Earlier this week, legislators in Suffolk County, New York—which occupies the eastern half of Long Island—passed a local ordinance regulating the sale of puppies in pet stores, becoming the first locality in the state to take advantage of a recent change to state law that allows municipalities to regulate pet dealers. While New York State finally allows local governments to enact and enforce tougher laws on pet stores, they cannot enact outright bans on the sale of puppies. Despite this, there are still some very effective alternatives to keep puppy mill puppies out New York’s pet shops.
We commend the county for its desire to do what our state’s government is not doing—it is the right instinct, and we hope this well-intentioned legislation will have some positive results for dogs and consumers.
However, we urge other communities interested in fighting puppy mill cruelty to pursue more targeted and effective models for such legislation. The Suffolk County approach prohibits pet stores from selling puppies who come from breeders with certain violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), relying on these standards as indicators of humane care. The problem with this approach is that federal standards are too minimal to screen out many significant, well-established welfare problems. For Suffolk County, this means that puppy mill puppies will still likely be sold in pet stores. Given what we’ve learned from years of helping law enforcement handle puppy mill raids, we believe that basing regulation of pet store sales on the inadequate and poorly enforced USDA standards is a limited approach, especially given the shortcomings of current federal law.
Under USDA standards, dogs in commercial breeding facilities can legally be kept in tiny wire-floored cages, stacked on top of one another, for their entire lives. We have witnessed and treated the sores and painful injuries dogs endure when they live 24/7—with no relief—on these wire floors. We have walked into puppy mills that were considered compliant with USDA standards and found female dogs whose bodies are broken down from continuous, unrelieved breeding—breeders do not, legally, ever have to skip a cycle and give a mother dog’s body a chance for recovery. These dogs stare back at us through lackluster eyes reflecting their broken spirits and worn out bodies, legs bowed from depleted bones and coats dull from the endless nursing and exhaustion.
Take a look at our gallery of breeder photos taken by federal inspectors during routine inspections of licensed facilities and see for yourself where most pet store puppies really come from and what it means for a breeder to be USDA-licensed and compliant with the regulations this new ordinance deems acceptable. To illustrate what’s legal, the photo below depicts housing conditions that are totally legal under federal law. The dogs in the picture can be kept in the cages shown for their entire lives, churning out litter after litter of puppies.
Sutmiller, Dorothy & Johnny & Shawn, USDA License #73A2583. Inspection on June 12, 2013.
Even if the standards were adequate, they're poorly enforced. Take a look at a scathing report from the Inspector General on the USDA's lax enforcement of the law regulating breeders (heads up, it's a little graphic!) and judge for yourself whether basing pet store regulation on the USDA system is enough to keep all puppies from puppy mills out of pet stores. We don't think it is. Violations like the ones in the pictures below demonstrate just how systemic the problems are and how both enforcement and the standards themselves are lacking.
Puppies’ feet falling through wire flooring. Miller, Eli, USDA License #43A5541. Inspection on August 18, 2011.
Sores between a dog’s toes from living on wire flooring. Lapp, Elmer, USDA License #32A0363. Inspection on December 14, 2011.
An over-bred female Beagle. Miller, Roy, USDA License #31A0276. Inspection on September 26, 2012.
We realize that a small step forward could be worth taking in some situations, but we believe local governments in the Empire State can do better. New York State’s recent move to allow local governments to enact these ordinances demonstrates an appetite to reduce the cruelty of the pet trade. There’s a better way to achieve this goal than the Suffolk County approach. We know that there are many towns, cities, villages and counties in New York that are considering regulating pet store sales, and we stand at the ready to help them do it in the most effective way possible.
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Tomorrow is a big day in the world of horse racing: The Belmont Stakes, the final leg in the Triple Crown, will run and California Chrome has a chance to be the first horse in decades to win all three races. However, despite the fervor over a horse with potential to be only the twelfth Triple Crown victor in history, a dark cloud overshadows the event. The widespread and dangerous practice of horse doping continues to sully the sport of horse racing.
The New York Times recently published the latest article in its series about the pervasive doping of horses at U.S. racetracks. Drugs are regularly used to give horses a performance-enhancing edge in racing—enabling them to run through pain and creating the risk of serious harm to both horse and jockey.
Illegal drugs such as cobra venom, Viagra, cancer medications, and dermorphin (a substance extracted from tree frogs that acts as a pain killer 40 times more powerful than morphine) are used to push racehorses past their physical limits, but drugs that are currently legal are problematic, too. Drugs that are banned in every racing jurisdiction other than North America are legal at American racetracks—it is hardly surprising that twice as many racehorses die in the U.S. as in other countries with horse racing (numbers calculated by the Jockey Club). A 2012 New York Times exposé revealed that an average of 24 thoroughbred racehorses die at U.S. tracks every week. That number doesn’t even include Quarter Horse racing or Standardbred racing fatalities.
