Hundreds of localities now ban the sales of dogs from puppy mills in pet stores because of how cruelly the breeders, transporters and pet stores treat the animals in their care. Our puppy mills campaign has been leading this fight and last month we released an undercover investigation into the shocking treatment of dogs sourced from commercial breeders at two Petland stores. Our investigation prompted more than a hundred complaints from people who had purchased sick puppies from Petland stores.
Now, instead of correcting its own ways, Petland – the only national chain that still sells commercially raised puppies -- is attempting to stop localities from passing bans on puppy mill dog sales. An organization run by the chief lobbyist for Petland is pushing for legislation in nearly a dozen states that would strip localities of their right to regulate local pet stores in order to protect consumers and promote animal welfare. The legislation would also void any existing ordinances prohibiting the sale of mill puppies in pet stores.
We have learned that these bills have been or will soon be introduced in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Minnesota, Kansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Nebraska and perhaps a few other states. If passed, they will ensure that pet store retailers can continue to source puppies from large-scale commercial breeders -- breeders who often keep their dogs in tiny cages, sometimes stacked one on top of the other, deny them exercise and socialization, and even kill mother dogs who no longer produce large litters, among other abuses.
Petland was behind similar nefarious bills that were shot down in the last two years by legislatures in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as a bill that was vetoed by former Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan in December. We have also seen bills introduced in Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma and Texas that would stop local communities from regulating any activity that involves working animals. If these laws go into effect, communities would, for example, be unable to stop circuses from bringing wild animals into town, or make laws banning horse-drawn carriages on crowded, polluted and dangerous roads.
Attempts to silence opponents of animal abuse are not new and for many years now, we have been fighting a raft of measures that seek to prevent any kind of regulation of businesses that use animals, including ag-gag laws and “right to farm” constitutional amendments. The reason that these attempts fail more often than they succeed is because lawmakers realize that gagging their citizens is not the American thing to do. At the federal level too, Congress recently removed from the Farm Bill the dangerous King amendment, which could have nullified key state and local laws addressing, among other issues, the consumption of horse and dog meat, ending the slaughter of horses, the extreme confinement of farm animals, and animals in puppy mills. It is not surprising that many backers of the state laws that would preempt local animal protection ordinances were also supporters of the failed King amendment.
We are hopeful that Petland’s efforts will not come to fruition. Ironically, they may have the unintended benefit of provoking a discussion in communities about the need for local laws banning puppy mill sales. Georgia, for instance, had no local pet store ordinances in early 2017 when Petland took their first crack at passing a preemption bill there. That bill did not pass, but the resulting discussion led to 10 localities in the state, including Atlanta, banning sales of puppy mill dogs in pet stores.
Americans do not want companion animals to suffer in puppy mills. Since 2017, two states, California and Maryland, have enacted statewide bans on the sales of puppy mill dogs in pet stores and numerous other legislatures are considering similar bills. Nearly 300 localities around the country have enacted bans on such sales. Large chains like PetSmart and Petco have never sold puppies, and our Puppy-Friendly Pet Stores conversion program has helped dozens of stores convert to a model where they work with shelters to make homeless animals available for adoption instead of selling dogs from commercial breeders.
Petland, by continuing to source commercially bred puppies and by pushing for legislation that would stop localities from banning puppy mill sales, is essentially bucking a nationwide trend and attempting to set the clock back on all the progress made over the past several years to end the cruelty of puppy mills. You can be sure the HSUS will be at the frontline to help defeat these bills as they come up, while keeping up the fight for more states to pass laws banning puppy mill sales in pet stores.