The 6-pound dachshund named Phoenix could barely move the day rescuers with The Humane Society of the United States found him in an overcrowded puppy mill. He was paralyzed from years of neglect, and living in filth. Today, he roams around with his new owner in his wheelchair, happily enjoying his forever home. Phoenix has been renamed “Ricky Bobby” by his new owner, but his namesake city just made a decision that will make him proud. By requiring that pet stores in the city acquire dogs only from humane sources, the Phoenix City Council took an important step toward helping to protect the millions of dogs suffering in puppy mills. The ordinance will help shrink the supply of puppy mill dogs flowing into our market, thereby boosting adoptions for homeless animals and increasing sales for responsible dog breeders.
Ricky Bobby is just one of the thousands of dogs the HSUS has rescued from cruel puppy mills all across the country. Each time we join local law enforcement to raid one of these facilities, we find the same thing: dogs and puppies living in horrific conditions. They are kept in small, wire cages for their entire lives, exposed to the elements and denied veterinary care. They are usually bred every heat cycle, and when their fertility wanes, they are discarded or killed.
Despite the claims of pet store owners, many of the dogs produced in puppy mills, like Ricky Bobby, are the ones sold in pet shops across the country. In Phoenix, three stores were contributing to the cycle of cruelty by selling dogs from infamous mills, such as those highlighted in the HSUS’ “A Horrible Hundred” report.
The Phoenix City Council deserves accolades for taking a stand against puppy mills. Phoenix joins more than 40 cities and localities throughout the U.S. and Canada that have passed ordinances prohibiting the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. The HSUS and other animal welfare organizations have been helping pet stores convert to a “humane business model.” Instead of selling puppies from inhumane sources, the stores showcase and adopt out homeless dogs from local shelters and rescues. This not only halts the sale of puppy mill dogs, but also helps curb pet overpopulation. It also protects customers, since many of the puppies bred in puppy mills tend to be sick and prone to cost owners thousands in vet bills. We’ve heard time and time again from families who unknowingly purchased a puppy from a mill, only to have him die soon after they brought him home.
While the HSUS encourages pet adoption, we understand that some people would prefer to purchase a puppy. In that case, we advise people to buy only from a responsible breeder who they have met in person and to see where the puppies are born and raised. Responsible breeders do not sell to pet stores because they care about where their puppies are going. A law that prevents pet stores from selling puppy mill dogs will not affect responsible breeders. In fact, more than 200 national breed clubs specifically prohibit their breeders from selling to pet stores in their codes of ethics.
The HSUS is thrilled about the city of Phoenix’s action to protect dogs and pet shop customers. I hope many more cities in Arizona adopt similar laws. Together, we can save the lives of thousands of dogs and this change is one huge step forward. I thank our supporters and our allies for supporting this significant step—and so do dogs like Ricky Bobby.
– Kari Nienstedt is Arizona State Director of the Humane Society of the United States.