It’s time to clean up the U.S. horse racing industry by passing the federal Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act(HISA), H.R. 2012/S. 973. Introduced by Representatives Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) in the House and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) in the Senate, this bill will ban performance-enhancing drugs in U.S. horse racing and designate the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as the governing body to create and oversee the implementation of uniform medication rules to protect horse welfare. The Jockey Club recently acknowledged the importance of this bill and agreed that the USADA “has the experience, the knowledge and the credibility to bring much-needed integrity to our sport.”
Most people understand there's a difference between selling a puppy and selling a toaster oven, but do our laws? It depends where you look. Across the country, puppy mills—which in many cases are legal—are allowed to put profits ahead of pet welfare in the sole interest of their own profit-driven desires, churning out puppy after puppy like household appliances on a conveyor belt.
The good news is that states are finally addressing cruel breeding and animal-selling practices, as well as strengthening industry accountability, with a variety of laws designed to protect and save lives. While some of the laws are stronger than others, they’re all no-brainers to those who see animals as more than products, yet many state legislatures are still resistant to regulation. Two current battlegrounds are North Carolina and Illinois, but many more states are tackling these issues.
You can play a part in ending puppy mills by refusing to buy anything, including both dogs and pet supplies, from a pet store that sell puppies, as well as supporting enactment of strong state humane laws. While the federal Animal Welfare Act sets minimum standards of care, these standards are grossly inadequate—enforcement is underfunded and too often lacks teeth. As a result, state and local laws often offer better protection for these animals.
Monitoring progress in every state provides a good snapshot of how attitudes are changing nationwide. Here’s a very current overview of recent animal welfare struggles and wins in state legislatures across the country as well as at the national level:
Right now in North Carolina, legislation to prohibit certain inhumane breeding practices passed the House of Representatives in 2013 thanks to the strong leadership of House Speaker Thom Tillis. What the Senate will now agree to isn’t clear, but we fortunately have great friends in Governor and First Lady McCrory, who have made the puppy mill issue a priority. We hope for a successful resolution in the coming weeks as the legislature is in session, but residents can still help push this bill through.
This month, Minnesota lawmakers passed the state’s first puppy mill bill, which will help vulnerable animals in puppy and kitten mills thanks to the creation of a licensing program, annual inspections, and compliance with minimum standards of care for dogs and cats in commercial breeding facilities. The bill was signed into law on May 20 by Gov. Mark Dayton. This landmark legislation passed in large part thanks to Gov. Dayton’s admirable work with local advocates for many years.
In Illinois, state legislators enacted a pet lemon law last year to hold pet stores accountable if they sell dogs or cats who later become ill. Very recently, at the urging of Gov. Pat Quinn, a bill was introduced to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. Several communities in the state had already enacted similar bans, making this state-wide push possible. However, with so little time left in the legislative session, this measure will likely not be considered before the legislature adjourns for the summer.
In Connecticut, a bill awaiting the governor’s signature holds pet shops, breeders, and brokers more accountable for the welfare of the animals they sell by significantly increasing pet shops’ obligation to reimburse for veterinary care, prohibiting the sale of dogs from breeders and brokers with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) violations, and requiring pet shops to post federal breeder inspection reports. This bill, championed by tireless animal advocate Rep. Brenda Kupchick, grew out of a task force created by a statute in 2013 to examine possible legislative solutions to the puppy mill problem, including a full ban on the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet shops. A compromise, the present bill instead bans the sale of dogs from USDA-licensed facilities that have certain violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
New York state law now authorizes local governments to crack down on cruel and unscrupulous pet dealers throughout the state. Until this change was made, only the state could control the fate of the animals in these facilities. As a result, a number of localities and counties have already introduced proposals to regulate pet dealers on the local level.
A new law in Virginia requires pet stores to disclose the origins and health histories of dogs they sell, and expands the ability of customers to seek financial remedies if a purchased dog or cat becomes ill. Find out how to thank state lawmakers.
California now prohibits the sale of animals at public outdoor venues including roadsides and parking lots. These sales endanger animals, and lead to both increased suffering and overpopulation.
Nevada legislators banned the sale of animals at swap meets.
Vermont lawmakers passed a measure that improves enforcement of the law protecting breeding dogs and the puppies they produce by providing clear definitions and eliminating legal loopholes.
West Virginia passed a strong new law in 2013 requiring commercial breeders to be licensed. It also mandates inspections of breeding premises twice per year and sets minimum standards of care for dogs.
Federally, the USDA now requires U.S. commercial breeders who sell puppies directly to the public sight unseen to be licensed and inspected. For the first time, thousands of breeders who sell dogs over the Internet will have to open their kennel doors to regulators.
Unfortunately, this leaves out puppies coming in from overseas. That’s why we’re still working to encourage the USDA to finalize a federal rule requiring non-U.S. breeders who import puppies to the U.S. to provide certification that each dog is in good health, has received all necessary vaccinations, and is at least six months of age.
Of course, the puppy mill and dog breeding industries are fighting tooth and nail to keep their industries alive with little or no accountability, which is why we need to be active and vigilant. Though contacting your representatives may seem like a futile effort, we’ve seen momentous change come from a loud community voice.
