In my last blog, I explained what a puppy mill is and that our pet stores use the USDA as a stamp of approval. I’ll start this blog with two facts from the previous one: USDA puppy mills are, by definition, animal neglect, often criminal cruelty; and, pet stores knowingly sell the offspring of puppy mills. The good news is that there is already a New York State senate bill just waiting for us that will end the cycle.
First a bit of math
One local pet store, for example, boasts over a thousand puppies sold in about a year. There are 8-10 puppy sellers in Huntington, over 30 in Nassau/Suffolk and about 300 in the state (NYS Ag & Markets licensed pet dealer list). Let's assume about 300,000 puppies sold each year, most from out-of-state mills, the remainder from what are called backyard breeders with no oversight whatsoever.
The math does not show that half will be sick, most will have treatable parasites, and some will even die. In addition, that is about 300,000 dogs not being adopted from shelters or purchased from reputable local breeders. Breeders who would never sell a dog without a home visit and will have the puppy parents on site for you to meet. Remember shop local? In the case of puppies, please make it born local.
USDA rules last updated in 1966
People who luck out and buy a healthy puppy focus on the puppy, not its parents. They would be upset to learn that every purchase keeps the breeding parents caged for life. They are not even fed daily by humans, the requirement is that feeders must be checked twice monthly. Crazy, right? Well, puppy parents suffer under 45-year-old USDA livestock rules, which are often not followed. These Vietnam-era regulations are loosely enforced by 60 inspectors for the Western half of the US and 60 for the East. They have over 6,000 research facilities, zoos, puppy mills, etc, to inspect each year. A 2010 report from the US Inspector General proves they can’t properly do this job and it has certainly not gotten any better.
Of course, this is invisible on Long Island, where we only see adorable puppies. NYS records show that the majority of our supply is shipped in from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee. No farm state elected official is going to vote against a sure profit at the federal or state level. There is no incentive to change and no consequences for violators. The USDA doesn’t have the authority to shut down even the worst mills. Some states do not even regulate mills, others avoid enforcement and sanctions because the mills are in their election districts. It's up to us to tell NY no more.
Without boring you too much, S1262A is a NYS Senate bill that would give local governments in our state the right to regulate pet dealers. We are one of a handful of states without local choice. It would let us “preempt” our own lax state laws that are also poorly enforced by too few inspectors.
The 1000-selling puppy store above, for example, bought some of their Christmas pups from one breeder with six major USDA violations, another with two. A 2011 undercover Humane Society of the United States investigation showed even worse – it bought from some of infamous Missouri ‘dirty dozen,’ the twelve worst mills in the state. The owner, like every other pet store owner in the country, tells everyone he hates puppy mills. NYS records and the HSUS show otherwise. Again, no consequences because not enough of us know this goes on. Lies, cruelty and the puppy business sounds like bad fiction, not documented fact.
What you can do
If our state senators knew we wanted S1262A, they would bring it to a vote. We need all residents who think this is wrong to call or email their state senator, (click here for a list), and tell them to vote yes on S1262A. Let us stop puppy mill abuse at the point of purchase. We can’t change laws at the source. We want to say no more mill puppies in Suffolk, or Huntington, or even New York City.
Let us join Los Angeles, Hallandale Beach, Hoboken, and a growing number of municipalities across the country banning the retail sale of pets because of puppy mill suppliers. Tell your state senator to vote yes on S1262A and give us the choice.
Do not shop where puppies or kittens are sold. Also, never buy online – that is a topic for another day, but the mills that don’t meet outdated USDA guidelines are allowed to sell over the internet.
If you must shop where puppies or kittens are sold, ask the owner about going humane, which is what PetSmart, Petco and a lot of pet supply stores do. They host adoption events for local shelters.
Read the following to learn more: