Retail Pet Sales Ban (A Hope To End Puppy Mills)

Rebecca Powers

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to promulgate regulations for the sale, housing, and treatment of pets. “A puppy mill is a breeding operation that breeds dogs for profit, prioritizing financial gain over the health or well-being of the dogs.” The AWA does not limit the number of dogs that can be at one facility and does not require a minimum number of people to work there taking care of the dogs. Dogs can be stacked in small cages with wire flooring and be caged for 24 hours a day it’s entire life. Additionally, inspections are very limited and, once the initial license is given by the USDA, the facility may not be inspected again for 2-3 years.

I recently went to a large mall in Albany, New York. While there I passed by a pet store selling “purebred” and “designer” puppies. In the small store was a wall of glass and behind it a wall of small cages. They were stacked about four high and eight across, most about 2 feet by 2 feet. The puppies were pacing and barking or lying down shivering. I was surprised because I had heard of recent New York State legislation to ban the sale of puppies at retail stores, moving to use the space for rescue dogs and adoption. These dogs were obviously not from animal shelters.

            In the past few years pictures, videos, and more information has come out about the horrors of puppy mills. There is a system that has developed between puppy mills and pet stores. Basically all puppies in pet stores across the country are from these puppy mills. This is because the puppy mill and the pet store have put money ahead of humane, sanitary, quality care, and most Americans walking into a pet store in a mall have no idea about the conditions the dog was bred in. The pet store can say that they only sell from USDA approved breeders, and the average person may think that means a healthy, often checked environment. However, that is not the case as these facilities are rarely checked and the regulations about them are very minimal. Then it is simply a matter of money, some of the puppies can cost close to $1000. There are no real questions about the experience or ability of the buyer/future owner. Someone could literally walk in, point to a puppy behind a glass wall, swipe a card, and walk out with a new living being to take care of.

            Recently, California and Maryland have passed statewide bans on retail pet store sales. These are first of their kind at such a large scale, as almost 300 cities and counties have already enacted such bans. By limiting where those puppies can be sold it limits the demand on the supply side. These bans seek to end the “pipeline” from puppy mill to retail pet store. Legislation was introduced in New York in March 2019 that would add it to the growing list. The New York amendment would make the “sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits prohibited” at retail pet shops. However, it would allow for these pet shops to “showcase” animals for adoption by partnering with recognized shelters and organizations. It explicitly states that a store cannot use breeders or brokers, which would target puppy mills. It hopes to move retail pet stores away from being a for-profit business.

            A positive goal of these laws is that it should minimize the number of dogs euthanized at animal shelters. People go to pet stores to buy a puppy. There could be various reasons why someone might go to a pet store as opposed to a shelter. But regardless of the reason, if we can change it so that the puppies in the pet stores come from animal shelters, then we can save lives. There are plenty of puppies in shelters and numerous pure breed rescue organizations. If they are given the opportunity to bring the dogs to people, it could help raise money and awareness.             There is growing public awareness of both puppy mills and the New York legislation. It is time we end this inhumane pipeline of dogs. There are millions of adoptable pets out there waiting for a good home. Hopefully the public will get behind the amendment and call for state action on this issue.

Win a few, lose a few: Animal fighting, commercial breeding get another pass

pitbull-puppies-rescued-from-dogfighting-ring

Dog fighter in training (ASPCA photo) – click for story

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Seventy percent of U.S. adults have a favorable opinion of the animal protection movement–so says recent research–which leads me to think that the other 30% serve in the Montana legislature. Animals lost what should have been a couple of slam-dunks during the 2015 biennial session, but that’s not unusual in a state where the unofficial motto might be “if it’s brown, it’s down; if it flies, it dies; if it hooks, it cooks.” Wildlife are under constant siege from arrows, bullets, hooks, and traps, while laws protecting companion animals don’t have a prayer if they can be twisted–no matter how remotely in the exploiters’ minds–to hold rodeo and animal agriculture to some minuscule standard of decency.   Continue reading

Connecticut’s ‘Puppy Mill Task Force’

