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December 02, 2008

Puppy Mill Angst

Since The HSUS broke its investigation of Petland, Inc.—exposing the retail chain of stores as perhaps the country’s largest supplier of puppy mill dogs—we’ve heard from scores of people of all ages who are passionate about the issue. Many want to know what they can do to help, and some have written in with news of projects they’ve thought up, including a group of fifth graders in Long Island, N.Y., who hosted a canine-themed bake sale to raise funds to fight puppy mills.

Last week, one comment in particular, from Rachel Pfirrman, caught my eye. She writes:

I sincerely thank the Humane Society for their continued effort to put an end to puppy mills. As the leader of an animal activist club at my high school, I recently brought the Petland, Inc. investigation to attention. We are now investigating our local Petland store, beginning with a letter to the owner of the Fairfield, Ohio location as well as a letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer in hopes that they will stop advertising for Petland. The Humane Society is our greatest resource in this endeavor. My goal is to convince our local Petland store to be responsible in buying their retail dogs from reputable breeders, but ideally, to not sell dogs at all. I have not contacted the store yet, but I do not expect cooperation. Any resources that the HSUS can make available on this issue would be a wonderful help. Thank you!

First off, I want to say hats off to Rachel for rallying other young people in the fight to stop the cruelty of puppy mills.

The HSUS’s Petland investigation brought to light problems throughout the retail chain (find the store nearest you), including at the Fairfield, Ohio store that Rachel mentions. Our investigators tracked the shipment of more than 400 puppies to that store from two wholesale dealers in Missouri and Kansas, and from an Indiana breeder with a list of Animal Welfare Act violations longer than my arm. According to USDA inspection reports, which are available on our Stop Puppy Mills website at humanesociety.org/puppymills, those violations include: dogs so severely matted that the USDA inspector could not see their faces, sick or injured dogs who had not been treated by a veterinarian, build-up of feces and grime in a kennel that had not been cleaned in more than a month, and puppies kept outside in the cold without adequate heat or shelter.

Puppy mill that supplies Petland
© The HSUS
One of the Petland suppliers HSUS investigators visited.

These records show that, contrary to what Petland’s salespeople may claim, this particular store and the other stores we investigated nationwide don't know the breeders they buy from. The Fairfield store is apparently purchasing dogs in bulk from brokers that collect puppies from commercial kennels all over the Midwest—and the vast majority of those commercial kennels are puppy mills.

We have great resources for Rachel and other students who want to take action against puppy mills. Our latest Mission: Humane project from Humane Society Youth, “A Cause for Paws,” guides young people in making their voices heard by their legislators to help establish stronger laws to protect dogs. We also show students how to spread the word to classmates, family, and friends about what people can do to steer clear of puppy mills when they’re ready to bring a dog into their home. Teens and elementary students can access step-by-step project instructions online, download a fact sheet, and then submit their work to earn a Mission: Humane T-shirt.

We'll only solve the problem of puppy mills if every one of us does his or her part. We have to generate a groundswell of concern to get meaningful action.

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