Meet the Survivors: Stella Marie

Written by Becky Monroe

Meet: Stella Marie Rose This week we get to meet an adorable Frenchie named Stella. Her family chose to foster to adopt through an organization called HavaHeart Rescue located in Missouri.

Stella was originally found as a stray dog, but based on her condition she was believed to be a breeding dog who was dumped after she was no longer useful. She was thought to be about 5 – which also tends to be an average age for breeding dogs to be disregarded.

Stella faced numerous medical conditions when she was rescued. She had many skin infections that had gone a long time without any treatment and caused fur loss. She was very malnourished. Her stomach was a mess after numerous C-sections. (Only about 80% of French Bulldogs can successfully give birth naturally. Most undergo C-sections and sadly, in mass breeding facilities C-sections are often done carelessly and with minimal anesthesia or in non-sterile environments)

Luckily, her new foster family was willing to put in whatever it took to make her well again and everything she suffered from was curable with the right treatment. Stella also had some allergy challenges, but they were quickly figured out and she became a healthy, vibrant Frenchie again. Like most mill survivors, Stella had behavior issues. While she didn’t know how to do most doggie things, her biggest issue was resource guarding. Whether it be her people, her toys or her food, Stella needed to understand that none of these things were going to be taken from her again. Her mom explained that the saddest part was seeing Stella not play with her toys but treat them like her puppies – the one and only behavior she had been forced to learn time and time again in the mill.

Stella’s behavior issues faded as her family provided her with all the love, patience and kindness they could give. Today, Stella is “the sweetest dog you could ever meet,” says her family and, ”everyone who meets her loves her.”

Stella’s foster family who became her adoptive family had never adopted a mill survivor before. They had only rescued puppies in the past.

Almost immediately, Stella taught them the beauty and reward of adopting an older dog – something they just had never considered before. She showed them that older dogs have just as much love to give and are so deserving of second chances and adoption.

Of course, Stella, like all mill survivors, taught them about the puppy mill industry, too. Their eyes were opened to the realities behind the pet store window and soon they were doing all they could to educate others. Today, they help others learn of the importance of adoption and of researching good breeders, if necessary.

Once Stella became a part of their lives they felt a true calling to make a difference to end puppy mills.

If Stella could tell humans something she would say, “Let’s work together to end puppy mills, so that other dogs do not have to go through what I went through.”

Stella, through her amazing transformation, taught her family what love and patience and time can do for a dog in need. Stella was also fortunate to have a big fur sister, named Serenity. Serenity is a lab mix rescued from a shelter. She taught Stella all the fun dogs things she should know and was amazingly tolerant of Stella’s initial resource guarding issues. Mill survivors often blossom better when able to live with another dog who can teach them dog things.

Stella is now 6 years old and takes her job as a puppy mill educator very seriously. Anytime Stella meets new people, her and her family share what they know about her past and what people can do to help. Stella also has her own instagram account @StellaMyRescueFrenchie where she loves to share her adorable selfies but also educates about puppy mills.

When Stella isn’t busy educating others on puppy mills, she enjoys taking long naps, making pig noises, cuddling and slopping up juicy watermelon treats – all as she should.

Tails and Truths would like to continue to showcase mill survivor transformations as a way to put faces to the thousands of dogs still prisoners in breeding facilities. If you would like to share your mill dog’s story, please email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com

 

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From Numbers to Names

Written by Becky Monroe

From Numbers to Names

The other day I was cradling Alice as I was putting in her daily eye drops. Alice is a small Shih Tzu about 9 years old. She only weighs 8 pounds and her tongue hangs out all of the time. It was about 3 years ago, she had to have one of her eyes removed. She’s a bit of a hot mess who is also scared of most everything.

Alice was rescued at an auction. No one, not even the rescue, intended on taking her in, but once they saw this small, frail dog whose tongue hung, they knew she needed out of the breeding world.

She was 89. A number.

Yet, as I held her gently putting in her eye drops and telling her how she is the prettiest Shih Tzu in the world, she was Alice, my Alice – a dog who has come to mean the world to me.

Alice isn’t my first mill dog. I have had 3 of my own and fostered others. No matter how many come through my door, I will never understand how a dog is just a number. Whether I am a temporary foster or a long term foster or ultimately, the adopter, within a day that dog becomes a soul to me. I learn their needs, what makes their tails wag, what they are afraid of and what makes them feel safe. I snuggle them and love them almost instantly. It is hard to imagine someone throwing a dog away simply because it can no longer produce a profit. 

It has been so inspiring these last few weeks not only seeing the interest in people wanting to share their mill dog’s story, but hearing about the dogs’ and their families’ transformations. Reading about dogs who were merely stock in a breeding facility becoming the most important part of another person’s life.

It has made me re-visit why puppy mills still exist. If a single dog can literally change someone’s life so positively, what is the disconnect between puppy mills and dogs?

Perhaps, while we try to educate others on the mass numbers of dogs in breeding facilities — the thousands of them across the country, we are, instead, normalizing a very cruel business by demonstrating how very many of them exist.

We have always wanted others to know that there isn’t just this one dog in front of you who survived years in a mill, but hundreds of others every day facing the same grim reality. Maybe that is too overwhelming for people to fathom? 

I guess I am just trying to understand (I have been for over a decade) why something so awful, so inhumane still exists in the United States.

Yes, we have made progress and the progress we are making today is leaps and bounds ahead of ten years ago, but I still feel like more dog families should feel the need to speak out and take action than do.

I am hoping that as people read the individual stories of the dogs who have survived the mills, they will begin to see the individual faces within puppy mills instead of an overwhelming group of dogs who need rescue.

I want readers to see the transformations of both the dog and the person or family who adopts them. The amazing impact these dogs, who meant nothing to the miller, can have on the people who choose to make them important and to give them unconditional love.

I want readers to start to look at not the thousands of dogs in cages as a whole, but when they see the pictures of mills, to look, individually, at each face and think about how that dog could be free and changing the life of someone they know.

Maybe seeing mass groupings of mill dogs makes a person believe that those dogs are different from dogs not living in cages. As though “those dogs” were born to do that and that is the life they were meant to lead.

However, as we break down the stories of individual mill dogs, we teach people that these dogs are exactly the same as their “non-mill” dog counterparts. Yes, their history has often scarred them and prevented them from freely doing normal dog things, but when given time to decompress and unconditional love to learn to trust, mill dogs begin to thrive and quickly show off normal dog traits like playing with toys, romping in the grass, snuggling with their family.

