Puppy mills by the numbers: Where do you draw the line?

June 25, 2010

I’ve blogged before about how I’m sick to death of the puppy mill apologists who have somehow convinced ethical, dog-loving breeders to stay out of the anti-puppy mill fight with the old “slippery slope” argument. You know, the one that says PETA is right, and when it comes to legislation and regulation, a “breeder is a breeder is a breeder”?

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

I’m actually not a fan of legislation for most issues like this, preferring to educate people and hurt bad breeders in their pocketbooks. After all, I am absolutely sure the government’s rules for “good” dog breeding and mine are still going to be worlds apart, because a clean, vet-inspected, well-lit puppy mill is not even remotely okay with me. Family pets should come from family homes, not the dog world’s version of “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” (CAFOs), or as people used to call them and I still do, “factory farms.”

Besides, many large scale breeding operations are already regulated by the government, although enforcement is almost non-existent even of their totally inadequate provisions. Even for those who want to find another way, it’s getting to the point where it’s hard to deny that legislation and regulation have enormous appeal to most people fighting puppy mills.

Which leaves me at least in a very uncomfortable place, namely, being asked my advice on “model legislation,” particularly the most contentious issue of all, “How many dogs makes someone a puppy mill?”

My view is that there is no number that makes a breeder a miller. After all, in the golden age of dog showing, wealthy fanciers maintained huge kennels, with hundreds of dogs, who lived in the care of a large resident staff, often in considerable luxury.

And today, working dog kennels routinely house large numbers of dogs who are healthier, happier and more active than most of America’s over-fed and under-exercised family pets. I can tell you right now, I’d rather be a retriever living in a good hunting kennel than in a suburban backyard 24/7.

And if we’re going to talk numbers and quality of life, I’m quite sure a hell of a lot of animal shelters couldn’t even pass the current regulations for commercial dog breeding facilities.

All that said, I have to admit I believe there is a number, or a range, at which it’s no longer possible for a single person or couple to raise good family pets, let alone keep your dogs happy and healthy. I just have no idea how to put that in a regulation, because that number would vary from situation to situation, breed to breed, as well as with the amount of staff devoted to caring for the dogs. The age of the great old show kennels is gone, but a family could still operate somewhat the same way — I know a handful of multi-generation dog families who keep between everyone perhaps as many as a hundred dogs, and manage to do right by all of them.

Right now, current laws regulate only kennels that sell puppies for third party sales; dog farms that sell directly to the consumer, whether it’s at their own facility or over the Internet, fall between the cracks. There’s a proposal right now in Congress to regulate those breeders to the same minimal standards that apply to other puppy mills, excuse me, of course, I mean “high volume commercial breeders,” and it kicks in when someone sells 50 or more puppies in a year. From McClatchy News:

It’s called the PUPS Act, short for Puppy Uniform Protection Statute. It’s aimed at cracking down on puppy mills, facilities where dogs often are forced to live in small cages. Among other things, the measure would force breeders to give their dogs the chance to exercise for at least an hour each day.

Backers say the legislation would clamp down on the most negligent and irresponsible dog breeders while closing a loophole in current law that allows thousands of commercial breeders to go unregulated. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate.

Under the current law, facilities that breed dogs for commercial resale must be licensed and inspected under the federal Animal Welfare Act, but puppy mills that sell directly to the public are exempt. As a result, large breeders can escape inspection and oversight by selling their puppies online, with consumers often discovering later that they’ve bought sick or abused animals.

“It can be very disappointing to see a family whose cherished pet has a condition that could have been prevented with more careful scrutiny by the USDA,” said Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “So I think that it’s very appropriate for us to deal with it here.”

Even if you believe in this approach, there are problems here. Can’t millers just spread ownership of the dogs around among family members, and escape hitting the magic number? Do we not care about the puppies whose owners only hit 49? Toy breeds are most prevalent in puppy mills, and have tiny litters — a perfectly wonderful kennel of big dogs could hit 50 puppies in as few as four litters, while a toy breed miller might not get there at all, but still be churning out sickly, badly bred, unsocialized puppies.

