Editorial: Put squeeze on puppy-mill profits

Animal shelters have plenty of animals for adopting

If state legislators are truly concerned about animal welfare, they will do all they can to crack down on puppy mills and their ilk.

Commercial operations breed dogs and cats for sale, often raising the animals in inhumane conditions, spending as little money as possible on care in order to maximize profits.

Animals raised in these places often develop lifetime health problems, which generate large veterinary bills for the owners who buy their dogs and cats.

One way to choke off the demand for their product is to cut off one of their main markets — retail pet stores.

A bill pending in the Legislature (S7711) would attempt to do that by prohibiting pet stores from selling dogs and cats raised by commercial breeders.

The idea is not only to reduce the market for puppy-mill pets, but to encourage potential pet owners to obtain their animals from animal- and rescue shelters, which find homes for abandoned and abused pets and their offspring.

Pet stores would be allowed to facilitate adoptions of dogs and cats from shelters, under the legislation.

According to the ASPCA, animal shelters in the U.S. take in about 6.5 million pets a year — about 3.3 million dogs and 3.2 million cats.

About 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year.  Those left behind are either kept in the shelters or euthanized. 

Animal shelters in the U.S. euthanize about 1.5 million animals a year.

What those statistics say is that there are plenty of pets available for adoption from shelters without people having to go to pet stores to purchase animals supplied by commercial breeders.

So any legislation that encourages people to adopt pets from shelters would help alleviate the oversupply of pets.

But this legislation, while helpful, isn’t the be-all, end-all to the problem.

For one, it implies that all pet breeders are raising animals under poor conditions and that all animal shelters house “perfectly healthy and adoptable animals.” Neither is always true.

It also makes the assumption that pet stores are the only places where dogs raised in puppy mills are sold.

A Washington Post investigation in April showed that some rescue operations, flush with donations, spend a lot of money to purchase special dogs from the puppy mills they despise. They then adopt out the animals as rescue animals.

New York state has seen a proliferation of puppy mills because Ohio and Pennsylvania have cracked down on them, forcing illicit breeders into New York.

So yes, this legislation is important. 

But it’s only one step in eliminating businesses that profit off abused animals.

The state needs to follow it up with tighter regulations on organizations that sell and adopt-out pets and with tougher enforcement of puppy mills and large-scale breeding operations.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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