Perhaps, the term “mill dog” has created a stigma. One that not only defines them but has created a bias that mill dogs are mill dogs and all other dogs are better or at least deserve more. For example, mill dogs are meant to be mass breeding dogs and don’t have a purpose outside of that, while all other dogs deserve to be free and loved.

I know with all my heart that isn’t true. It is why I write these blogs and try every single day to educate people. But, again, I am just searching for the disconnect as to why more people aren’t demanding mass breeding be illegal.

I think the term “mill survivor” better demonstrates that living in a mill is not normal. It is a battle every day to survive. It shows that dogs do not belong in these places. “Mill survivor” is a badge they wear for all they endured and all they will overcome. 

As avid Bailing Out Benji supporters, I hope you will share our Mill Survivor stories with your friends and family who aren’t as dedicated to ending puppy mills. I hope you will flood your social media platforms with them as we hope to put faces and names to the numbers as a way to breakdown these possible barriers and demonstrate the direct connection these mill survivors have to all the other dogs living in people’s homes and sharing their beds and playing in dog parks.

I know I have said it like a million times as a way of educating others, “This is Alice. She is mill dog.” But, perhaps what I need to say is, “This is Alice and she was rescued from a puppy mill because she did not deserve to live like that. She is a dog just like the one you adopted from a shelter. She loves to go on walks and to play with toys.”

They are not “mill dogs,” but instead dogs who survived living in puppy mills. They were meant to have names all along. They were just born in the wrong place by no fault of their own. Their beginning should not define them nor should it be an excuse to ignore the reality of mass breeding facilities.

It is my genuine hope that the faces and the stories of these beautiful souls will help awaken the hearts of those who have not yet had the honor or the pleasure to meet and love a dog who survived the mill and will create a desire within them to speak out against mass breeding. 

“Tails and Truths” is Bailing Out Benji’s new blog authored by Becky Monroe with the intention to cover the latest puppy mill news and puppy mill survivor stories. 

If you are interested in having your mill survivor featured, you can email Becky at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com 

Sign up below to receive an email whenever a new blog is posted. 
 

 

 

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Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

Meet the Survivors: Midge

Written by Becky Monroe

Meet Midge also known as “Sissy” Midge, a beautiful Pekingese, was originally rescued from National Mill Dog Rescue when she was about 7 years old. Not long after arriving at NMDR, Midge was spayed and had a successful nasal surgery to improve her breathing.

It was then Bridget adopted her. Bridget wasn’t new to puppy mill adoptions. Midge would be her 4th one, but Midge was different. It was obvious Midge wanted to be a dog, but she just didn’t know how. Bridget said, “You could look at her and see so much hope.”

In the beginning, Midge acted almost feral. She was extremely fearful of human interaction and tried to keep herself secluded as much as she could. She was anxious and scared of most everything.

Like so many mill dogs, she had this faint desire to want to interact and to play with the other dogs and toys, but she had never learned how to do any of that in her 7 years in a cage. Her fear outweighed her yearning to want to get involved. She would poke her head around the sofa and just observe the other dogs so very unsure what her next move should be.

Doorways and thresholds, often a difficult situation for mill dogs, were also very hard for Midge.

Bridget explained that they knew the only thing they could do was to give her time to adjust and to learn from her doggy siblings what real dog life could be like. Bridget said,”We knew not to ask anything of her.”

With constant, positive reinforcement and lots of treats over 2 years, Midge, also called Sissy, finally was comfortable going through doorways and going outside. She flies through doorways now without a care in the world!

Eventually, Bridget had to move across the country and was so very concerned that it would be a tough move for Sissy and might even cause setbacks in all of her progress. Luckily, the move proved to be the exact opposite. Sissy loved the road trip and enjoyed the adventure. All of the new smells and sights seemed to bring Sissy right out of her shell!

Now Sissy was holding her head high! With new found confidence, she even found her voice!

Bridget explained that they never called Midge “Sissy” because she was afraid or wimpy, but because she became such a wonderful sister to all her siblings.

Sissy has taught them that you can overcome most things with hard work. That we should all live the good life and to keep in mind there is always a better picture ahead.

She believes Sissy would tell others, “There is always hope and to never give up. Always face the new challenge. And, even as a mill survivor, you can find the true dog within.”

Sissy educates the neighborhood on puppy mills these days. Her confidence soars as she flips her head about and her beautiful coat shines for all to see.

Today, at 12 years old, that fearful, shy dog is now a very animated, funny girl who enjoys socializing.

Bridget summed it up best, “She is now a bit bossy, opinionated, and chooses which way we walk, and the pace we keep. I’m really at her service now. It’s ok, she deserves it.”

Tails and Truths would like to continue to showcase mill survivor transformations as a way to put faces to the thousands of dogs still prisoners in breeding facilities.

If you would like to share your mill dog’s story, please email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com

 

Sign up below to receive an email whenever a new blog is posted. 

 

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Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

Meet the Survivors: Sofie Bug

Written by Becky Monroe

Sofie and Jodi

This week I am proud to share the story of Sofie also known as Sofie Bug. Her mom became a good friend of mine as we joined the fight in Wisconsin to stop puppy mill auctions.

Jodi adopted Sophie from what was thought to be a rescue at the time. She was a 6 year old Beagle Jodi found on Petfinder. Her name at the rescue was Princess, but she was far more like a Cinderella before she met the prince. The description on her Petfinder page was, “Mama needs a home.”

Jodi and her husband went to the rescue and were expecting to see this adorable, perhaps feisty dog ready to play and get into trouble. Instead, this frozen statue of a dog came out with her teets hanging to the grass.

As Jodi re-told the story to me she added, “I was so naive. I asked why her teets were like that. The rescuer told me that Princess had just given birth and all her puppies died in an Amish mill in La Farge, WI.”

Jodi went on to describe, “I replied with what I hear so often today, ’How can they get away with that?’”

The rescuer told Jodi what so many of us have come to learn that until the laws are changed, there will always be puppy mills.

Jodi scooped up Princess and brought her home and the next day started googling puppy mills. She found the No Wisconsin Puppy Mills group and immediately got involved all in Sofie’s honor. She attended Humane Lobby day and from that point on her life changed forever simply because she adopted a puppy mill survivor and knew things had to be better for all the other dogs still stuck in breeding cages. 

Sofie at rescue

Like most mill dogs, Sofie was afraid of normal life. Since she had never drank out of a regular dog bowl, only from a water bottle, drinking was scary for her. Jodi found that putting something like a silver spoon in the bowl helped bridge the gap for Sofie.

Sofie found solace under the pillows on the futon. Eventually, they adopted another Beagle named Summer from Midwest Beagle Rescue, who was not a mill dog and she helped teach Sofie all the things a normal dog should know and enjoy.

