Pet stores keep ignoring puppy mill laws, but you don’t have to

Photo of puppy in confined space (Courtesy Humane Society)
Photo of puppy in confined space (Courtesy Humane Society)

Puppy mills have attracted a lot of attention recently, with many states passing high-profile laws designed to make inhumane breeders clean up their act of get out of the business.  But as we all know, passing a law can be a meaningless gesture.    If a society is judged by how it treats its most fragile members, I’m glad Judgment Day hasn’t arrived yet. We have a lot of work to do.

The Humane Society estimates that there are 10,000 puppy mills in the United States. Since 2008, 26 states have passed puppy mill laws. Generally, they require dogs get regular vet care and include specific regulations to prevent overcrowding.   The threat of fines and even jail time are certainly a deterrent to bad breeders, but as always, economics is the real hammer.

Maryland, which passed its law in 2011, included a smart provision that requires pet stores to display the name of the breeder and its license number next to all puppies. That gives the buyer important information on the pet’s history; it’s easy to see if a the breeder has a bad reputation, for example.

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Great idea, but for this: An investigation by the Humane Society and a local group named ReLove Animals visited 12 pet stores around the state and found only nine displayed the breeder information.

There’s a similarly discouraging story in Pennsylvania, once held up as a model of puppy mill legislation enforcement. When the state passed its law in 2008, Pennsylvania had a reputation as a haven for bad breeders.   By 2009, the number of commercial kennels fell from 303 to 111, the Humane Society says. Good.

But in July, a report issued by Pennsylvania state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found that money that was supposed to be devoted to enforcing the state’s puppy mill laws had been diverted to other bills, and the law was not being correctly enforced.

It’s frustrating, and its sad, but this is a case where American consumers really do have only themselves to blame. If a pet store doesn’t prominently display breeder information, its hiding something.  Walk out.  Puppy buyers really could put these breeders out of business, with or without law enforcement.  Do it for yourself, and for the future. Poorly bred dogs and puppies without proper care in their first weeks of life develop heartbreaking problems later in life.

Here’s the killer math: Some 2 to 4 million dogs are purchased every year from puppy mills. Meanwhile, 2.7 million animals are destroyed in shelters every year.  This is a pretty simple problem to solve.

For state by state information on puppy mill laws, visit the Humane Society’s website.




About Bob Sullivan 1443 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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