This is a contentious issue that isn’t going away. And I’m starting to feel like maybe we’ve hit the wall with the education approach, and we’re going to have to start taking a legislative and regulatory approach to show that yes, we’re really serious about shutting this industry down, and returning the production of family pets to where it belongs: family homes.

For those who are new to the puppy mill discussion on Pet Connection, let me be clear: We believe that breeding is honorable and valuable, and that good breeders shouldn’t be siding with puppy mills and laying low but standing up and demanding an end to the stigma against dog breeding. Gina and I both have had rescue dogs and dogs from breeders, and have bred dogs ourselves.

But as we work towards that day, is there a role for legislation in stopping the abuse of dogs in puppy mills? Can you imagine a law or regulation that would actually help without making it even harder for good, caring breeders to produce the next generation of beloved family companions?

And what do we do about the other honorable breeders, those who produce working dogs? Many times those who write these proposed laws express a willingness to “exempt” them, then write the laws in such a way that such an exemption is in name only. Is it possible to write legislation that provides protection for all dogs from inhumane treatment, but doesn’t penalize those who are appropriately raising working and companion dogs?

And last, am I wrong? Is it possible to do this without legislation? If so, what can be done that hasn’t already been tried?

My mind is open, but for me, the clock is ticking. Talk to me.

Filed under: pets, connected — Christie Keith @ 2:04 pm

28 Comments »

  1. I am not a fan of assigning a number. No matter what number you use, it really is arbitrary right? Because similar to pet limit laws, there may be some kennels that are able to hire staff and perfectly capable of running a shelter with 100 breeding dogs, where some other clowns can’t adequately do it with 5.

    So here’s my suggestion. Let’s adequately define what is cruelty. Let’s raise the licensing rates for commercial breeding operations, and put all of that money back into the costs of inspections and enforcing cruelty laws.

    I’m not sure how it is in California, but in Missouri, the cost of licensing hasn’t gone up in over 20 years. I figure most commercial breeders who are doing it right should welcome the higher licensing fees because it will create better enforcement which will a) shut down much of their competition from people who are doing it wrong and b) thus take pressure off of them when they are doing it “right” in the first place.

    I think how we define “cruelty” will be a little bit dicey, but I do think that people who work in rescue should be careful how they want to define it because the same standards will likely be applied to the shelters and rescues some day….

    Comment by Brent — June 25, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

  2. My two cents: Have the USDA *do their jobs*. If we need to fire all of the inspectors and start fresh and/or hire additional inspectors and/or get more funding – whatever. Do it. Enforce the laws already on the books. Then, after that’s been going smoothly for a year or two, sit the inspectors down withe some smart people and go over the laws with a fine toothed comb. See if any need tweaking or outright removal, see if we need anything new and what specifically, that would be.

    Comment by YesBiscuit! — June 25, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

  3. Shirley, love that idea!

    Comment by Christie Keith — June 25, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

  4. Brent said “No matter what number you use, it really is arbitrary right?…Let’s raise the licensing rates for commercial breeding operations…”

    What is a “commercial breeding operation?” I don’t recall ever seeing a law or regulation that defines this by anything other than numbers. Either of “breeding females” (usually, intact bitches over 4 months of age); or of number of puppies produced; or of # of litters produced. Or occasionally, some combination thereof.

    Comment by elaine BHC — June 25, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

  5. I agree with Shirley – it’s not about numbers, it’s about enforcing standards of care. You can be a crappy, shoddy operation with only two dogs, or a shiny, well cared for operation with 100.