Sofie’s struggles gave Jodi strength she never had before. Because of everything Sofie went through, she gave Jodi purpose.

She has taught Jodi forgiveness, love and trust. She literally has changed Jodi’s and the life of countless others. Jodi believes that it is through Sofie she was driven to help other dogs.

Jodi explained that, if Sofie could teach humans one thing, she would want humans to look into the eyes of dogs, cats, all other animals and see themselves. “Don’t think of them as objects or a novelty. See them as another living, feeling, Being.”

It never ceases to amaze me what these broken souls can teach us. Sofie was no exception. Jodi believes that Sofie taught her to follow her passion. Sofie led Jodi to joining an animal advocacy group and she got to be a part of the group that helped pass legislation with a bill called Act 90 which led to increased regulation and inspection of breeders beyond USDA guidelines in Wisconsin in 2009. It also eliminated dog auctions in the state of Wisconsin and initiated the egulation of shelters and rescues.

Because of Sofie, Jodi found herself in the Governor’s office witnessing the signing of the bill which will forever be etched in Jodi’s memory.

As she said, “I never knew what my passion was until I met her — that little Beagle. I mean, I always loved dogs. I had dog wallpaper on my 5th grade bedroom wall, but to fight for animals and advocate and rescue them all because I met that one little beagle scared lifeless in the grass…. I’ve done that for her and will continue to until I am no longer able.”

Sofie on a boat

After being rescued, Sofie went on to live a full life until the age of 18. She traveled to the Grand Canyon and everyone who met her, heard her story and was a better person because of her. Everyone she came in contact with quickly learned about puppy mills and left hearing the slogan, “Adopt don’t shop.”

Sofie grew up with Jodi’s grand babies — always being sweet and kind to them. She also went on to accept so many countless rescued mill dogs in their home and helped them on their journeys into normal life.

Jodi summed up Sofie by saying, “She’s an angel without wings and I believe she is still helping me as I continue to take retired breeding dogs out of the mill and place them with rescues. Because of Sofie, I am still meeting new people and groups like Bailing Out Benji dedicated to ending puppy mills and I am so very thankful to her for all of that.”

“Tails and Truths” is Bailing Out Benji’s new blog authored by Becky Monroe with the intention to cover the latest puppy mill news and puppy mill survivor stories. 

If you are interested in having your mill survivor featured, you can email Becky at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com 

Sign up below to receive an email whenever a new blog is posted. 
 

 

Follow Bailing Out Benji on social media! 

 

Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

What I have learned along the way

“Tails and Truths” is Bailing Out Benji’s new blog authored by Becky Monroe with the intention to cover the latest puppy mill news and puppy mill survivor stories. 

If you are interested in having your mill survivor featured or want to communicate with Becky directly, you can email her at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com 

 

What I have learned along the way

 

Written by Becky Monroe

When I started down this path years ago, I was naive to so many things. I learned usually the hard way. I was thinking it might be fun to share with all of you my learnings.

1) Never (ever) ask where someone got their new dog unless you are emotionally prepared for the answer.

I always thought I could handle the truth, but I couldn’t. When you spend much of your time in tears learning the realities of pet stores and puppy mills and some random person, or worse a good friend, tells you they just bought their puppy a local pet store chain or from an on-line site with hundreds of puppies to choose from, it is next to impossible not to want to scream at them.

Sometimes not asking is a blessing. Just picture them walking out of the local shelter with their adoption papers in hand.

2) Never walk into a pet store and start asking where they get their puppies from if you are unable to maintain your composure.

Another thing I thought I could handle, but obviously could not. After I I rescued Thorp and started to work through all of his issues and realized all that he had been through as a mass breeding dog, pet stores became my real target. Knowing that there were so many Thorps suffering in cages just to produce puppies for pet stores, my passion bordered hate. I had this grand, albeit delusional, idea that I could walk into these stores and calmly have a conversation with the employees about puppy mills.

Honestly, nothing could have been further from reality. I would walk in and go look at the puppies. An employee, usually very young, would walk over and see if I wanted to hold the puppy. I would start to shake and ask where the puppy came from. They would give me the whole, “We only get our puppies from good breeders, licensed by the USDA.” I would continue to shake, picturing the hundreds of parents imprisoned in cages in sweltering heat or freezing cold, never seeing the light of day or sleeping in a fuzzy bed. Tears would start to emerge in my eyes and my voice would crack as I would attempt to tell them they are full of it. I would begin a monologue I prepared all about Thorp and how they have no idea the cruelty they are perpetuating.

Within minutes, I would be leaving the store. My body convulsing and my blood pressure through the roof. It was a total disaster. Emotionally, I just wasn’t prepared to make those confrontations.

3) Never start ranting at a flea market when you see a woman selling puppies.

Yep, I did this. I was in Florida visiting my parents when we went to a flea market. We happened upon a large vendor area with all kinds of purse puppies for sale. The Shih-Poos, Malti-Poos, Havanese, you name it. If it was small and fuzzy, it was there.

I could just tell this wasn’t a good breeder by all the random breeds available and not a single adult puppy on-site. I couldn’t believe this was allowed at the flea market.

Of course, as always, I started to tremble and my heart began pumping out of my chest. I remember confronting the woman and asking where all these puppies came from and how they were registered and where she kept them all. Immediately, she asked me to leave her booth. I asked her what she was so afraid of -why she wouldn’t just tell me more about the puppies. She just kept yelling for me to get the hell out. I made sure to tell the browsing customers that she didn’t have the best interests of the puppies at heart and that they should ask to see the parents of all these dogs.

I wasn’t at my best that day. But, I did follow through and reach out to the Lee County Animal Control Executive Director. She was very kind and said she, too, was concerned with that vendor and would look into it. Eventually, that vendor disappeared from the flea market.

4) Even your own parents can be uneducated.

 This one really got me. I don’t know if it was before or after I published my book or while I was working on it, but one day my Dad sent me an email with a picture of a yellow lab puppy and said, “Honey, look at the dog we are going to get.”

Immediately, I went into research mode asking questions. This puppy came from an on-line broker. I asked if my Dad had pictures of the parents. He proudly sent me two pics. The yellow mom was sitting in front of a Christmas tree and the black dad was sitting on a ski boat. I knew instantly these weren’t really the parents.

I had my dad give me the email of the broker he was working with. He did and that started a rather defensive conversation. In the end, my parents never got that puppy. He was totally from a puppy mill and those pics of his so-called parents were probably used a 1000 more times to sell the merchandise to some other unknowing consumer.

To this day, it shocks me that my own parents who had listened to me day after day talk about puppy mills and Thorp’s transformation and the legislation we fought for and yet, when it came down to it were willing to buy into the whole game.

