New York, take a stand against puppy mills
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New York, take a stand against puppy mills

FROM John Goodwin,, Opinion
April 10, 2019

Chelsea Kennel Club was the target of an undercover investigation by the Humane Society. (Susan Watts/New York Daily News)

Imagine a tiny, terrified Chihuahua with a defective eye. At just eight weeks old, she was torn from her mother and litter mates and trucked in a small cage over a thousand miles from rural Kansas to a New York City pet store. Trapped in the tiny cage, her waste pooled beneath her. At the pet store, she would be caged again, then displayed and sold to a family who would return her soon after. Back in Kansas, her mother would continue to live in misery, forced to produce litter after litter for the pet trade.

This is the story of Rhonda, who was ultimately purchased by the Humane Society of the United States as part of an investigation of the store where she was for sale ó the now shuttered Chelsea Kennel Club in Midtown Manhattan. Thatís where store personnel sold Rhonda to our secret shopper without informing her that the dog was previously returned for biting her owner.

The Chelsea Kennel Club investigation revealed that the store was full of sick puppies, hid known illnesses and behavior issues from buyers and mistreated the animals in store. The only thing atypical about Chelsea Kennel Club when compared to other puppy-selling pet stores is that this store got caught on tape.

Rhonda is just one of the 2 million puppies produced in puppy mills each year. And her mother is just one of hundreds of thousands of dogs who spend their lives trapped in cages in deplorable puppy mills.

Thankfully, legislation recently introduced in the New York State Legislature would put an end to this cycle of cruelty.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris of Queens and Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal of Manhattan introduced legislation that would prohibit the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores. It would drive the New York pet market toward more humane sources and continue to allow pet stores to offer quality products and services and host adoption events with shelters and rescues. Responsible breeders will not be impacted by this bill, as they do not sell their family-raised animals to pet stores.

The animal welfare implication of these bills cannot be overstated. Puppy mills that treat dogs as nothing more than breeding machines and agriculture commodities would no longer profit from access to consumers through New York pet stores. Under federal law, it is legal for mills to confine dogs in wire, stacked cages only six inches larger than themselves for their entire lives. To make matters worse, federal enforcement of these weak standards is abysmal.

Like many puppy mills that supply pet stores with puppies, Rhonda came from a mill with an egregious animal welfare record. The facility has been cited by federal and state authorities for keeping numerous dogs in urgent need of veterinary care. Authorities found dogs who were lame, limping, severely emaciated and/or matted, living in rusted and unsafe housing. This mill continues to operate and still sells puppies to unsuspecting consumers.

There are also important consumer protection aspects to this bill. Pet stores often provide misleading information about the origins of these puppies, claiming they are from small, humane breeders. And pet store puppies are often unhealthy and unsocialized. Pet store consumers often spend thousands of dollars caring for their sick pet store puppies, sometimes only to suffer the heartbreak of their new pet dying.

All of the problems associated with puppy-selling pet stores beg the question: Why bother? No pet store needs to sell dogs, cats or rabbits, as the huge majority of pet stores, both large and small, already do not do so. Last year Americans spent a whopping $70 billion on pet products and services. Any pet store looking to succeed would be smart to tap into that market.

The Humane Society of the United States has partnered with the ASPCA and other NY-based animal protection organizations to ensure that this bill becomes law so New York can join California, Maryland and 300 localities across the nation and take a stand against puppy mill cruelty and the pet stores that profit from it.

Goodwin is the senior director of the Humane Society of the United Statesí Stop Puppy Mills campaign.

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