    Almost twenty years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the last ‘old time’ Grand Kennel operators, who had about 100 dogs in her kennel, including retired dogs, active dogs and pupppies. She also had an in house staff which included a cook, a puppy nurse, kennel hands, dog trainers and a vet tech. She also had her own, fully equipped, in house surgery – the vets came to HER, not the other way around. Her facility was immaculately spotless, her dogs were happy and they were all well exercised.

    Last summer, I had the DISpleasure of meeting a local ‘hobby’ breeder who has less than ten dogs, all of who live in squalor in a mud soaked chain link back yard with chewed on plywood dog houses for shelter.

    Anyways, every dog breeder think that the definition of a ‘puppy mill’ is anyone who bred more litters last year than *they* did.

    Comment by Frogdogz — June 25, 2010 @ 8:30 pm

  6. I don’t disagree with you, but what WOULD you do to stop puppy mills? Because I’m done with analyzing the problem ad nauseum, and picking every potential solution apart for what’s wrong with it. What do we DO?

    Comment by Christie Keith — June 25, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

  7. The laws need to be enforced, for one, because they sure as heck aren’t now, according to both the BBB and the USDA itself:

    http://stlouis.bbb.org/storage/142/documents/Puppy%20Mills%20study.pdf

    http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/33002-4-SF.pdf

    It’s scandalous how the very people who are supposed to have been ensuring BASIC animal welfare standards have done basically nothing. They all need to be fired, refunded, whatever it takes to get the laws we have NOW actually being put to work, before we start trying to make new ones.

    Comment by Pai — June 25, 2010 @ 9:48 pm

  8. I don’t have a problem with setting a number beyond which inspections are required, provided that the standards are both rigorous and flexible and the inspections the same. (None of the above is true now under USDA.

    I mean, daycares that take in more than a certain number of kids have to be inspected. That doesn’t make them babymills.

    Let’s say the threshold is 50 pups sold a year, and the breeder keeps his six very prolific border collie bitches in the house as pets. He has to be licensed and inspected, but the inspection consists of a quick look at all the dogs, a look ’round the place to insure that no dog is living like, say, this:

    http://mysite.verizon.net/bizqmjr1/id127.html

    And that everyone is in good body condition (or being treated if not), has water available, no disease or signs of abuse, and the house is in compliance with normal health codes, fit for habitation. No nit-picking. You can have both carpet and a whelping box in your bedroom.

    If you are running a hound kennel and the dogs are kept as a pack in a fenced pasture with a shelter and fed half a dead cow a day — the litmus test is the health and welfare of the dogs, not whether the same husbandry would be humane for a pack of pugs.

    Also, there’s an absolute Inspector-Loses-His-Job-If-He-Doesn’t policy that any witnessed animal cruelty violations get reported to the appropriate authorities.

    The point is, laws about animal cruelty apply to *everyone.* And when someone is keeping and dealing in a large number of animals, making it a business, it’s not unreasonable to require inspections to ensure that the law is being followed.

    If regulations and inspections became both commonplace and common-sense, the well-deserved onus of “If you are big enough to require a license, you are a puppymill” would drop, along with reasonable people’s resistance to inspection of breeding facilities.

    Maybe one way for ethical breeders of good faith to show leadership is for them to volunteer for inspections, whether or not they are above the threshold in numbers.

    I’ve long advocated third-party accreditation for dog breeders — sort of like organic certification. A Good Dogkeeping Seal of Approval that we tell buyers to insist upon, one that is earned by inspections as well as pledges to do the right thing.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — June 25, 2010 @ 9:56 pm

  9. I’ve long advocated third-party accreditation for dog breeders — sort of like organic certification. A Good Dogkeeping Seal of Approval that we tell buyers to insist upon, one that is earned by inspections as well as pledges to do the right thing.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — June 25, 2010 @ 9:56 pm

    ———-

    I think most of the public believes the AKC designation serves this purpose.

    Comment by Mary Mary — June 26, 2010 @ 2:31 am

  10. I agree with third party accreditation. Like a “good housekeeping” seal of approval or some sort of endorsement to teach consumers to look for when considering a breeder.

