A recent article in a Florida newspaper claimed that, “Local ordinances targeting pet stores in Florida do more harm than good” and urged lawmakers to make it illegal for cities and counties to ban the retail sale of commercially bred dogs and cats. It was written by a former Petland franchisee who claims he lost his store when the city it was located in passed such a law. The author wants the law overturned. But he’s wrong.
Local laws banning the sale of commercially-bred dogs and cats and encouraging these stores to work with rescue groups and animal shelters deserve our support. Indeed, there’s good reason why over 200 cities and the State of California have passed such laws. And good reason why New York and Pennsylvania are now considering their own statewide bans on such sales. Pet stores, including Petland franchises, get their animals from Commercial Breeding Enterprises (CBEs), commonly known as “puppy mills.” And as a study in the Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science found, “Common to virtually all CBEs are the following: large numbers of dogs; maximally efficient use of space by housing dogs in or near the minimum space permitted by law; housing breeding dogs for their entire reproductive lives — in most cases, years — in their cages or runs; dogs rarely if ever permitted out of their primary enclosures for exercise or play; absence of toys or other forms of enrichment; minimal to no positive human interaction or companionship; and minimal to no health care.”
In layman’s terms, puppy mills engage in systematic neglect and abuse toward animals, causing severe emotional scars on the victims. The former breeding dogs living with those scars are a testament to that fact. Not only do one in four have significant health problems, they are more likely to suffer from aggression, and many of them are psychologically and emotionally shut down, compulsively staring at nothing. If history proves anything, it is that where there is a profit to be made on the backs of animals, those backs are strained and often broken.
The author, however, claims that these facilities are regulated and inspected by the USDA. But that is misleading. The Office of the Inspector General found that the USDA fails in its mission to protect dogs in puppy mills by choosing to “cooperate” with puppy millers, rather than protect dogs by punishing abusers. As a result, “the agency chose to take little or no enforcement actions against violators” including repeat violators. In one case, USDA inspectors found “dead dogs and starving dogs that resorted to cannibalism, dogs that were entirely covered in ticks, kennels overrun with feces and urine, and food infested with cockroaches. At the facility in which the starving dogs were found, the [USDA] inspector did not remove the surviving dogs, and as a result twenty-two more dogs died.” (75 Alb. L. Rev. 379.)
Second, the author claims that he lost his pet store over these laws. But that was not necessary. Many pet stores in similar jurisdictions are thriving by partnering with rescue groups and shelters. How? Whenever anyone adopts an animal in these stores, not only is a life saved, but the store benefits by having the new pet owner buy his/her needed supplies right then and there. And the pet store also gains a new customer for years. It’s a classic win-win.
Finally, the author — who highlighted the fact that he emigrated to the U.S. — says efforts to protect these dogs should not occur “in the land of the free, where the American Dream lives in so many hearts. In this country, people work hard for their success, and government is supposed to help them — or at least stand out of the way.” This is wrong, too. Americans love dogs and do not want to see them abused. In fact, in a national survey, 96% of Americans — almost every single person surveyed — said we have a duty to protect animals and should have strong laws to do so.
And that is what these laws are designed to do, which is why they should be supported. And at the end of the day, as long as animals are dying — regardless of why they are dying — adoption and rescue are ethical imperatives.
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