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How to Fight a Puppy Mill

By Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO

“Second Chance Dogs” looks at the ASPCA’s innovative techniques to rehabilitate animals from a variety of abusive situations, including puppy mills. But the best way to address animal cruelty is to stop it in the first place. In the case of puppy mills, there’s much we can and should do to understand and take a strong stand against them.

Across the country, these puppy mills — which in many cases are legal — churn out puppy after puppy like household appliances on a conveyor belt in the sole interest of their own profit-driven desires. And puppy mill and dog breeding industries are fighting to keep their industries alive with little or no accountability, which is why we need to be active and vigilant.

Though contacting your representatives may seem like a futile effort, we’ve seen momentous change come from a loud community voice. While the federal Animal Welfare Act sets minimum standards of care, these standards are grossly inadequate — enforcement is underfunded and too often lacks teeth. As a result, state and local laws often offer better protection for these animals.

State regulations vary widely, as you can see on this interactive map, so learn about your state’s laws, and reach out to your representatives to learn more about what can be done. Only last March, the Boston City Council unanimously approved a city-wide ban on pet stores selling dogs, cats, or rabbits from commercial breeders in an attempt to curb demand for animals from puppy mills.

You can also help by taking the “No Pet Store Puppies” pledge not to buy anything from pet stores that sell puppies, and by encouraging others to do the same. Pet stores typically purchase puppies from USDA licensed breeders, many of whom are frequent violators of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and are allowed to sell even after repeated violations. These violations include denying veterinary care to injured animals, keeping them in filthy and dangerous environments, performing invasive surgeries on their own animals without veterinary licenses, and, in some cases, shooting their unwanted dogs.

Our campaign also features over 10,000 photos taken by USDA inspectors at licensed breeding facilities, allowing consumers to see first-hand where pet store puppies really come from.

Puppy mills wouldn’t be the first inhumane industry to be stopped, banned, or criminalized thanks to public pressure. Child labor, animal fighting, sweatshops, horse slaughter, lead paint, and shark finning are all examples of one-time commonly accepted practices which now fall below the standards of civilized behavior. Strong laws, personal action, and collective outrage can make the price of doing this kind of business too high for even the most motivated entrepreneur.

The bottom line is this: Humane treatment is not our gift to animals; it’s our obligation.

If your state isn’t doing enough to keep breeders in check, urge your elected officials to do more.

If your community is tolerating puppy mills and pet stores that sell puppy mill puppies, bring the true nature of those businesses to light.

And if you think this is a problem that can’t be fixed, please think again.