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ASPCA Launches Consumer Tool Linking Puppies Sold in Pet Stores with Licensed Inhumane Breeders

June 12, 2013

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today announced the launch of a new tool on its "No Pet Store Puppies" website that allows consumers to link pet stores that sell puppies with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) licensed commercial dog breeders that supply puppies to pet stores around the country. 

The database contains more than ten thousand photos of commercial dog breeding facilities and links some of them to specific pet stores throughout the country that have sold puppies from them within the last year. Consumers are able to search the database by pet store name, USDA license number, or name of the breeding facility, or by zip code and specific breeds. The photos were taken by USDA inspectors during routine inspections of the facilities.

Many of the photos on the website depict conditions commonly found in puppy mills, which are large-scale, commercial dog breeding facilities where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. The photos show not only conditions that violate federal law, but also conditions that are legal but that the ASPCA—and the general public—consider inhumane. The new database aims to educate consumers about where pet store puppies really come from by showing them what it looks like inside many USDA licensed facilities.

"Consumers need to know that they should not be falsely reassured when a pet store tells them their puppies come from USDA licensed breeders," said Cori Menkin, senior director of the ASPCA Puppy Mills Campaign. "Unfortunately, USDA standards alone do not ensure that dogs are raised humanely in an environment in which they can thrive. We hope this new tool will allow consumers to make informed decisions and refrain from buying puppies at pet stores, and instead make adoption their first option, or seek a responsible breeder if they choose not to adopt."

Adult breeding dogs in puppy mills are often kept in unsanitary, overcrowded, and sometimes cruel conditions without sufficient veterinary care, food, water, or socialization.  They are typically bred at every opportunity to produce as many puppies as possible and maximize profits for the breeder. Many of the photos released by the ASPCA depict the poor conditions the adult breeding dogs are forced to endure for their entire lives.

According to a newly released poll conducted by Edge Research and commissioned by the ASPCA, 71 percent of Americans are confident that commercial dog breeders licensed by the USDA treat their dogs humanely. However, the public’s definition of humane treatment of dogs in commercial breeding facilities differs in many ways from what is legally required under the federal Animal Welfare Act, which is enforced by the USDA. The public believes that the following points are "absolutely necessary for a breeder to be considered humane," but none of these are currently required by the USDA:

  • the opportunity to exercise daily (94 percent);
  • access to routine veterinary care (93 percent);
  • being allowed outside at least once a day (90 percent);
  • positive social interaction with humans at least daily (87 percent);
  • more than six inches of cage space around their bodies (86 percent);
  • humane euthanasia by a veterinarian (83 percent);
  • protection from temperatures below 45 or above 85 degrees at all times (75 percent);
  • for female, not being bred more than twice in an 18-month period (65 percent);
  • dog cages not being stacked one on top of the other (63 percent); and
  • dog cages not having wire or mesh floors (62 percent).

Menkin added: "The data reveals that there is a clear disconnect between what many Americans think 'USDA licensed'; means, and what the law that the USDA enforces actually requires of commercial dog breeders nationwide. The federal requirements fall far short of the public's standards and expectations for the humane treatment of dogs, and we hope that people will use the new tool on the ASPCA's No Pet Store Puppies website to see for themselves what 'USDA licensed' really means."

Even among those who are confident that USDA licensed commercial dog breeders treat their dogs humanely, the public overwhelmingly supports each of these requirements for all breeders licensed by the USDA. The ASPCA hopes to work with USDA to better enforce and improve the standards applied to commercial dog breeding facilities.

The ASPCA's "No Pet Store Puppies" campaign aims to reduce the demand for puppy mill puppies by urging consumers to pledge not to buy any items—including food, supplies or toys—from stores or websites that sell puppies. The ASPCA continues to encourage animal lovers to take the pledge and share the "I pledged" badge on their social networks. To learn more about the ASPCA’s efforts to eradicate puppy mills, please visit NoPetStorePuppies.com.