While puppy mills have long been a hot topic within the dog community, the subject has only recently garnered mainstream attention with specials on Oprah  and ABC’s Nightline . (See also “Busted”  in The Bark, May 2009.) Even Cesar Millan is using his star power to do a puppy mill exposé that airs tonight (May 8) on National Geographic . While the increased exposure has certainly had an impact, millions of Americans still unknowingly support puppy mills.
Last year Utah-based Best Friends Animal Society decided to target pet stores, puppy mills’ main source of income. The animal advocate group launched Puppies Aren’t Products , a campaign that stages weekly peaceful protests in front of stores that sell puppy mill dogs, a tactic that hurts sales and educates the public. Best Friend’s efforts began in Los Angeles, Calif. , a state where they estimate euthanized shelter pets have cost taxpayers over $250,000,000 to date.
Puppies Aren’t Products demonstrations have already resulted in the closing of Pet Love , a 15-year-old pet store in Beverly Hills, and the replacement of Pets of Bel Air with Woof Worx , a store that showcases rescue dogs for adoption.
The success of the Los Angeles chapter has inspired campaigns in Las Vegas, Nev. , and, most recently, New York City . Last week Best Friends volunteers began a new protest location in front of Manhattan’s American Kennels . Participants reported that many people were unaware that the pets inside were mass-produced in deplorable conditions.
Puppy mills are hard to regulate through the government so I do believe that change must come through education. I admire the persistence of the Puppies Aren’t Products volunteers and am excited to see the impact they’ll have in the New York area and beyond.
Photo by Jayne M. Silberman.