Good news and bad on the puppy mill front

The good news on puppy mills is that an increasing number of communities — approximately 50 in the U.S. and seven in Canada — have enacted bans on the sale of mill-bred dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores, including the major markets of Los Angeles and Chicago. Best Friends has been particularly effective in championing this campaign, as documented here in several posts.

These ordinances are multi-faceted blessings. The most obvious is that they cut into the sales and profits of puppy mills, one of the most extreme examples of legitimized animal cruelty and abuse in this country. However, there also is an unquestioned benefit to community shelters and shelter animals because these ordinances do permit the sale or adoption of pets from shelters and rescue groups. Not only does this help to move more animals out of shelters and into homes, it increases the number of animals who are already fixed going into the community, which, in turn, reduces the number of litters being born. Win, win, win!

The bad news, according to a survey* released recently by Best Friends Animal Society, is that more than 40 percent of Americans are unaware that virtually all pet stores obtain dogs from puppy mills and nearly one in five people still chose to purchase a new dog at a local pet shop rather than adopt from a shelter or rescue organization.

What I find most interesting and concerning about the survey is that it identifies millenials as being the least likely demographic to associate puppy mills with animal cruelty and the most likely to purchase, rather than adopt, a pet.

I guess my surprise is based on a false assumption that a demographic that gets a significant chunk of its information from Internet sources would be fairly well-saturated with puppy mill abuse stories through cross postings and Facebook shares. It seems that is not the case.

In any event, Best Friends has launched a new public service announcement that illustrates how pet stores perpetuate the cruelty of puppy mills. It is part of our continuing campaign to end the puppy mill trade with the help of an informed public making lifesaving choices when acquiring a new pet, and encouraging civic leaders to eliminate the sale of mill-bred pets in their community.

The long and the short of it is this: There are an estimated 10,000 puppy mills in this country churning out more than two million puppies per year. The conditions in these forced breeding facilities are wretched. Close to 170,000 breeding adult dogs are kept caged for their entire lives, rarely getting exercise, human attention or mental stimulation. To make matters worse, approximately 9,000 healthy, adoptable shelter pets are being killed every day in our nation’s shelters — almost four million a year.

Puppy mills are a bad idea that can only survive as a business model because they operate behind the scenes and far from the public eye. An informed public is the most powerful weapon against their abusive practices.

Our choices matter and you can make a difference. Together, we will Save Them All.

*Survey methodology: Best Friends Animal Society, in partnership with Ketchum Global Research & Analytics and Braun Research, conducted a phone survey of 1,007 adults 18 and older in the U.S. The survey was fielded August 9, 2013, through August 16, 2013.

Results are reported at the 95 percent confidence level, and have a margin of error of +/-3.1%. Data have been weighted to adjust for variation in the sample relating to geographic region, sex, race, Hispanic origin, marital status, age, education and the number of adults in the household. The statistical weights were designed and applied from the United States Census Bureau statistics.

Oversamples were surveyed in Los Angeles (202 respondents), New York City (202 respondents) and Salt Lake City (201 respondents).

Gregory Castle