Olivia Marotta

puppymill copyConnecticut is one step closer to banning puppy mills. Legislation was recently introduced to prohibit the operation of animal mills in Connecticut and to ban the sale of dogs and cats that were obtained from animal mills. The bill, H.B. 5027, entitled, “An Act ­Prohibiting the Sale of Dogs and Cats Obtained from Substandard Domestic Animal Mills and Requiring a Standard of Care Applicable to Animal Importers,” is notable for publicly acknowledging the horrid, cruel conditions from where many pets come and is the first major step in bringing reform for the animals who are forced to suffer lifelong abuse and neglect.  Continue reading

Keeping Pets out of the Market

Seth Victor

Though there is a growing dialogue about how to classify domestic animals, the norm in America is, and will likely remain for a great while longer, that animals are property that can be bought and sold, like a chair or the computer on which you are reading this blawg.

puppies in window

Of course animals are not just property, and millions of people believe that their furry friends are essential members of their families, member who should be afforded certain protections against cruelty. Most of you are aware that we do consider some types of domestic animal abuse as felonies (unless you are from the Dakotas). Clearly we care about domestic animals (I emphasize domestic; I’ll refrain from discussing the hypocrisy of our nation’s CAFO situation), but we remain entrenched in a legal framework that considers them to be chattel. No matter how egalitarian the owner, there is inherent inequality and lack of agency in such a system.To draw a common and controversial comparison, no matter how magnanimous the slave owner, it’s still slavery.

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Running in Place

Seth Victor

The more things change, the more they stay the same, so the saying goes. I’m not one to abide by that logic, especially when thinking about animal law; if everything stayed the same, all of the tireless advocacy would be for naught. The progress might  trickle at times, but it does happen.

Yet today I read two articles that, juxtaposed, forced the maxim to mind. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has announced that her office supports adding animal cruelty and dog fighting under state penal law, as opposed to the current agriculture law that houses these offenses. Long Island has been pushing for stronger law enforcement for animal abuse in recent years. Suffolk County created the nation’s first animal law abuse registry  in 2010. Moving century old laws into criminal enforcement would certainly be another step in demonstrating the seriousness of these offenses. Continue reading

“All I Want for Christmas is a Puppy”: When Dog Shopping, the Devil is in the Details

Coral Strother

As the Holiday Season sets into full swing, and people begin to shop for the perfect gift for their loved ones, no doubt “puppy” will be on the top of many lists.  But before rushing out to the nearest pet store to find that perfect pooch, it is best to be aware of who you are really buying from.  An investigation launched by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) published on November 10, 2011 reported that more than 100 New York pet stores they investigated, including several upscale ones, bought their puppies from puppy mills, despite claims that they only sell dogs that come from private and reputable breeders.

The investigation by the HSUS consisted of two parts.  First, a HSUS investigator along with animal rights activist/ABC’s “The Bachelor” Lorenzo Borghese went undercover with hidden cameras to 11 New York pet stores posing as customers and asked the store staff questions about the stores’ breeder sources.  All 11 stores made either explicit or implicit and misleading statements that they did not get their puppies from puppy mills, but instead got their dogs from small private breeders.  The second stage of the HSUS investigation involved reviewing the shipping documents of over 100 New York pet stores (including the 11 visited undercover).  The results of the review concluded more than 100 New York pet stores (including the 11 interviewed) did in fact obtain their puppies from puppy mills.  All 11 of the interviewed stores as well as many of the 100 investigated stores used puppy mills that had numerous Animal Welfare Act violations, including citations for filthy conditions, lack of adequate space, exposure to extreme weather conditions, malnourished animals, and a neglect of proper veterinary care.  Most notably, several pet stores used facilities owned by Brandi Cheney (who has over 500 pages in of USDA inspection and enforcement reports linked to her) and facilities owned by Kathy Jo Bauck/Kathy Cole (convicted animal abuser who had her USDA license revoked).  Additionally, HSUS checked out and filmed several of the “small private breeding facilities” that some of the 11 pet stores investigated cited to use, only to find these facilities housed hundred of dogs in small cages. Continue reading

Pet Store in California Caught Buying from Puppy Mills

Heather Schlemm

             Many people decide to purchase animals from pet stores, regardless of the millions of animals killed in shelters annually. When a person purchases a pet from a store, they are not always guaranteed the animal was bred properly. Dogs bred in puppy mills are commonly sold in pet stores, & many customers are not aware of what this means for the health of their pet, never mind the cruel treatment of these facilities.  Would you purchase a dog you knew was malnourished & improperly cared for since its birth?                              

