If protesters show up at a CdM pet store Sunday as organizers hope, it won’t be an unfamiliar scene.
Animal rights activists targeting the I Heart Puppies store have posted online notices urging supporters to turn out in front of the store.
I Heart Puppies isn’t the only pet store to ever come under fire by an animal rights group and the local activists are hardly the first protesters of their kind.
“It’s not new,” said Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council Vice President of Governmental Affairs and General Counsel Michael Maddox. “Animals rights groups have waged an anti-pet store campaign for many years.”
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals discourages consumers from buying anything from pet stores that also sell puppies because they claim most pet shop puppies are from substandard breeding kennels, sometimes called “puppy mills.”
“The ASPCA’s research shows that people know puppy mills are bad, but they don’t realize most pet store puppies come from puppy mills,” Matt Bershadker, ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Group Senior Vice President said.
Many of the animal activist groups claim that any puppy in a pet store is from a substandard kennel, Maddox said.
“There obviously are substandard breeders out there,” he said, but there are many responsible breeders with impeccable facilities, he added. “The problem is when [someone] makes a blanket statement like that.”
The pet industry council has been working to get rid of substandard breeders and pet stores for the past 40 years, Maddox said.
A substandard breeder does not use appropriate care, has low quality facilities and isn’t mindful of the welfare of the animal.
“’Puppy mill’ is a derogatory term that has no legal [definition]… Call it what it is: A substandard breeder,” Maddox said.
“In the last decade of the 20th Century, activist groups began to broaden the term to cover just about any kennel that they didn’t like,” according to Norma Bennett Woolf, editor and writer at Dog Owners Guide.
Over time, the line has become blurred between responsible breeders and substandard breeding facilities, Woolf wrote.
The high-volume, substandard kennels became more prominent in the 1940s, according to Woolfe, during the post-war boom when people had more leisure time and disposable income.
“At the same time, farmers, mostly in the Midwest, were seeking alternative crops,” Woolfe wrote. “Available money met with available supply, and the result was the development of commercial puppy businesses.”
Farmers already had chicken coops and rabbit hutches, she wrote, but little knowledge of canine husbandry or money for proper veterinary care. These type of breeding facilities were soon labeled “puppy mills.”
In 1966, the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act was put into law. It regulated dealers who handled dogs and cats and labs that used animals. In 1970, it was amended with a name change to the Animal Welfare Act and authorized the secretary of agriculture to regulate the wholesale pet trade. Another amendment in 1976 regulated the commercial transportation of animals.
In many states, as long as the dogs are given the basics – food, water and shelter – it’s legal for a kennel to hold dozens or even hundreds of dogs in cages for their entire lives, according to the Humane Society of the United States. The AWA requires a minimum amount of space for each dog, a veterinary care program, proper drainage of the kennel and appropriate sanitary procedures.
Information about the breeder of a particular puppy can be found on the USDA website. The public can search for breeders or kennels and see any inspection reports conducted by the USDA, along with any violations found.
“I think that some of the picketing that has gone on at pets stores… The organizations are intent on putting pet stores out of business,” Maddox said. It sometimes “has nothing to do with the quality of the store” or the health of the pets they are selling, he said. “It’s not if pet stores are keeping any secrets.”