I led a press conference this morning, packed with television cameras at The Humane Society of the United States' headquarters in Washington, D.C., to announce the results of a new eight-month investigation into puppy mill cruelty. The HSUS investigated more than 20 Petland stores and found that these stores, part of the nation's largest puppy-selling retail chain, are selling dogs from abusive puppy mills in Missouri and across the Midwest, while assuring consumers that they only buy puppies from good breeders with the highest standards of care. Some Petland stores even buy puppies from brokers and middlemen, and may not even know who the breeder is until after the puppy arrives in the store.
Along with Stephanie Shain, director of The HSUS Stop Puppy Mills campaign, I showed a video of this new exposé, and you can watch it here. It's the largest-ever puppy mill investigation, but only the latest in a series of HSUS efforts exposing the cruelty at puppy mills, dog auctions, and pet stores across the country. There are 140 Petland stores in the U.S., selling tens of thousands of puppies each year, many procured from unscrupulous operators who treat dogs not like family pets but like a cash crop.
The Humane Society Legislative Fund is working to advance public policies that curb the worst abuses in the puppy mill industry. This year, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Virginia passed strong anti-puppy mill laws, and the Farm Bill passed by the U.S. Congress banned the import of young dogs from foreign puppy mills in China, Mexico, and other countries. New legislation in Congress -- the Puppy Uniform Protection Statute (PUPS), or "Baby's Bill" -- would require that dogs get 60 minutes of exercise per day rather than being confined in cages for their entire lives, and would also apply the Animal Welfare Act guidelines to puppy breeders who sell directly to the public or over the Internet and currently escape federal regulation.
But in addition to public policies, we need corporate and consumer responsibility. Petland should not perpetuate the cruel puppy mill industry, and should join leading retailers like PETCO and PetSmart who have socially responsible policies of not selling puppies in their stores and who instead work with humane societies and rescue groups to promote adoptions of homeless animals. As the holiday season approaches, which is the top puppy-buying time of year, consumers need to beware and take action. Don't be fooled by false assurances that pet store puppies come from "good breeders," when time and time again we have found the mothers of these puppies suffering in filthy, cramped cages for their entire lives.