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a class action suit in California against Barkworks, a pet store chain with 6 stores, for buying from puppy mills ALDF is claiming repeated fraud & false advertising to hide from customers that the puppies they sold were from puppy mills. Puppy mills are large, commercial facilities that breed dogs that are normally unsanitary & mass-produce pets. Puppy mills fail to provide adequate food, water, medical care & socialization. Dogs from these facilities are prone to diseases & disorders.  Continue reading

“Proposition B” Repealed: Suffering Falls Victim to the Economy

George Buchanan

        Less than two years ago Missouri passed Proposition B, the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.” However, in April of 2011 Proposition B was repealed.

The United States Humane Society estimates that there are roughly 4,000 puppy mills in the U.S. alone, and that 2-4 million of these dogs are sold each year. All of these dogs will suffer some form of physical or psychological issues due to the horrible conditions they are raised in, and a good portion will wind-up being euthanized when they are not sold. Proposition B required wire flooring for cages eliminated by November 2011; Maximum allowable breeding females per business = 50; Cage height = taller than any dog standing erect; Maximum number of times a female may be bred within 18 months time = 2; Larger enclosures by November 2011. Although these requirements are not exactly ideal for a dog’s well being, they would be an up- grade over the previous conditions the dogs were forced to endure. Continue reading

Animal Cruelty and the Courts: Recent Cases

Gillian Lyons

Being an all purpose animal law blog, it seems appropriate to give our readers a rundown of some recent key jurisprudence dealing with cruelty towards domestic animals.  These are a few cruelty related cases decided by state courts in the last three months.

Sullivan v. Commonwealth, 2010 WL 4352715 (Va. Nov. 4, 2010):  In a recent decision, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a misdemeanor cruelty conviction against a president of a horse rescue organization.  The charge against defendant was based on her failure to provide necessary emergency veterinary treatment.  Defendant claimed she was unaware of the horse’s grave condition, but expert testimony led the court to believe the condition was not only obvious for at least 48 hours before the horse’s death, but readily observable for weeks prior.  The court thus affirmed the trial court which had found the Defendant guilty and sentenced her to twelve months in jail, with six months suspended on conditions of good behavior and “no possession of horses” for 24 months.

Eckhart v. Department of Agriculture, 2010 WL 4596316 (Pa. Cmwlth. Nov. 15, 2010):  The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently issued a decision upholding almost $170,000 in administrative penalties, issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, against a former kennel operator.  Petitioner, former operator of “Almost Heaven Kennels,” had sought renewal permits from the Department’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement to operate kennels within the state. Both permits were rejected by the Department based on previous and pending animal cruelty conviction charges.  In response to Petitioner’s renewal request, the Department issued a Refusal Order demanding that Petitioner acquire no additional dogs, and that he cease and desist operating the kennel.  For Petitioner’s failure to abide by the order, he was charged almost 170,000 in penalties.  Petitioner appealed the penalties as excessive under the Eighth Amendment, but the Commonwealth Court disagreed with this argument and affirmed the penalties as reasonable.            Continue reading

Animal Law Voter Initiatives

David Cassuto

Informative post here regarding various animal law-related ballot initiatives on ballots around the country,  Sadly, with the exception of Missouri’s Prop B (which deals with puppy mills), they’re pretty much all hunting related.

Help Wanted: HSUS Animal Law Litigator

David Cassuto

Hey you litigators, here’s a good looking  job:

JOB OPPORTUNITY
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) seeks an attorney with at least one year of relevant legal experience for a Staff Attorney position within the Animal Protection Litigation Section in our Washington, DC office.
The Animal Protection Litigation Section at The HSUS conducts precedent-setting legal campaigns on behalf of animals in state and federal courts around the country, and also serves as the primary line of defense against legal attacks on legislative measures designed to protect animals from cruelty and abuse. With a team of over a dozen in-house litigators, numerous outside attorneys, and a docket of more than forty active cases, the Animal Protection Litigation Section oversees the largest litigation program dedicated to ensuring the humane treatment of animals in the country. More information is available at www.humanesociety.org/about/departments/litigation/.

