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August 22, 2012

Taking a Stand: Breeders Join with The HSUS to Combat Puppy Mills

New advisory council helps raise awareness about difference between responsible breeders and puppy mills

All Animals magazine September/October 2012

  • Kathryn McGriff. Meredith Lee/For The HSUS

  • Theresa Donnelly. Deb McGuire Photography

by Karen E. Lange

Secretary of the Boxer Club of Hawaii, Theresa Donnelly protests in front of stores that sell puppy mill dogs and advises people to go to responsible breeders, not pet shops, for puppies. A Clumber spaniel breeder in the D.C. metro area, Kathryn McGriff investigated the puppy mill industry when she worked as a producer at an ABC affiliate. As the public face of The HSUS’s new Breeders Advisory and Resource Council, Donnelly and McGriff provide input on public policy and help The HSUS raise awareness about the difference between responsible breeders—who breed happy, healthy dogs in clean, humane conditions—and puppy mills, factory-style facilities that focus on profit at the expense of animal welfare.

Already, McGriff has helped refine an HSUS checklist of what to look for in a responsible breeder, and she provided a breeder’s perspective on a USDA proposal to close a loophole allowing online dog sellers to operate without a license. “Reputable breeders are perhaps the best advocates for animal welfare,” she says. “We are committed to the breeds we raise. We want to see them placed in loving homes. … We can’t allow ourselves to be affiliated … with people who create dogs like they’re on an assembly line.”

For her part, Donnelly—a U.S. Navy lieutenant and founder of Hawaii Military Pets—has actively supported a number of ongoing HSUS-led animal welfare bills in Hawaii, including pet store reforms and commonsense care standards for breeders. “She’s the voice of reason on very emotional and oftentimes contentious issues,” says HSUS state director Inga Gibson.

To those who see any regulation of the industry as an assault on their liberties and profits, The HSUS’s new partnership with responsible breeders hasn’t gone unnoticed. After Donnelly’s and McGriff’s identities were posted on The HSUS’s website in January, a breeder posted a diatribe against them. Its title: “Sleeping with the Enemy.”

Read The HSUS report on the AKC »

Such attacks can be traced to the attitudes of dog registries and professional breeder organizations, including the American Kennel Club, that lobby intensively against even modest improvements to the welfare of puppy mill dogs. As documented in a recent HSUS report, the AKC panders to the interests of large commercial breeders—who supply the bulk of its registry revenue—even though smaller-scale, high-quality breeders make up most of the organization’s membership. The report also reveals that numerous puppy mill operators who have been charged with animal cruelty have been selling AKC-registered puppies; some of their facilities even passed AKC inspections.

Most of BARC’s members have asked that their names not be released, fearing publicity could cost them their positions as show judges or damage their relationships with breed groups. But McGriff says someone has to come forward, and it might as well be her; she isn’t currently showing animals or judging.

Donnelly decided to collaborate with The HSUS after concluding that attacks on the organization came mainly from commercial interests that stand to lose money if reforms are enacted. She says she’s willing to put up with opposition if that’s what it takes to get a dialogue going. “I’m hoping … all parties come to the table and work together. … If [responsible breeders] can sit down face-to-face with HSUS and have the conversation I did … I just like to think they’ll have a different position when they walk away.”

Read more from this issue »

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