    Comment by Joy — June 26, 2010 @ 4:38 am

  11. OK, here’s my big idea. And I can’t believe it hasn’t been done yet.

    YES there are inherent problems with it. But no solution is perfect.

    We have the internet. We have lots of riled up dog lovers feeling helpless. We have millers advertising on Craigslist and in the newspaper, selling direct to the public, with phone numbers for contacting them. We use secret shoppers in retail. We have “rate your professor” websites.

    How hard would it be to create and manage a website that lists puppy sellers by zip code or county with ratings? Ratings that are based on standard criteria “Allowed me to come to the house (not meet in parking lot). Allowed me into the house / barn / backyard. Allowed me to meet the mother of the puppies. Had [fill in number] dogs on site.”

    Etc. And the only people who could rate the puppy seller would be the secret shoppers, who would be recruited through breed clubs or rescue groups or using some other screening / recruiting.

    I understand that there is opportunity for abuse in this method, but wouldn’t it have helped to put that Poodle breeder linked in Heather’s post out of business a lot sooner?

    [By the way … SHAME on all the people who bought puppies from that woman. Why didn’t anyone turn her in before April 2010? Did nobody SMELL the stench before April 2010?]

    Well if one of the secret shoppers had visited (not to buy but to browse), maybe just maybe a red flag would have been raised a year or two ago.

    I don’t think this would require a whole lot of “staffing,” either. How many millers, big or micro, could there be per county? If one secret shopper focused on, say, two or three breeds, it shouldn’t take very long to visit all the breeders.

    OK, there it is. My solution. Grass roots inspectors. Because the official ones are too busy or few or indifferent.

    ——

    And we could use the slogan I came up with months ago:

    “Show me the mommy!”

    Comment by Mary Mary — June 26, 2010 @ 4:40 am

  12. “And the only people who could rate the puppy seller would be the secret shoppers, who would be recruited through breed clubs or rescue groups or using some other screening / recruiting.”
    Comment by Mary Mary — June 26, 2010 @ 4:40 am

    We sort of have this system going, unofficially as it may be, and it’s been around for as long as dog breeding. It’s called gossip. Breed club members and/or rescues with axes to grind regularly “rate” dog breeders and spread the word far and wide. There are no figures as to what percentage of the info is rooted in actual facts, but having a guess, I’d say around about zero.

    Comment by YesBiscuit! — June 26, 2010 @ 5:53 am

  13. We sort of have this system going, unofficially as it may be, and it’s been around for as long as dog breeding. It’s called gossip.

    Comment by YesBiscuit! — June 26, 2010

    True, but that’s for the “secret handshake” club.

    Mary Mary (quite contrary? All this time and I just NOW got it? Duh!) may be on to something. Trained volunteers, checklist of what to look for … Yelp for puppy-buyers?

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — June 26, 2010 @ 6:01 am

  14. Gina, that’s funny! I’ve been asked about my garden’s growth nonstop since I was four years old.

    The thing I like about standard criteria is that it’s based on observable measures.
    Not “Oh, I got my wonderful Maltese Bixie from that lady, Mrs. Smith, and she was SO NICE!”

    There are mostly always nice.

    And accent on OBSERVABLE. If I am not allowed to observe your breeding quarters, then right away you are suspect.

    Comment by Mary Mary — June 26, 2010 @ 6:23 am

  15. The secret shoppers would have to be pretty savvy and have a long attention span to get past the radar of the BEST breeders.

    Most of a really good breeder’s screening goes on months before the pups are ready to go home, and involve long conversations about the potential buyer’s needs and resources, what they are looking for in a dog, their knowledge of the breed and whatever special needs it might have.