You can also help by taking the No Pet Store Puppies pledge not to buy anything from pet stores that sell puppies, and by encouraging others to do the same. Pet stores typically purchase puppies from USDA-licensed breeders, many of whom are frequent violators of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and are allowed to sell even after repeated violations, including denying veterinary care to injured animals, keeping them in filthy and dangerous environments, performing invasive surgeries on their own animals without veterinary licenses, and, in some cases, shooting their unwanted dogs. Our "No Pet Store Puppies" campaign also features over 10,000 photos taken by USDA inspectors at licensed breeding facilities, allowing consumers to see firsthand where pet store puppies really come from.
Puppy mills wouldn’t be the first inhumane industry to be stopped, banned, or criminalized thanks to public pressure. Child labor, animal fighting, sweatshops, horse slaughter, use of lead paint, and shark finning are all examples of one-time commonly accepted practices which now fall below the standards of civilized behavior. Strong laws, personal action, and collective outrage can make the price of doing this kind of business too high for even the most motivated entrepreneur.
The bottom line is this: Humane treatment is not our gift to animals; it’s our obligation. If your state is not doing enough to keep breeders in check, urge your elected officials to do more. If your community is tolerating puppy mills and pet stores that sell puppy mill puppies, bring the true nature of those businesses to light.
And if you think this is a problem that can’t be fixed, think again.
Guest blog by Nancy Perry, ASPCA Senior Vice President of Government Relations. ___
I am happy to report that the month of May in the Year of the Horse is ending on a very positive note for America’s horses! Following on the heels of last week’s victory in the Senate, today the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved the Moran Amendment by a bipartisan vote of 28-22.
Introduced by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), the Moran Amendment is now part of the House’s Agriculture Appropriations bill, which is our nation’s agriculture budget for Fiscal Year 2015. The amendment bans the use of federal funds to send USDA inspectors into horse slaughterhouses—without inspections, it would be illegal to sell the meat.
Special thanks go to Representative Moran for his brilliant leadership, skillfully guiding the amendment to success in the choppy waters of the appropriations process. He spoke eloquently in favor of eliminating tax spending on horse slaughterhouses and inspired strong speeches in favor of his amendment from Representatives Farr (D-CA), Dent (R-PA), Calvert (R-CA) and Quigley (D-IL). We are grateful for this vocal and compelling work that led to success today.
“Horse slaughter has no place in American society and this amendment affirms that Congress does not condone this inhumane practice,” said Rep. Moran. “These iconic creatures are a proud symbol of the American West that should be treasured for their beauty and treated humanely, not killed for export. The American public has made clear they oppose horse slaughter and today’s vote reflects the will of the people.”
Sitting, watching the vote unfold, there were powerful reminders of just how critical our grassroots advocacy truly is. Members repeatedly referred to hearing from people in their districts and what the American people wanted. These victories are not possible without strong support from individual advocates as well as organizations, large and small, who partnered with us in these tireless efforts. Everyone who has worked to spare horses from the nightmare of slaughter, organized to block the industry from setting up shop in their state, or taken to the courts and legislative offices to raise their voice against this cruelty played an important part in this victory today. My hat is off to you today, and I ask you to stay with us for the next steps we must take.
There are no longer any slaughterhouses in the United States that kill horses for human consumption—however, if the Moran Amendment and its Senate companion, the Landrieu-Graham Amendment, are not in the final legislation, our tax dollars could once again be used to enable the killing of horses for their meat and these predatory, inhumane businesses will return. Our job now is to make sure that the amendment remains in the final version of the bill that gets passed by the full House of Representatives. We also will press even harder to see the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act move ahead.
If you want to help the ASPCA protect our horses and communities from slaughter, please join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade and we’ll email you when we need your voice!
Wonderful news for horses: Earlier today, May 22, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved an anti-horse slaughter amendment to the 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill by a vote of 18-12. The Landrieu-Graham Amendment, introduced by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), would continue to keep would-be horse slaughterers at bay by prohibiting the use of federal tax dollars to inspect their facilities. The current ban is set to expire in September and must be renewed by Congress in order to continue to protect our nation’s horses.
“There is no place for the brutal and uncivilized practice of horse slaughter in the United States,” said Senator Landrieu. “Our nation’s values are reflected in what we choose to fund in our annual budget. Today’s bipartisan vote to defund domestic horse slaughter shows this is not a Democratic or a Republican issue—it is an issue that 80 percent of the American people agree on. Brutal slaughter is never the answer, and I will continue to push for a ban to be signed into law.”
The majority of horses killed for human consumption are young, healthy animals who could otherwise go on to lead productive lives with loving owners. What’s more, meat from American horses is unsafe for human consumption; horses are not raised as food animals, and they’re often given medications and other substances that are toxic to people.
“There is no such thing as a commercial horse slaughter plant that doesn’t inflict cruelty on horses,” says Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations. “Using taxpayer dollars to fund this abhorrent industry is irresponsible and wasteful. We are thankful to Senators Landrieu and Graham for their strong leadership in advocating to protect our nation’s revered equines.”
We thank the Senate Appropriations Committee for passing this amendment, and Senators Mary Landrieu and Lindsey Graham for their hard work and leadership on this issue.