In two previous blog entries, I described what puppy mills are, and how our dishonest local pet stores support them by selling their puppies to you and your neighbors. Facts and figures filled the second blog, proving that pet stores buy from inhumane Midwestern puppy mills and how the federal-level USDA, as well as New York State, are failing our companion animals. Short of an act of Congress, puppy mill operators will continue to stack dogs in wire cages, add sawdust to their food causing rotted jaws and teeth, over-breed the mothers, resulting in horrific mammary tumors, and blast their eyes out with high-powered cleaning hoses in advance of USDA inspections, withholding veterinary care the entire time to save money.
Mills are barely fined for these mere violations. Arrests are even rarer, though the recent killing of nine puppies and their mother did make a few local headlines. When questioned by an officer, the mill employee-shooter innocently admitted to killing and dumping the litter and their mom. He said shooting unwanted dogs is okay and as long as he "did it out back." The dead dogs are shoveled out, and the day goes on. The shooter explained the 3 S's - shoot, shovel and shut up. His only mistake was dumping the bodies in a roadside ditch this time. All in a day's work at the puppy mill, if you are sick enough to call that work. Compare this with the national outrage when Joey the pitbull puppy was thrown out a car window in Brentwood (and lived!). Weeks of headlines, TV talk shows and an outpouring of support followed. Where is the outrage for these ten dogs?
In the case of puppy mills, we are really their only hope and it is working!! Some of us demonstrate in front of puppy-selling pet stores holding signs. Anyone can vow to talk to one person a week about puppy mill abuse, make a phone call, share a Web or Facebook page. Any time we spread the word, we are saving dogs. If any number of people, let's say 4000, spends five minutes (actual time) on this "cause" we will pass a pending NYS Senate bill, details of which are below. Please don't count on the "other 4000" doing something. Your five minutes will save breeding parents and prevent overpopulation without bullets.
It was people like us that halted the retail sale of puppies and kittens in Los Angeles and over 30 other municipalities across the country. Senate bill S3753 would allow NY residents the same choice that 47 other states allow theirs, the choice to opt out of puppy mill cruelty in their neighborhoods. We need you because this version of animal cruelty does not make headlines. We aren't finding ten dead dogs, but we support the shooters with every puppy purchased. We are not collectively screaming with outrage the way dogfighting evokes us to do simply because not enough of us know about it. Thankfully that is changing.
A quick primer on S3753
S3753-2013 was introduced this year by Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo). It was originally S1262A-2011 (Addabbo, D-NYC), which I wrote about in my last blog. The 2011 bill never came to a vote for any number of reasons, mostly because no one knew about it. The 2013 bill is exactly the same as S1262 and your five minutes will first get it to a vote, then ensure it becomes law. Senator Grisanti feels strongly that puppy mills are wrong and that his voters, if given the informed choice, would agree. He asked Sen. Addabbo if he could sponsor it this year and got a hearty yes. Prior to this, vital bipartisan support was hard to come by.
Please note, this bill will not outlaw puppy mills or ban the retail sales of pets in NYS. It will only allow local governments, such as Huntington or even Suffolk County, to decide for themselves. As I wrote in my last blog, imagine if New York City said no more? Midwestern puppy mills would, in fact, close. Trust me, no one in NYC would go without a cute puppy. No pet store would close when they can sell $50 rain booties for dogs. If people who think shooting dogs for a living is okay are no longer employed, I doubt many us will lose sleep. We are really not asking for much.
The dreaded five minutes
Here's where everyone reading this comes in. We need calls and emails to our state senators. I know this is akin to voluntary root canal. I felt the same way, until I did it once and found it takes literally two minutes. All Senators have a few office staffers in their home districts and in Albany. They answer the phone, take your name, your opinion on an issue or specific bill, tell you they will let the Senator know and wish you a nice day. They may tell you what your Senator has already done on the issue. I promise you it is that quick and painless. They don't question your opinions or background and you don’t need novocaine. If you want to elaborate, they kindly listen, but it's not necessary. The staffer can't personally solve our problems anyway, they just pass the info along. The more concise, the better. After this, you’ll look forward to calling them on any issue.
I asked for five minutes because it will take you two minutes to find your Senator's name and contact information by clicking this sentence, two to call, and one to tell your friend to do the same! If half the people reading this act, we can get our local senators on board. Tell them you support S3753. If you want to add that you don’t want any more piecemeal legislation pretending to help animals while protecting mill owners and retailers, that would be great, but it’s not necessary. The Assembly version (A740) was just passed in committee and will now go to a full floor vote. Help us get the Senate to act with them.
This bill is first being voted on by the NYS Senate Agricultural Committee. If you want to take a few extra minutes, please call one of the senators on the committee in addition to your own. The ASPCA Advocacy Center has published a list for our convenience with some background.
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, a lobby group, and the AKC itself, each profit from animal cruelty (recently written about in the NY Times) and want people to believe S3753 will be the end of dogs as we know it. In truth, if the approximately 300 pet dealers in NYS stopped selling puppies tomorrow, we would not run out of dogs or lower breed standards. No small businesses would go belly up. PIJAC blames authorities for not enforcing existing laws, which they also fight at every turn. It ignores the 3 S's, overlooks thousands of pages of USDA violations, and brushes undercover video aside as a few bad apples. When 11 pet stores each in Chicago and New York/Long Island, for example, are investigated and all are found buying from mills, where are the good apples? The Humane Society of the United States and ASPCA have searched for years and come up empty handed.
This blog focuses on New York State. There is also the problem of online sales. Anyone can sell one puppy or thousands of them online with no oversight whatsoever. The USDA is currently working to close this loophole. The bigger “battle,” for lack of a better word, reaches across the country, across politics and across levels of government. The good news is that changes are being made at every level, in almost every state, and even across party lines. We celebrate some victory almost every day: the number of USDA-licensed puppy mills is dropping; Los Angeles made history by banning the retail sale of pets and Chicago may well follow; Ohio finally agreed on basic standards of care for puppy mills after seven years; social media connects local activists; courts are ruling in favor of basic animal welfare over well-financed opposition. Locally, the ASPCA just started lobbying for S3573!
I wish everything in Puppyland were as bucolic as pet dealers and mill owners want you believe and we didn’t need laws to begin with. Unfortunately, easy money with no consequences attracts bad people, even when puppies are involved. Shooting unsold puppies and withholding vet care should not be normal or protected by civilized society. Buying their 4-legged product, marking it up by over 300% and selling it to nice and not-so-nice people, called customers, should have us outraged. Yes, I'm saying it, your local pet dealer is a bad person.
If you know anyone who purchased a puppy or kitten that became ill or needed vet care, I can't tell you how important it is that you let the state know by filling out this online complaint form. Do this even if the store made restitution, please!
Amish puppy mill owner kills 9 puppies and their mother (Amish own 25% or all USDA-licensed mills and an unknown number of unlicensed mills). These puppies are sold locally, supporting this insanity.
One example of how terrible online puppy sales are and the heartless people behind the cute puppy. A Seattle dog breeder moves to Missouri because they have lax laws and poor enforcement.
NYS Citizens Against Puppy Mills is a great place for more information. The site is clearly organized and answers a lot of questions.
The Humane Society of the United States has an inspiring list of victories in their puppy mill activism pages. We really are improving the lives of animals.