    The vast majority of my pup inquiries do not result in a visit, because I determine, or the inquirer and I determine together, that the person is not a good match for one of my pups. I may suggest a different breed, or a different breeder’s dogs, for example. (You want a soft, reserved English shepherd — not likely to emerge from my breeding. You want a sharp, stranger-suspicious ES — ditto. You want one that will do well as a pet only — few candidates among breeders. You want a really big one — another breeder. One with a collie head — I know where to send you.)

    In a way, the best breeders will seem more paranoid and secretive than the worst.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — June 26, 2010 @ 7:23 am

  16. Consumer education is an important step, and one that needs to be emphasized more than it generally is.

    A lot of my clients spend more time deciding which pair of jeans to buy then they spent looking for a puppy – and they typically spend little or no time researching its breeder.

    Consumers not only need to know what to look for (or look out for, as the case may be) in a breeder, they need to be held accountable for buying a puppy from a crap breeder to “rescue it”, “because we just fell in love with it”, or because the timing / coat color / cost fit conveniently into their needs.

    A friend’s sister wanted a smallish pet dog for her family. After much searching she ended up making two or three trips to a place about three hours away to buy some kind of designer mix. I admit that I rolled my eyes when she told me this but after the woman described the breeder’s practices, place, dogs etc I realized that (a) the woman had really done her homework and (b) the breeder was putting a lot more time and mindful effort into breeding and raising her dogs than most people do. The woman ended up with an adorably cute, healthy, well socialized 8 week old puppy who fits her needs.

    I think we should help all pet owners learn to be ethical, well-educated shoppers instead of relying on secret shoppers.

    Comment by Janeen — June 26, 2010 @ 7:56 am

  17. I hadn’t thought about the time investment necessary for a secret puppy shopper to invest but Heather makes a good point. It’s not like walking into JC Penney’s and asking if they have this t-shirt in pink. A secret puppy shopper would have to be prepared to invest in multiple phone conversations and/or e-mails, have references willing to be called over and over, have home photos to send to the breeder, etc. This is all typical stuff before a stranger is ever invited over to my house. And to be frank, if I invested all that time in discussing home environment, training, contacting references, etc and found out the person never had any intention of buying a pup, I wouldn’t be too thrilled. I wonder what kind of review I’d get after telling the secret shopper off with colorful language?

    Comment by YesBiscuit! — June 26, 2010 @ 9:03 am

  18. <Not “Oh, I got my wonderful Maltese Bixie from that lady, Mrs. Smith, and she was SO NICE!”

    There are mostly always nice.

    And Heather wrote:

    In a way, the best breeders will seem more paranoid and secretive than the worst.

    Well, that pretty much sums it up. I’ve heard SO many people excuse their puppy mill purchases by saying “But they were so nice, and the ‘good breeders’ I phoned were so *mean*”.

    Puppy Mills *are* nice, because for them, it’s all about making the sale. They’re a business – it’s about getting those puppies out that door, and that means saying what prospective buyers want to hear. You want to breed? Of course! Just a hundred or so extra dollars for ‘full papers’. Do pugs make good guard dogs? Oh, for sure! They’re great at it.

    On the other hand, some of the best breeders I know have ZERO people skills, and work on the automatic assumption that 99% of everyone who contacts them is an idiot who doesn’t deserve to own a stuffed dog, let alone one of their puppies. Even the nicer ones who don’t mind answering questions tend to be ‘fussy’ (so far as the public is concerned, at least). We ask all those questions! We want to know all that information! We want references! We want you to fill out applications!

    So, the mills get the sales, because the mills just come across as ‘so nice’.

    I also agree that most legit breeders could sniff out a ‘secret shopper’ in about two minutes flat. And the kinds of people who impulse buy from mills are also the kinds of people who probably can’t be bothered to read a review site – so we’re back to where we started.

