards are grossly inadequate—enforcement is underfunded and too often lacks teeth. As a result, state and local laws often offer better protection for these animals.
Monitoring progress in every state provides a good snapshot of how attitudes are changing nationwide. Here’s a very current overview of recent animal welfare struggles and wins in state legislatures across the country as well as at the national level:
Right now in North Carolina, legislation to prohibit certain inhumane breeding practices passed the House of Representatives in 2013 thanks to the strong leadership of House Speaker Thom Tillis. What the Senate will now agree to isn’t clear, but we fortunately have great friends in Governor and First Lady McCrory, who have made the puppy mill issue a priority. We hope for a successful resolution in the coming weeks as the legislature is in session, but residents can still help push this bill through.
This month, Minnesota lawmakers passed the state’s first puppy mill bill, which will help vulnerable animals in puppy and kitten mills thanks to the creation of a licensing program, annual inspections, and compliance with minimum standards of care for dogs and cats in commercial breeding facilities. The bill was signed into law on May 20 by Gov. Mark Dayton. This landmark legislation passed in large part thanks to Gov. Dayton’s admirable work with local advocates for many years.
In Illinois, state legislators enacted a pet lemon law last year to hold pet stores accountable if they sell dogs or cats who later become ill. Very recently, at the urging of Gov. Pat Quinn, a bill was introduced to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. Several communities in the state had already enacted similar bans, making this state-wide push possible. However, with so little time left in the legislative session, this measure will likely not be considered before the legislature adjourns for the summer.
In Connecticut, a bill awaiting the governor’s signature holds pet shops, breeders, and brokers more accountable for the welfare of the animals they sell by significantly increasing pet shops’ obligation to reimburse for veterinary care, prohibiting the sale of dogs from breeders and brokers with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) violations, and requiring pet shops to post federal breeder inspection reports. This bill, championed by tireless animal advocate Rep. Brenda Kupchick, grew out of a task force created by a statute in 2013 to examine possible legislative solutions to the puppy mill problem, including a full ban on the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet shops. A compromise, the present bill instead bans the sale of dogs from USDA-licensed facilities that have certain violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
New York state law now authorizes local governments to crack down on cruel and unscrupulous pet dealers throughout the state. Until this change was made, only the state could control the fate of the animals in these facilities. As a result, a number of localities and counties have already introduced proposals to regulate pet dealers on the local level.
A new law in Virginia requires pet stores to disclose the origins and health histories of dogs they sell, and expands the ability of customers to seek financial remedies if a purchased dog or cat becomes ill. Find out how to thank state lawmakers.
California now prohibits the sale of animals at public outdoor venues including roadsides and parking lots. These sales endanger animals, and lead to both increased suffering and overpopulation.
Nevada legislators banned the sale of animals at swap meets.
Vermont lawmakers passed a measure that improves enforcement of the law protecting breeding dogs and the puppies they produce by providing clear definitions and eliminating legal loopholes.
West Virginia passed a strong new law in 2013 requiring commercial breeders to be licensed. It also mandates inspections of breeding premises twice per year and sets minimum standards of care for dogs.
Federally, the USDA now requires U.S. commercial breeders who sell puppies directly to the public sight unseen to be licensed and inspected. For the first time, thousands of breeders who sell dogs over the Internet will have to open their kennel doors to regulators.
Unfortunately, this leaves out puppies coming in from overseas. That’s why we’re still working to encourage the USDA to finalize a federal rule requiring non-U.S. breeders who import puppies to the U.S. to provide certification that each dog is in good health, has received all necessary vaccinations, and is at least six months of age.
Of course, the puppy mill and dog breeding industries are fighting tooth and nail to keep their industries alive with little or no accountability, which is why we need to be active and vigilant. Though contacting your representatives may seem like a futile effort, we’ve seen momentous change come from a loud community voice.
You can also help by taking the No Pet Store Puppies pledge not to buy anything from pet stores that sell puppies, and by encouraging others to do the same. Pet stores typically purchase puppies from USDA-licensed breeders, many of whom are frequent violators of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and are allowed to sell even after repeated violations, including denying veterinary care to injured animals, keeping them in filthy and dangerous environments, performing invasive surgeries on their own animals without veterinary licenses, and, in some cases, shooting their unwanted dogs. Our "No Pet Store Puppies" campaign also features over 10,000 photos taken by USDA inspectors at licensed breeding facilities, allowing consumers to see firsthand where pet store puppies really come from.
Puppy mills wouldn’t be the first inhumane industry to be stopped, banned, or criminalized thanks to public pressure. Child labor, animal fighting, sweatshops, horse slaughter, use of lead paint, and shark finning are all examples of one-time commonly accepted practices which now fall below the standards of civilized behavior. Strong laws, personal action, and collective outrage can make the price of doing this kind of business too high for even the most motivated entrepreneur.
The bottom line is this: Humane treatment is not our gift to animals; it’s our obligation. If your state is not doing enough to keep breeders in check, urge your elected officials to do more. If your community is tolerating puppy mills and pet stores that sell puppy mill puppies, bring the true nature of those businesses to light.
And if you think this is a problem that can’t be fixed, think again.