We are seeing tremendous momentum in the fight against puppy mills as consumers become more aware of the terrible conditions in which these farms keep their animals, profiting while denying them the most basic care. Above, a dog at Marlisa McAlmond’s Puppy Mill in Missouri. Missouri Department of Agriculture photo
In a landslide victory, San Antonio, Texas voted last night to ban the sale of commercially raised puppies and kittens in pet stores. The town is home to a Petland and three other puppy stores, and this has been a focal point in our work to end puppy mill dog sales.
San Antonio joins more than 370 communities in 26 states that have passed similar laws. DuPage County in Illinois also passed a similar ordinance earlier this week. But the battle for an ordinance in San Antonio has been particularly fierce. Petland and other pet stores hired at least three different lobbying firms to oppose it, but in the end all they could get was one “no” vote. Nine city council members voted to pass the ordinance, citing 243 written public comments in support of the ordinance. Only 54 comments opposed, and most were from out of state.
Another telltale sign that San Antonio residents and lawmakers are fed up with puppy mills, the council also approved an amendment that speeds up implementation of the ban from July 2021 to January 2021.
Texas, and particularly San Antonio, has a disproportionate number of homeless dogs and cats in shelters compared to the rest of the country, so a win here is especially welcome. Ahead of yesterday’s vote, Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio made a sincere personal appeal to council, saying his family had been blessed with four dogs who had previously been abused by puppy mill breeders. “I’ve been waiting for this for six years,” he added.
Among those testifying in favor of the order, a former San Antonio Petland store worker described the many sick puppies she saw while working there and the lack of proper care these puppies desperately needed. This is in line with what HSUS investigators found during our covert investigations into Petland stores in eight locations across the country.
We put the spotlight on Petland as it is the only national pet chain that continues to sell dogs in its stores and source from puppy mills. The company has also put its might behind tough efforts by states and communities to end puppy mill cruelty, while refusing to do what so many other pet stores have done and what consumers want: convert to a more human model.
The Humane Society of the United States’ Puppy-Friendly Pet Stores program has helped thousands of stores nationwide switch from selling commercially raised puppies to offering shelter dogs for adoption. A San Antonio-area pet store, Polly’s Pets, made the decision several years ago to stop selling commercially-raised puppies and instead offer shelter dogs for adoption. Polly’s Pets, which works with San Antonio Animal Care Services and has found homes for nearly 1,000 shelter dogs, clearly flourished after changing their business model.
We are seeing tremendous momentum in the fight against puppy mills because consumers are increasingly aware of the terrible conditions in which these farms keep their animals, profiting while denying them the most basic care. Every year, our Horrible Hundred report exposes some of the nation’s most problematic puppy mills, and lawmakers are increasingly using it as a source to crack down on these operations.
In Missouri, Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced this week that his office has filed 24 criminal charges and one civil action against unlicensed dog breeder Marlisa McAlmond of Cedar Ridge Australians. The charges laid include 21 counts of animal abuse, two counts of property damage and one count of canine cruelty.
Schmitt’s office sued McAlmond, who appeared in four of our Horrible Hundred reports, earlier this year for substandard breeding conditions and operating under an expired license. McAlmond, however, continued to breed dogs and, in September, killed 21 dogs in her custody that she had been tasked with turning over to the state. She also moved 60 other dogs to numerous third parties without the knowledge or written approval of the Department of Agriculture, according to the charges against her. McAlmond’s Puppy Mill was the fifth on our Horrible Hundred list that Schmitt’s office has taken action against in the past two years.
In Pennsylvania, James E. Burkholder, the owner of Whispering Spring Kennel LLC puppy mill, who also appeared four times in our Horrible Hundred Reports, was charged with 24 counts of misdemeanor and 10 summary offenses. State regulators accused him of trying to hide the dogs on his farm from inspectors and failing to keep records showing the animals had been vaccinated against rabies, as well as other violations. Our investigators found that he had also failed to obtain veterinary checks for dogs in at least 15 different inspections over the past decade and that he had repeatedly interfered with inspections and concealed from dogs to inspectors.
With the courts and lawmakers increasingly acting to cut the pipeline to pet stores, puppy mills, businesses that cling to a cruel and outdated model will continue to be left behind. Americans are making a clear choice not to participate in the cruelty of puppy mills. The unsavory business of selling puppy mill animals will end. And the sooner Petland and other puppy stores adapt to this changing reality, the better off pets, consumers and their businesses will be.
Pets, Public Policy (Legal / Legislative)