General Description: The Staff Attorney will work with some of the nation’s leading animal protection lawyers on all aspects of the organization’s animal protection litigation efforts. The Staff Attorney will serve as lead and co-counsel in a variety of state and federal court actions, primarily including actions to protect threatened and endangered species, marine mammals, migratory birds, and other wildlife, and also actions to improve the treatment of captive animals such as those used in traveling shows and other exhibitions, animal fighting ventures, medical research and other experimentation, puppy mills, and factory farms.   Continue reading

Still Thinking About Dogs (and Cats Too)

Bruce Wagman

There’s so many issues that come up with dogs that I am still thinking about them.  And much of this applies to cats as well.  Let me be clear to start that I live with three dogs, five cats and one wife, and it’s the rare event that I get to sleep on my pillow (because Nzuri beats me there every night) or stretch out my legs (Rafiki) or get near the middle of the bed (Paka, Sybil).  And the ones that are not there are sleeping not just on the couches, but actually on special beds that sit atop the couches, because those big-pillowed couches are just too hard for the cats and dogs to sleep on without some other cushion.  So I am certainly a canine and feline worshipper.  The smell and feel of dog or cat fur are nectar and succor; and if one of them decides to perch on me, their presence freezes time.

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Thinking About Dogs

Bruce Wagman

I have had dogs on my mind lately.  They are the main players in many of my (and many animal lawyers’) cases, and they are the species I get the most calls about.  This week I had a call about a sheep owner shooting a roaming dog, with the caller wondering about the implication of the California statute that allows a livestock owner to shoot any dog on his land, even if the dog is nowhere near livestock, Cal. Food and Agric. Code section 31103, and the case that upheld the broad scope of that statute, Katsaris v. Cook, 180 Cal. App. 3d 256 (Cal. App. 1986).  I talked earlier in the year with a lawyer who convinced a court that her client’s dog breeding operation was a livestock facility, United States v. Park, 536 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2008), on remand, 2009 WL 2949333 (D. Idaho).  The irony of that case seemed to escape everyone involved.  The issue in the case was whether this breeding operation could operate on land with a federal easement.  “Livestock operations” were allowed to do so.  So the interesting point of the ruling for me is the conclusion that breeders are in fact just like factory (livestock) farmers and others who operate commercial operations, use animals for profit, and in the short and long run contribute directly to the death of thousands of animals in shelters around the country.  When someone buys a dog from a breeder, they automatically kill a dog in a shelter who could have been saved – “buy one, get one killed,” as one of my t-shirts says.  The math is simple and can’t be denied; if a new dog if brought into the world for profit, and given to someone who has room for a dog, then that breed dog replaces the life of a dog in a shelter, who will then be gassed, injected or otherwise summarily wiped off the planet, dying sad and alone and wondering why.    Continue reading

RICO Case Against Petland to Proceed

David Cassuto

A federal district court in Phoenix has allowed a racketeering trial  to proceed against Petland.  The suit alleges that Petland violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and myriad state laws by misleading thousands of consumers across the country into believing that the puppies they purchased were healthy and came from high-quality breeders.  Read more here; related post here.

The Continuing Impact of Proposition 2

In the wake of Prop 2, lawmakers in California have apparently been bitten by the animal protection bug.  Legislation is working its way through both chambers that would ban tail-docking of dairy cows, ban importation of eggs from out-of-state facilities that use unacceptable battery cages, abolish large-scale puppy mills, and increase the penalties for poaching wildlife.   There are also initiatives afoot in Maine and Ohio to ban veal and gestation crates and we may soon see a similar initiative in New York.  Full story here.

–David Cassuto

Puppy Mills — Combating the Scourge

Following up on Suzanne’s fine post about puppy mills, it seems to me that the issue has pervaded both the traditional media and the blogosphere with increasing frequency of late (even Oprah did a show last year, as did NPR).  Perhaps this upsurge stems partly from the new era in Washington although I am still (patiently) waiting for some concrete signal that the Obama administration will concern itself with the plight of nonhumans.  In any event, there’s a good piece in the Daily Kos today about the fallout both from a particular puppy mill in Skagit County, Washington and from the larger industry.  Another informative post about it here.

David Cassuto