Moral Leadership Needed to Stop Connecticut's Puppy Mill Traffickers
Puppy in cage. Photo credit: The Humane Society of the United States.
Puppy mills are inhumane commercial breeding facilities that disregard the well-being of dogs for profit. Pet shops who sell commercially raised dogs get their dogs from puppy mills, not responsible breeders.
Responsible breeders, who care for and want to monitor their dogs closely, never sell to pet stores, but rather directly to consumers. A review of Codes of Ethics for the National Breed Clubs representing all 178 dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) found that 96% of National Breed Clubs include ethics statements that breeders should not sell to pet stores.
The overwhelming majority of pet stores in Connecticut do not sell puppies, including the largest and most successful chains (e.g. PetSmart, Petco, PetValu) and the small mom-and-pop shops, proving that pet stores do not need to sell puppies to be successful; instead, these stores partner with shelters and rescues, which
promotes adoption, reduces the import of puppies from mills and lessens the burden on shelters that take in pet store dogs. Over fifty Connecticut pet shops have signed the Humane Society of the United States’s (HSUS) “Puppy Friendly Pledge,” pledging to not buy commercially bred dogs.
The few businesses in Connecticut that still sell commercially raised puppies (only twelve statewide) operate based on an outdated and socially unacceptable business model--outliers in their own industry.
Investigations by HSUS regularly reveal that pet stores dupe consumers into supporting cruel puppy mills. Consumers often spend thousands of dollars caring for sick pet store puppies, in some cases only to suffer the heartbreak of their new pet dying. Consumers often end up with behaviorally challenged puppies who were not properly socialized by the mill nor the pet store and struggle to transition from life in a cage to life in a family.
Several years ago, when there was hope that the USDA would increase commercial breeder standards of care and improve on enforcement, a Connecticut law that allows pet stores to source from USDA-licensed breeders without certain egregious violations made sense and was certainly a step in the right direction. But in the last couple of years, the USDA has taken major steps in the opposite direction and is currently redacting the identities of the breeders on their inspection reports, rendering Connecticut’s current law unenforceable (see Figure 1). USDA licensure standards are also unacceptably weak: it is currently legal to confine hundreds of dogs in cages only 6 inches larger than their bodies for their entire lives, on wire flooring; to deny dogs adequate exercise and socialization; to breed dogs repeatedly and excessively, without limits; and to provide no regular veterinary care beyond an annual walk-through of the facility. The pet-loving population of Connecticut would find these conditions appalling.
California, Maryland and over 290 localities across the nation have enacted bans, and this year bans were introduced in Connecticut (HB 5386), Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, New York, and (soon) Maine.
Moral leadership is needed from our state lawmakers: Connecticut must prohibit the sale of commercially-raised puppies in pet stores.
Annie Hornish is the Connecticut Senior State Director for The Humane Society of the United States and a member of Sierra Club.
Figure 1: USDA report redacted to the point of uselessness. This lack of transparency now makes Connecticut’s 2014 puppy mill trafficking law unenforceable.