    Comment by Frogdogz — June 26, 2010 @ 9:45 am

  19. Well, then we’re doomed. Because IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS HARD TO GET A NICE PUPPY!

    Comment by Christie Keith — June 26, 2010 @ 10:18 am

  20. True, especially if ethical breeders continue to damn the HSUS for any effort at all to not group all breeders as “bad,” including a recent piece in its own magazine that quotes Terrierman, of all people.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — June 26, 2010 @ 10:31 am

  21. Well, then we’re doomed. Because IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS HARD TO GET A NICE PUPPY!

    I agree, but like everyone else, I draw a blank on how we fix it.

    A few years ago, I noticed that there was a kind of gap – I was getting email from all these nice owners, who’d bought dogs from these AWFUL breeders, because the awful breeders were the ones who had saturation advertising, and were nice on the phone (and returned emails promptly).

    At the same time, I was getting email from breeders (good ones, with nice pups from health tested Ch parents), lamenting the fact that they had unsold puppies.

    So, I created a website for Frenchie breeders. The breeders were to fill out a sort of questionnaire – how long they’d been breeding, health tests they did, litters produced, etc. For a minimal cost, I’d donate my time, and use the proceeds to buy them google ad space and get them SEO’d so that they’d be competitive with the commercial breeders.

    No one was interested. Pay? Not a chance. Why should *they* have to work to find buyers? Buyers should work harder to find them. Answer questions? That’s for *buyers* to do.

    I gave up. I am out of ideas. Of course, they still email me, whining that their puppies aren’t selling.

    Comment by Frogdogz — June 26, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

  22. It’s depressing that when I look at the post Christie linked to, it feels like we’ve all already had this conversation, and we’re still no closer to a solution.

    I do think that there needs to be some SERIOUS enforcement by USDA, especially now that the CFIA has screwed Canadian breeders into a corner by telling us that USDA bred puppies are the only puppies we’re ‘allowed’ to import. Seal of approval FAIL, CFIA.

    Comment by Frogdogz — June 26, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

  23. This is a tricky issue. I tend to agree with you that legislation might not be the best course. I would rather see information like this be more readily available to the general public. Unfortunately, when I talk to people about things like this, I see their eyes glazing over and looking at me like I’m preaching to them.

    Maybe some kind of petition/letter writing campaign to get some enforcement?

    Comment by Sam — June 27, 2010 @ 11:09 am

  24. I think the most positive impact we can have on this issue is to change the way consumers purchase pets. I know it seems like this has been tried to the nth degree but maybe “humane education” isn’t enough when you’re talking about consumer behavior.

    Generally speaking, people don’t put a whole lot of effort into thinking about the purchases they make; big or small. They might WANT to make ethical purchases (and would if given a straight shot at it) but they aren’t necessarily going to go out of their way to do it.

    Research that has been done on consumer behavior tells us that you kind of need to create the opportunity for pride in the buyer’s choices along with (and this is crucial) making it relatively easy for them to choose the ethical purchase over the one we want them to avoid.

    Like with Dolphin Safe tuna for instance. The organization that created the Dolphin Safe seal of approval (I think it was Earth Island Institute) does a whole lot of education and awareness campaigning so that “Dolphin Safe” has become a widely recognized concept. But AS important, they make the purchase process very simple. These days Dolphin Safe labeled/approved tuna is merchandised right alongside the regular tuna with a nominal difference in price. So, all the consumer needs to do is make an on-the-spot choice. They can choose the ethical product without a whole lot of work and go home feeling proud that they did their part to help prevent cruelty to dolphins.

    This might be a flawed comparison but my point is just that we need to try to tie the education & awareness campaigns into the actual immediate purchase process of the puppy buyer. Maybe we just need to simplify things for the people looking to add a pet to their family.

    We say “choose an ethical breeder” but maybe that’s just too vague and feels overwhelming to people who have no idea where to even start defining “ethical” much less finding that sort of loosely defined breeder. Maybe the trick is to have an organization choose the ethical breeders and then let consumers “shop” that approved list.