You learn fast that people, even your own parents, believe what suits them. They wanted a puppy and, boom, in front of them was exactly what they desired.

I feel like sometimes people don’t want to believe what we tell them because it is sad and cruel, so they believe the scenario in front of them MUST be different. I guess that is when we start to learn that we can’t just preach the truth, we have to teach it.

 

 

5) Legislating to end puppy mills is complicated – very complicated.

This one is probably the hardest reality of all. When you think of man’s best friend and how so many people treat their dogs like family, it seems vastly irrational that in our country they are also treated so cruelly and it is legal.

After my very first auction I remember thinking that it had to be an underground operation because how could something so awful be legal? But, it was.

Of course then I assumed that legislators must not know what is going on or they would change it – immediately. Again – I was wrong. Legislators knew and while some were appalled, they weren’t all super eager to initiate bills to change things for the dogs.

When most people find out about puppy mills, they, too, assume it will be easy to re-write the laws and make things better. I mean no one really wants dogs to suffer… Well, while that statement might be true, there is so much more to consider. There were a few things that caught me by surprise and also help to explain why change is complicated and slow.

Beyond the normal opponents like pet store chains, is the American Kennel Club. They are supposed to be the “Dog’s Champion,” but they certainly don’t have the dog’s best interests at heart. They fight every single bill introduced to end puppy mills. See, they make a lot of money registering puppies and they simply do not care the conditions those dogs are born in.

Then there are the dog “owners groups.” These groups tend to fight puppy mill legislation because they fervently believe no one should tell them how to “own” a dog.

One of the largest lobbying groups fighting against us is what we call “Big Ag.” They represent the farming community. Those that raise pigs, cows, chickens, etc… I had no idea the stake they seem to have in the treatment of dogs. Their thinking is that if laws are enacted to better the care and environment of mass bred dogs, things will have to be improved for all breeding animals such as the pigs, cows and chickens.

These groups spend millions of dollars fighting our bills. The breeding of domestic animals like dogs and cats suffers simply because they don’t want to ever improve the way they raise agricultural animals.

This is one of the complexities of writing legislation to end puppy mills.

I was shocked to learn all of this as I dove into this world I knew nothing about.

For the last decade or more – we have tried to go about bettering mass breeding facilities only to fight against these groups backed by so much money. We would make improvements here and there, but we could not make the change that was needed.

Today, we are taking a much different, much more effective path. We are getting legislation passed that stops the problem at the source: the pet store. Armed with years of data, we are showing how sick the puppies are that are sold in the stores. We are showing the unfair business practices of the stores and how they are taking advantage of consumers.

Yes, of course, we still face hurdles and much of the same groups oppose our bills, but five states have already passed legislation that prohibits pet stores from selling mass bred puppies and this number will continue to grow.

6. Never doubt the impact your voice can have – even if you talk quietly.

I am not one for public speaking. Even in regular conversation, I have a voice that is hard to hear. But, I haven’t let that keep me from telling everyone what I know about puppy mills. At first it seemed moot, but I have so many people tell me how grateful they are for what I share. Little things here and there about all my mill survivors, legislation across the country, the truth about certain groups that act like they have the dogs’ best interests at heart, but definitely do not.

Once in awhile I get an email or Facebook message from a complete stranger who thanks me for sharing what I know.

And what is even better is when you share these truths with friends or strangers and they go on to tell others. The message spreads and it is definitely having an impact across the states.

At times it is difficult to swallow the actions of others, but if you can try and believe that many people do not know what we know and are just doing what they think is okay. I remember jotting down a quote from Oprah that she learned from Maya Angelou. Something to the effect of, “When you know better, you do better.”

When we educate others in a way that they can hear, we teach them to do better not just in the way they go about adopting a new dog, but in a way that they share their new knowledge with others and slowly we change the world for breeding dogs forever.

And I guess that is the most important thing I have learned on this journey. Screaming, attacking, even preaching are not the most effective ways to create change or to better anything for the dogs. We have to take all that passion and channel it using our talent in a way that allows us and everyone to feel comfortable, so the actual message gets across.

The dogs are counting on us to be their voice.

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Meet the Survivors: Thorp

Written by Becky Monroe

Taking Thorp home the day of the puppy mill auction

Thorp was 4 1/2 when I rescued him from an Amish puppy mill auction. He had spent nearly his whole life in a puppy mill. He was actually born into a good breeder’s home, but somehow found his way to the mill as a mass breeding dog.

In 2008, I was at an auction doing a story on the protest. The protestors told me to go in the barn and see why they were protesting. I did and 3 plus hours later, came out with the oldest dog there. We changed each other’s lives forever.

Thorp was a Chinese Crested Powder Puff. A breed of dog I knew very little about. They are usually the naked dogs, but the Powder Puffs, born in the same litter, have hair.

Thorp was a very fearful mill dog. He knew nothing a normal dog would know. Stairs, toys, grass, people, all scared him. As he began learning the world outside of a cage, I began learning about the world of puppy mills. Together we faced a lot of our darkest fears. 

Thorp sitting on his reading blanket at Clay Academy waiting for the students

Maybe the biggest surprise was that eventually Thorp passed the test to be a certified Therapy Dog and the Canine Good Citizen test. He went on to be a volunteer at Clay Academy where he worked with kids from Kindergarten to Seniors in high school who had emotional and behavioral challenges — just like Thorp. The kids and staff just loved having Thorp around. He brought a special kind of calm to the students who suffered from so many things. He was someone who never judged them and was always there for them to snuggle or read to.

Thorp taught me so much about the issue of puppy mills. He made me stronger by igniting my passion to end the cruelty and to go outside my comfort zone to speak in front of others and make sure our voices were heard on behalf of the all the dogs trapped in cages and used only for profits.

Thorp also taught me the amazing reward of earning a dog’s trust and love. We shared a bond I had never had with any other dog. I was Thorp’s only person and he would follow me to the ends of the Earth. I never had any animal need me in the way Thorp did. He trusted me in a very human way. In reality, I was likely the first person to ever actually care about him and love him. His devotion will forever be with me. The journey I shared with him was transforming for both of us. I rescued him and he rescued me.

Sadly, Thorp passed away in 2020, but if he could still tell others what he thinks is the most important: he would tell them never to buy a puppy in a pet store or on-line. He would want them to understand the direct connection between pet stores and puppy mills. He would beg everyone to believe our truth and to stop buying the pet store lies. 

“Tails and Truths” is Bailing Out Benji’s new blog authored by Becky Monroe with the intention to cover the latest puppy mill news and puppy mill survivor stories. 

