Written by Becky Monroe
“What the Heck is Going on with Puppy Mills and What Can You do to Help?”
This blog will be done in two parts
A couple weeks ago, a rescue I volunteer for posted one of my blogs about puppy mills and a woman genuinely asked, “Is there anyone trying to stop puppy mills?”
To many of us who follow and support Bailing Out Benji this question might seem preposterous, but I knew the woman was sincere and really didn’t know.
In light of September being Puppy Mill Awareness Month, I thought this would be a great time to talk about a few things: who is trying to stop puppy mills and how, what can individuals do to help and what opportunities are there right here at Bailing Out Benji that people can get involved in to help make a difference. The latter of them will be featured in my next blog.
Who is trying to end puppy mills is probably the easier of the first two questions to answer. There are thousands of people working every day to change the lives of dogs in puppy mills. They could be individuals just doing their part to educate strangers or foster mill survivors whenever they can.
They tend to be groups of animal advocates under the names like Bailing Out Benji, HSUS, ASPCA, National Mill Dog Rescue, Best Friends, Justice for Libre, and so very many more.
Advocacy groups that educate citizens and lobby politicians to create both awareness and change for the puppy mill industry. Many of these groups have been advocating for decades. Sadly, puppy mills are not something new to our country or the world. In fact, puppy mills were introduced around World War II as a way for farmers to earn money. What they have morphed into is a multi-billion dollar industry filled with greed and cruelty.
To a person who hasn’t been along for the decades of advocating, one might find it hard to understand why the fight to end puppy mills has dragged on for so long without a true end in sight. I mean it would seem obvious to most dog loving Americans that puppy mills are cruel and should be absolved.
I don’t know if there has ever been an actual poll done, now I am thinking we should do one… But, I do believe the majority of the population when presented with the actual facts of puppy mills would agree that they should not exist or, at the very least, exist much differently with far better conditions for the dogs and a much more effective regulatory system governing them
So, where do things go wrong?
There are many facets to the puppy mill issue. Dogs in mass breeding facilities are considered agricultural animals. They do not get the same protections afforded pets. Because of this, what we call Big Ag, the major corporations who produce meats like Tyson, Smithfield, Cargill, have a large stake in animal production. If the dogs in mass breeding facilities are regulated to have larger cages, better conditions, more humane treatment, Big Ag fears that would imply pigs, chickens and cows would soon be required to have the same thing. To these businesses that means more money would be required to raise and produce their products and ultimately, could lead to less profit.
In a multi-trillion dollar industry, that can mean billions of dollars lost.
Big Ag is one of the most predominant fighters when it comes to legislation to improve the conditions for puppy mills. They spend millions of dollars fighting animal advocacy groups (who do not have millions to spend) and lobby their politicians tirelessly to overturn any legislation passed in favor of the dogs.
They are a tough enemy to beat.
The American Kennel Club who claims to be the “Dogs’ Champion” is also one of the predominant groups we see sitting on the other side of the issue fighting against us.
The AKC does what?
They register every puppy born. (There are other registries such as APRI and ACA, ACR, etc..) For every puppy registered, the AKC, as well as the others, charge a fee. You can imagine the amount of money brought into these organizations by the breeding of dogs, just the AKC, alone, registers a million puppies a year.
If puppy mills ceased to exist, so would a large share of their registration money.
Now, many of us have spent our lives believing that an AKC registered dog meant something, as if the AKC papers proved in some way that the dog was raised in a good home and its parents were happy and healthy.
The sad truth is that they do not mean any of those things. Years ago, after I bought my first dog at an auction for $65 and he came with AKC papers, I learned the hard truth. My dog was sick, matted, afraid for his own life most of the time. He didn’t know what grass was or how to play with a toy or go upstairs. He had had minimal vet care at best and was over 4 years old when I got him and his AKC papers.
I reached out to the AKC numerous times and each time they explained to me that they do not have the resources to inspect every breeder and ultimately, rely only on the paperwork any breeder or backyard breeder or puppy miller sends in. The AKC has no idea where all these puppies come from or the conditions they endure or worse, the condition their parents are in. And if I am being downright frank, they don’t care.
So, when advocacy groups lobby for legislation to end puppy mills or even city ordinances to shut down stores that sell mass bred puppies, registry organizations like the AKC, APRI and the others fight back hard because they rely on the dollars of all the registrations of these terribly bred puppies. It comes down to money.
Of course there are others who fight against us. The obvious is the pet store industry who needs the puppies to sell and profit from. There are also what I call “ownership groups.” These organizations fight because they don’t want anyone telling them how to own a dog. Setting up regulations for puppy mills implies regulating conditions all dogs should live in and these groups of people have zero tolerance for being told what to do — even though they argue that their dogs mean everything to them.
The answer to that woman’s heartfelt question is, “Yes, lots of people are doing lots of things and have been doing them for lots of years, but we are up against a relatively strong army fighting hard against us at every step.”
In the last few years, there has been a change of direction. Instead of fighting to improve the conditions of the puppy mills and constantly being stonewalled by Big Ag and the others, animal advocates chose a new path: the pet store and the point of sale.
If the actual purchase of a puppy can be stopped then in turn the demand will lessen and puppy mills will cease to exist. There are two main issues addressed at the point of the purchase. One was to eliminate the selling of mass bred dogs and to only allow pet stores to “sell” puppies or dogs obtained from shelters and rescues.
This type of law has been passed in five states as of today with numerous cities across the United States passing their own similar ordinances.
Animal welfare advocates wanted to also address the point of sale and to expose the deceptive ways in which pet stores finance the sale of a puppy. Because pet stores charge exorbitant prices for basically mutts (AKA “Designer Dogs”), sometimes in the upper numbers of $5000.00, most consumers are forced to finance their new, fuzzy family member.
The interest rates were unimaginable and the sales techniques were nothing short of consumer fraud, so as a consumer protection issue, pet stores were forced to change their business practices and were exposed for the manipulation and deception they were engaging in.
Both of these issues have mounted to over 400 humane ordinances across the country with 5 states enacting humane laws to make it illegal for pet stores to continue selling mass bred puppies and/or to continue such unlawful business practices that were ultimately ruining the consumer’s personal financial situation.
Everyone who has fought to end puppy mills still wants to see puppy mills go away. They want to see pet stores enact humane business models and only sell rescued puppies and dogs. They will continue to pass these laws and ordinances until we have achieved 100% compliance across the country.
I have always said and will continue to say that while the fight is hard we have one huge thing going for us. We fight out of love and passion. We believe with our hearts that these dogs deserve so much better. None of this is about money for us and that is why I know we will win.
If you are passionate about helping change the lives of dogs in puppy mills, there are so many ways you can get involved. In my next blog in this series, I will talk about all the opportunities available.
These dogs need us to be their champions. I hope you will join us in our mission.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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