    The organization would need to do some serious promotion of their “seal of approval’ so that “ethical breeder” (or whatever its called) would become a widely known concept. From there, create a database and start taking over the internet with links to the database site. And the message is simple; If you’re going to buy a puppy, buy him from one of these approved breeders. Otherwise, you may be buying from a puppy mill.

    Again, there needs to be the opportunity for pride; “I got him from a “______ approved” breeder (I made an ethical, humane choice), because I chose not to support a puppy mill.”

    Does that make any sense?

    Comment by Joy — June 28, 2010 @ 6:10 am

  25. They can choose the ethical product without a whole lot of work and go home feeling proud that they did their part to help prevent cruelty to dolphins.

    Well there’s the rub.

    The suppliers of dolphin-safe tuna have pretty much no interest in ensuring that their product goes to a good home.

    Mixed with mayo on a sammitch. Used to bait a raccoon trap. Salted on a cracker. In a casserole. Fed to the cat. Stockpiled in the fallout shelter. The producers of dolphin safe tuna simply do not care what you do with the product once you purchase it. Why should they?

    (Actually, totally as an aside, now I want tuna for lunch — on crackers, if you must know.)

    One of the hallmarks of an ethical breeder is that they ALL care DEEPLY about what happens to their “products” once you take them home.

    So it will never be very little effort to actually acquire a pup from an ethical breeder, especially compared to the ease of a cash-only flea market transaction or the paypal button on the puppymill’s website.

    I agree that it should take less consumer effort to identify an ethical breeder, and we can do something about that.

    But actually buying a pup from someone who gives a rat’s fanny will always involve extra effort.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — June 28, 2010 @ 6:52 am

  26. You’re trying to educate a society who doesn’t think anything should be hard, for whom instant gratification isn’t fast enough. People who go to Wal-mart to buy their fruit because they needed a pair of shorts too, and why make a trip to the farmer’s market when it’s all right there AND cheaper.

    The only campaigns that seem to work have figured out a way to vilify a product or practice in a widespread fashion–like cigarettes or not using a seat belt.

    Maybe somehow we need to make it embarrassing that you got your puppy from a pet store or an Amish “farm.” That’s not a solution I know, and I’ve seen it backfire on shelters where they try to make you feel like you are Killing Doggies when you buy from a breeder.

    Comment by Original Lori — June 28, 2010 @ 7:37 am

  27. I completely agree that this discussion of legislation is getting nowhere. And we have very little control over the inspectors who may or may not be doing their jobs. Puppy mills will exist as long as there are consumers wanting specific puppies. It’s a supply and demand issue. Reduce the demand and the suppliers go out of business. Public education must be the number one priority. We need to get people to CARE about where their puppies are coming from. We can talk about puppy mills forever and people nod their heads that they get it – but many really don’t get it. They haven’t put the connection together that 1) pups in most pet stores come from mills, 2) farmers selling pups are likely to be millers, 3) rarely would a reputable breeder sell their dogs over the Internet. These are the messages that we need to spread around so that people begin to make the “connection.” Hey, Pet Connection, we can do this!

    Comment by Chris Shaughness — June 28, 2010 @ 8:52 am

  28. You know, I went to college in the 80’s.

    And first, those of us who cared were told “Oh, American colleges and pension funds and investors will never divest their investments from South Africa.”

    But we didn’t listen, and they did.

    And then we were told, “Well, a few pinko universities and lily-livered unions and such have divested, but this will never change things in South Africa except to make people more miserable. That country is doomed and we might as well have a policy of ‘constructive engagement’ to try to hold off the blacks setting all the Afrikaners on fire.”

    I believe that the protesters, the divestment actions, and the nation of South Africa have, shall we say, exceeded expectations over the past 25 years.

    (Cue annoying vuvuzela soundtrack.)

    How fast might it take to accomplish a complete sea change in how Americans think about acquiring a dog?

    Comment by H. Houlahan — June 28, 2010 @ 10:31 am

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