If you are interested in having your mill survivor featured, you can email Becky at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com 

On our podcast “Truth, Lies and Puppy Mills” we interviewed Becky and talked about dog auctions and how Thorp’s story helped pass stronger laws in the state of Wisconsin. Tune in on your preferred podcast app or watch below: 

 
 
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Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

For the Love of Lucy’s Law – HB 1711

Welcome to Bailing Out Benji’s new blog, “Tails and Truths”. My name is Becky Monroe and it is my intention to cover a few things here. One will always be the truth about puppy mills and pet stores and any stories that go along with that. Two, we would like to showcase puppy mill survivors. We would like to show their before and after and share their stories.

If you are interested in having your mill survivor featured, you can email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com Thank you! 

For the Love of Lucy’s Law – HB 1711 

 

A miraculous thing happened a few weeks ago in the state of Illinois. A bi-partisan bill HB 1711, fondly called Lucy’s Law, initially sailed through the House introduced by Rep. Andrew Chesney and then after some stalling, was passed in the Senate with the lead of Senator Castro and Senator Holmes. It now sits waiting for the Governor’s signature.

HB 1711 will make it illegal for pet stores to sell mass bred puppies and kittens. When it becomes law, Illinois will be the 5th state to have passed this type of humane legislation. HB 1711 will help to suppress the puppy mills by stopping the sale of puppies.

As someone who once advocated in the state of IL, I am so grateful and so amazed at the work of so many to make this happen. Of course, Bailing Out Benji was one of the organizations helping to lead the charge, with two people, specifically tied to BoB, who worked tirelessly in the state to keep the legislation moving forward: Peggy Grandahl and Raquel Melendez.

I “sat down” with them to gather their thoughts on the bill and what they felt was important for people to understand. Lucy’s Law is in honor of an Anatolian Shepherd mix who was purchased at a Petland and who became very sick. Lucy became blind and will have lifelong autoimmune challenges. While too often Petland and other pet stores find a way to keep buyers quiet, so they don’t share their story, Misty, Lucy’s mom, knew the best thing she could do was to make sure Lucy’s tragic story was told and that something was done to keep this from happening to another puppy and another family.

Peggy said that Misty’s testimony was so moving, so heartfelt, so genuine and that having Lucy be the poster child for the bill was key. One of the most powerful statements was that of Misty’s young daughter who when the pet store offered to replace Lucy said to her mom,”If I get sick, will you just replace me?”

A combination of heart wrenching facts and the face of Lucy to represent them plus a dream team of animal welfare advocates: Bailing Out Benji, Marc Ayers at HSUS, and Best Friends propelled the bill into state legislation rather quickly.

Add to that, the passing of the Predatory Lending bill HB 572 where pet stores can no longer use third part lenders and sky high interest rates as an option for consumers who cannot afford the already high priced, often sick and ill-bred puppies and it would appear that the fight against puppy mills is showing success. 

As a puppy mill advocate who started in 2008, these two bills represent so much to me. Thirteen years ago, they would have been impossible. The work these advocates have done and the bravery of the families who were willing to speak out about the sick puppies they have bought is nothing short of astonishing.

But let us not forget the opponents because while it would be wonderful to sit back and celebrate a victory for the dogs, that is exactly what we cannot do.

As Peggy explained, the pet store industry has already hired numerous lobbyists to get a veto from the Governor. They have sent out action alerts to all their supporters. And it isn’t just the pet stores who want the bill vetoed. It is also the AKC, PIJAC, Illinois Federation of Dog Owners and the ISVMA. These are the usual opponents, but they are putting a lot of effort and money into this.

Both Peggy and Raquel expressed how important it is for anyone who loves animals and supports the better treatment of mass bred animals to write the governor or call his office and ask that he sign the bill. We are so very close, but we cannot take anything for granted.

Raquel pointed out something that resonated with me. It is hard to feel confident when talking with your political leaders, but it is important to remember they work for us. We are their customer. They want to know where their constituents stand on the issues and you need to tell them, especially when they are issues where we are the only voice. The dogs would tell them if they could. We all know that.

If you are here reading this, you obviously not only love dogs, but have a passion for mill dogs. Please take a few minutes TODAY (not tomorrow) and send an email to Governor Pritzker asking him to sign Lucy’s Law – HB 1711. Or, call his office and show your support for the bill. 

So many people just write or shout the words, “Shut down puppy mills!” However, once you understand the difficulty in doing that, it becomes not only easier to understand why laws needed to start with the consumerism of puppies and kittens. Peggy suggested that anyone who wants to understand why starting with consumer laws will help shut down puppy mills should watch the documentary, Dog by Dog. It does an excellent job spelling out the connection between the supply and demand of the puppy mill industry.

Illinois is on the brink of crucial change. Change that will critically impact puppy mills in the midwest and help to end the perpetual cruelty puppy mill dogs face each and every day. If you have wanted to “shut down puppy mills,” this is your chance to help do it. One voice alone is just a message. Hundreds of voices together become a movement. Thousands of voices become real change. 

Help change the world for the helpless mill dogs TODAY! 

Call or email Governor Pritzker.

 

 

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Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

Data on the Decline

©Bailing Out Benji 2021

All research and information was done by the team at Bailing Out Benji  and must be cited as such when shared or quoted!

Written by Mindi Callison

 

The Juxtaposition Between Data and Testimony

Since 2006 advocates across the country have been working hard to pass humane ordinances in their cities, counties and states that prohibit pet stores from partnering with animal mills for puppy, kitten and sometimes rabbit sales. To date, more than 375 localities and 3 states have passed similar language with even more working on the issue in 2021. 

The pet store and commercial dog breeding industry regularly attends these council meetings and state bill hearings to defend their business practices and one of their main talking points has been that humane ordinances  “haven’t shut down a single puppy mill“. Of course, their definition of puppy mill is vastly different than the definition that advocates use.

The pet industry- which includes employees, owners and lobbyists for pet stores and commercial breeders- always testifies that they believe puppy mills are unlicensed, unregulated breeders, while advocates stick to the definition that a puppy mill is any commercial breeding facility that puts the profit over the welfare of the animals. Clearly, the two definitions are at odds with each other because the pet industry relies heavily on USDA and state licensed breeders, no matter how many breeding animals are kept onsite or how many violations the facilities have. 

Definition differences aside, the pet industry isn’t looking at licenses or data when they routinely tell policy makers that none of these humane ordinances have shut down a single puppy mill. If they did, they would be telling a different story.

Before we dig in, we do want to make an editor’s note:

Over the last decade, the public has become increasingly more aware of the puppy mill industry. More families are researching before they buy, they are avoiding puppy-selling stores, they are demanding stronger breeding/licensing laws in their own states, and they are pushing for humane ordinances. Not any one thing can point to the downfall of this industry, but the holistic approach of education, advocacy and policy is a huge part in ending the puppy mill industry once and for all.

The Data on the Decline

In 2008, the USDA issued 4228 class A licenses and 1067 class B license to companion animal breeders- 5,295 licenses total. Comparatively, in 2021 the USDA issued 2035 class A licenses and 762 class B licenses- 3,697 total. This shows a 30% decrease in active USDA licensed breeders and brokers over the last 13 years. 

While there is a small fluctuation each year in federal and state licensees, the overall trend is showing that more commercial dog and cat breeders are not only going out of business, but many of the worst puppy mills have either been shut down or downsized greatly. 

A few examples are below: 

Horrible Hundred puppy mill owner Steve Kruse (Stonehenge Kennels. West Point, Iowa 42-B-0182) had over 940 adult breeding dogs in 2014 and has downsized to 670 adult breeding dogs in 2021. Kruse routinely sells puppies to pet stores and is still in operation. 

Kimberly Coleman (TLC Kennels. Clinton, Missouri. 43-A-4973) had over 212 adult breeding dogs in 2014 and was a repeat Horrible Hundred puppy mill offender. After years of violations, public pressure and the inability to partner with many stores due to violations, Coleman auctioned off all of her animals in 2019 and closed her breeding facility.  Coleman routinely sold puppies to pet stores in California among other states. California passed a statewide ordinance that went into effect in 2019. 

Gary Felts (Black Diamond Kennels. Kingsley, Iowa. 42-A-0757) had over 276 adult breeding dogs in 2014 and had downsized to 153 adult breeding dogs in 2017. After years of Federal violations and public pressure, Felts closed his breeding facility and auctioned off all of his dogs in 2017. Felts routinely sold puppies to pet stores. 

We have also seen a decline in licensed dog brokers. As fewer stores are offering puppies and kittens for sale, the need for middle men has decreased as well.  A few of the most notable examples include: 

David Steffensmeier (Jeannie’s Gems. West Point, Iowa. 42-B-0298) routinely sold puppies and kittens to pet stores all over the country. Steffensmeier cancelled his license in 2019. 

Sham rescues Rescue Pets Iowa and Hobo K9 rescue were ordered to shut down by the Iowa Attorney General after our investigation linked them to puppy broker JAKS Puppies (Jolyn Noethe. Britt, Iowa 42-B-0271). These two entities were created to broker puppies to stores in cities and states where it was prohibited; proving that these ordinances do affect the puppy mill industry. California and Chicago were the main targets, as both passed ordinance language that prevented breeders from selling through stores.

In addition to our own findings on this decline in licensed breeders, a 2019 report from the Omaha World Herald echoed our research. According to the article:

 “Nebraska Department of Agriculture records show that half of the state’s commercial dog and cat breeders have left the business over the past seven years. The decline was particularly sharp between June 30, 2018, when there were 216 state-licensed breeders, and the same date this year, when the number was down to 138.”

Two USDA and Nebraska state licensed breeders were quoted in the article stating that they “blame rising overhead costs, laws limiting pet store sales and competition from animal rescue organizations.” Clem Disterhaupt (Sandhills Kennels. Stuart, Nebraska. 47-A-0427) also stated that “Midwest breeders were hurt by a California law that banned pet stores from selling commercially bred puppies, kittens and rabbits.”

What does the research say? 

Industry leaders also echo this trend. According to a recent report from IBIS World Dog and Pet Breeders Industry:

“The Dog and Pet Breeders industry has been subject to a moderate level of revenue volatility over the past five years. Recent efforts to regulate the industry and fight against puppy mills have contributed to strong revenue declines.”

To Read the full IBIS World report click here.

Thanks to this research and graphic below from the IBIS World Report, you can see the states with the highest concentration of puppy-selling pet stores. This falls in line with the data we have been collecting on stores.

Currently in 2021, humane pet store bills are being heard on the state level in Washington, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York (among others). California’s state ban went into effect in 2019 and was cleaned up in 2020.  These states are the ones who are importing the most puppies from Midwest USDA commercial breeders (puppy mills) and are trying to stop this pipeline from happening. Because many of the largest commercial breeders and brokers are selling to these stores, they will have vastly fewer outlets to sell puppies through and will have to either change their business models, downsize their kennels or close. 

 

Throwing data and facts aside allows the pet industry to make the claim that no puppy mills are feeling the effect of these ordinances so they can plant a seed of doubt in the minds of policy makers in order to prevent humane laws from being passed. 

In order to correct that narrative, our nonprofit wanted to share our research and industry reports regarding commercial breeder licensing over the last few years. Contrary to what the pet industry is saying, puppy mills are closing down, advocacy efforts are working and the entire industry is on the decline. 

We strongly encourage advocates to keep working on humane ordinances, keep working on state bills pertaining to pet stores and continue fighting for more regulation on the commercial dog breeding industry. The trends are in our favor and the future is humane. 

 

©Bailing Out Benji 2021

All research and information was done by the team at Bailing Out Benji  and must be cited as such when shared or quoted!

Bailing Out Benji is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that researches and investigates the commercial dog and cat breeding industry and tracks the sale of animals as they move to pet stores and online customers.

If you would like to donate to help us continue our important work, please click on the button below. 

 

Follow our efforts on social media

A look back on 2020

2020 has been rough all around for so many of us. Since March all of our educational events and in-person fundraisers have been cancelled, donations were way down and puppy sales across the country were way up.

Even with all of those set-backs, we had some truly wonderful ‘wins’ as we fought for the companion animals who are trapped in commercial mills across the country. 

We released this year-end review as a bonus episode of our podcast “Truth, Lies and Puppy Mills” . If you would rather watch or listen  you can get a small taste of our podcast while listening to Nicole, Ashly and Mindi discuss our 2020 review! 

 

If you are able, please consider making a year-end donation in order to help us continue our important work in 2021 and beyond. 

 

RESEARCH FOR THE WIN! 

 

One of our proudest ‘wins’ of the year is that the Iowa Attorney General investigated and shut down two sham rescues that our research exposed. Hobo K9 Rescue and Rescue Pets Iowa were shell businesses for infamous puppy mill broker, JAKS Puppies, who was illegally laundering commercially bred puppies to pet stores in cities where that has been outlawed. Our research has been instrumental in holding these sham organizations accountable, as well as the pet stores who are breaking the law. Shortly after this ruling, the state of California passed a stronger statewide bill that good rid of the loophole which allowed pet stores to source from sham rescues. 

Our research also uncovered a two-time horrible hundred puppy mill in Ohio that started their own sham rescue in order to skirt the law in Maryland, as well as selling their rescue puppies online. We filed complaints with the Attorney General’s office in various states in order to prompt an investigation. 

Our research into Arizona pet stores also prompted a huge investigation after we exposed a prolific pet store chain for breaking the state law by selling puppies who came from puppy mills with violations. The pet stores “Animal Kingdom” and “Puppies N Love” have purchased hundreds of dogs from puppy mills cited for health problems and are breaking state and federal regulations. 

Lastly, we also exposed dangerous transports that were happening during the height of the pandemic, as well as pet stores and puppy mills who received millions of dollars in federal PPP assistance. 

 

31 HUMANE ORDINANCES PASSED!

Nationwide 31 humane ordinances were passed so far this year and our research and volunteers were instrumental in passing many of those. A few of the biggest ordinances passed were: 

-Naperville, Illinois-  this affected two puppy-selling stores who have to go humane or close by January 1, 2021. 

-Whitewater, Wisconsin- this was the FIRST humane ordinance in the state of Wisconsin and our volunteer team lead the way for this win for the dogs. 

-San Antonio, Texas , Kitsap County, Washington and Olympia, Washington were also huge wins that affected puppy-selling pet stores.

 

WORLD’S CUTEST RESCUE DOG!

People Magazine crowned Lamb Chop the puppy mill survivor as the “World’s Cutest Rescue Dog”. Lamb Chop is one of the ‘spokespups’ of our Wisconsin team and she is using her freedom to educate about this cruel industry! Her story traveled the world and educated millions of people about the puppy mill industry. Her mom, Christin, gave amazing interviews to countless news outlets and did a wonderful job educating about puppy mills and all that we do at Bailing Out Benji. 

 

TRUTH, LIES AND PUPPY MILLS-

THE PODCAST! 

We started a brand new podcast in order to continue our educational efforts virtually. This platform gives us the ability to extensively cover various facets of the puppy mill industry in a relatable way, while keeping it conversational and light hearted. With only 7 episodes released at the time of this article being written, we already have over 2,200 listeners!  

Your hosts are Nicole Galvan (Arizona), Ashly Dale (Washington) and Mindi Callison (Iowa) and they release episodes each week where they lift the curtain on the secrets and hidden players within the puppy mill industry while sharing the knowledge we have gained on this industry over the last decade. 

 

3.6 MILLION PEOPLE REACHED IN

NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER!

Last year we released theater ads and billboards nationwide to educate Holiday shoppers, but because most of the country is hunkered down we decided to pivot and do a huge educational push virtually.

We have released our 30 second commercial on Hulu and it is currently running in cities with pet stores that sell puppies. We also released ads on the Exactly Right Podcast network, which hosts one of the most popular true crime podcasts across the country “My Favorite Murder” , and we ran targeted online ads in cities that have stores that sell puppies.

Our targeted reach is over 3.6 million people across the country and we have already heard from many new advocates who saw or heard our ads, learned about our mission and wanted to get involved. 

 

None of this would have been possible without our amazing team of more than 200 volunteers across the country. These amazing advocates are working tirelessly to create change for the animals in their own communities and states and we are so thankful to have their dedication and passion helping us move towards a future with no more puppy mills. 

 

We are also eternally grateful to our supporters who have been able to still donate to our nonprofit even though this year has been tough. Your help and support during an extremely rough year has helped us with our research and educational efforts against the puppy mill industry.

We want to thank a few of the amazing businesses that have stepped up to support us in a huge way this year.  

East Village Spa , Iowa Home Consulting , Wholesome Pet Essentials ,  Scratchpad Tees, Lillybug Designs by TJ , Pawparazzi Photography , Webber Designs , and Two Beers Brewing Company

2020 was extremely hard on our nonprofit. Our events were cancelled, our fundraisers and annual gala were all cancelled and many of our recurring donors had to pause their help due to issues they were facing this year. 

Please consider making a year-end donation to help us continue our important work fighting puppy mills across the country. We can’t do this without you. 

Holding AZ Pet Stores Accountable

This is part two in our series detailing an investigation from Animal Wellness Action and Bailing Out Benji. For part one, please read all the way to the end of this article. 

 

Arizona law prohibits pet stores from purchasing puppies from breeders with recent and severe violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act on their record. Yet, five pet stores in Arizona called “Puppies ‘N Love” and “Animal Kingdom” have done exactly that. 

Owner Frank Mineo insisted that his pet stores “continue to scrutinize inspection reports on our breeders and make them available in our stores” in a 2017 news release


Yet, investigators with Bailing Out Benji and Animal Wellness Action have unearthed evidence to the contrary. The Mineos’ business seems to have purchased more than 220 puppies from two separate breeders cited for direct violations by Animal Care inspectors with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

In recent years – due to a shift in priorities at the USDA – the agency has handed out relatively few violations of any kind.  Direct violations are the most egregious type of violations, where the lives of animals are at immediate risk; and according to this Washington Post article, the trend toward not issuing citations is evident in the numbers.  In 2017, inspectors recorded 331 direction violations, and in 2018, that number had dropped more than 60 percent to just 128. So, to find two different breeders with direct violations is especially troubling given how uncommon it is.

Arizona’s state law also requires that pet stores clearly label all puppies with the breeder name, state of origin, and the USDA breeder license as well. Our investigators uncovered dozens of instances where the labeling was incorrect or incomplete, making it that much harder for the unsuspecting public to research the origins of their potential new family member.

Puppies from these dog factories have a higher incidence of illness, genetic health problems, and a lack of socialization, making them higher risk for those planning to add companion animals to their families. And that’s just the tip of this iceberg.

Federal Violations 

The Federal Animal Welfare Act stipulates that commercial enterprises that house animals be licensed and inspected by the USDA on a regular basis. The AWA requires “intermediate handler” licenses for anyone “taking custody of regulated animals in connection with transporting them on public carriers” and anyone “engaged in any business in which he receives custody of animals in connection with their transportation in commerce.”

Pet stores are exempt from this licensing requirement because pet stores are specifically “a place with the puppy, buyer, and seller all meet.”

However, in the case of this pet store franchise in Arizona, all puppies bought by this organization are shipped to a distribution center and held there, prior to shipment to the stores themselves. The puppies are confined in a truck for days on end as they travel across the country. They may stay in the distribution center for a short period of time before being sent to the stores, or they may stay longer if they are deemed unfit for purchase. Some of the puppies are sick or exhausted from travel and may need veterinary care. 

This particular distribution center is not licensed as an intermediate handler, and as such, is not subject to the routine USDA inspections it should have to ensure compliance with the Federal Animal Welfare Act.

In a second act of non-compliance with Federal law, the Mineo family also proudly proclaims that they take their puppies to nursing homes and universities for promotional purposes. There are images and videos of these stores’ activities on Facebook that detail their visits to nursing homes and colleges, allowing residents and students to interact and play with the puppies. In order to be in compliance with the federal law, this business would need an exhibitor’s license, which it currently does not have.

Animal Wellness Action and Bailing Out Benji have submitted a complaint to the USDA, requesting that the business come into compliance with the necessary licenses and be subject to USDA inspection. We will fight tooth and claw to ensure these puppies are defended and that those breaking the law are held accountable. 

Stay tuned next week to learn more about the specific enforcement problems with this Arizona law. 

Click the button below if you would like to sign up to receive alerts and calls to action regarding our investigation. 

 

Drafted by Lain Kahlstrom and Tina Meredith of Animal Wellness Action and  Nicole Galvan of Bailing Out Benji. 

 November 11, 2020 

For much of the past year, Animal Wellness Action and Bailing Out Benji have been working together to encourage law enforcement to take action against the largest chain of pet stores in the state of Arizona. The newspaper AZ Central highlighted our investigation in September and by October of this year, law enforcement officers entered the pet store’s establishment in order to request and inspect the records that would likely prove the stores are in violation of the state law. 

But how did we get to this point? What did it take to get a police investigation started?  Over the next four weeks, we will be laying out our investigation and highlighting the work it takes to save the lives of the pet store puppies and the parents who are still trapped back at the puppy mills.

One of the thousands of CVIs that Bailing Out Benji obtains that help us trace puppies as they move from puppy mill to pet store.

Pet stores around the country have been under increasing amounts of scrutiny and pressure in recent years, due to the fact that the horrors of puppy mills that supply these stores have become more widely publicized and the documentation connecting pet stores across the country to the puppy mills they source from is more readily available.  Puppy mills are essentially “dog farms” that churn out as many puppies as possible, and they’re infamous for cruel and inhumane conditions.  But, the USDA standards are minimal, and it has been uncommon for breeders to be cited for violations since early 2017.  

The situation is so dire that over 350 cities and 3 states have implemented versions of a humane ordinance that  prevents pet stores from getting their “products” from puppy mills, instead requiring that they source their animals strictly from shelters.

Arizona itself is home to a small number of puppy-selling stores, five of which are owned and operated by one family.  As the public’s knowledge and distaste for puppy mills increased, the city of Phoenix responded by passing a local ordinance to ban pet stores from selling puppies from puppy mills in 2013. Shortly afterwards, the city of Tempe followed suit and also passed an ordinance. Tucson was on track to do the same when the Arizona State Legislature, at the behest of pet store owners, intervened.

That’s right- the owners of Arizona’s largest puppy-store chain urged the State Legislature to stop the onslaught of local ordinances.. They found a friend in State Representative Don Shooter, who helped them write and introduce legislation that preempted the city ordinances- nullifying the ones that were previously passed and stopping future efforts.

Public outcry was swift and loud.  In a largely symbolic effort to appease public opposition and get this bill signed into law, pet store owners and legislators negotiated to include some provisions on the sourcing of pet store puppies. Namely, the law stipulates that pet stores cannot purchase from breeders who have direct USDA violations within the previous two years. Pet store owners are also required to maintain two years’ worth of records, and make them open to inspection by law enforcement on request.  Additionally, pet stores must accurately label each puppy with information about the breeder, including their home state and their USDA license number, if applicable. That way, a potential buyer could research the breeder themselves to ensure they were “reputable” before purchase.

That state law became effective in January of 2016 with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey stating that the intent of this law was to “strengthen penalties for pet store owners who do not take measures to ensure that the animals under their care are from a licensed, safe, sanitary, and humane place.”

What could go wrong?

The Federal Animal Welfare Act was signed into law in 1966, mandating minimal standards of care for breeding dogs. Those standards include allowing dogs to remain in their cages 24 hours a day, if the owner provides more space than the allotted  “6 inches” surrounding the dog’s body.  It is not required that the dogs are ever let outside of their cages if that cage size is met, and there is no limit on the number of years a dog can be confined and bred this way. This is man’s best friend; dogs who crave human interaction and attention, living in cages for the entirety of their lives. 

USDA inspectors are required to visit puppy mill facilities every 2-3 years to document any violations they see.  Those violations are then published on the USDA website for potential consumers to complete their own research prior to purchasing from a breeder.

However, during the early months of the Trump administration, two things happened that changed the expectations of inspectors and facility operators. 

First, USDA inspectors were directed to offer breeders more opportunities to correct deficiencies in their operations prior to being cited. Inspectors were instructed to use these occasions as “teachable moments” and allow breeders to maintain a clean license and record, despite flagrant deviations from the already minimal standards. After this change, it was documented that there were 60% fewer violations listed on reports. 

Next, in an unprecedented move, the USDA redacted much of the information on the its website, citing privacy concerns. Starting in early 2017, only a few months after Arizona’s state law went into effect, the public could no longer easily look up a breeder’s license and record.

Even with the records being taken down, Arizona’s pet store owners proudly declared they didn’t need the USDA website, because they personally visit the breeders themselves and have other avenues to ensure they do not have USDA violations on their record.  

It didn’t take long for the stores to forget the statement they made. 

Puppy-selling stores make their profits by purchasing puppies from puppy mills for a few hundred dollars and then turning around to sell them at an enormous mark-up. Because of this, animal advocates knew better than to expect a turn-around in the business practices of Arizona stores. Indeed, less than 3 years later, sufficient evidence was gathered showing hundreds of puppies had entered Arizona from breeders with violations; as such, violating Arizona’s state law repeatedly. 


That brings us back to our investigation and work to encourage law enforcement to protect these dogs from the abuse of some Arizona pet stores and the puppy mills they supply from.

To date, pet store owners have not turned over their complete records to law enforcement as the law stipulates. Thankfully, the cities who are tasked with enforcing this state law, are not giving in. 

Once violations are proven, cities are entitled to collect fines at a minimum and, if enough violations are documented, the cities can force the stores to stop selling puppies from breeders altogether, sourcing solely from shelters instead.  

We are working on this enforcement issue daily and will continue to keep you update on the news.

Click the button below if you would like to sign up to receive alerts and calls to action regarding our investigation. 

 

And if you are able, please consider making a donation to help cover the cost of the records we are pulling for this investigation. 

 

If you or someone you know bought a puppy from an Arizona pet store and you would like to know more about where it was born, please fill out the contact form below.