Friday, June 20, 2014

Which Part of "Pet Stores Sell Puppy Mill Dogs" Don't You Get?

Ever feel like a broken record? Ever have the sensation of deja vu? How about preaching to the choir?? Sigh. There's been so much news I wanted to write about lately, matters that are near and dear to our hearts, but it was all about pet stores, puppy mills, and whether to restrict or outlaw the sale of such dogs. And it's always the same. It's so frustrating!! Hence my question: Which part of "Pet stores sell puppy mill dogs" don't you get???!

We live in the Chicago, Illinois area, specifically a suburb northwest of the city. We used to live in Cook County, but recently moved. Chicago made big headlines recently when they banned the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores - only allowing for adoptions of rescue and shelter pets in said businesses. We were doing a major Happy Dance here on that one!

Then, almost immediately after, Cook County announced they were going to vote on passing the same kind of ban.  Cook County is the second largest county in the U.S., and Chicago is a major part of it. This announcement was also welcomed with much celebration, since the initial concern about pet store owners moving their businesses to the suburbs after Chicago's ban was now moot. Cook County passed the ban in record time, and made it effective even sooner than Chicago's.

There were exceptions, of course. Home-rule towns were exempt from such legislation, meaning each town would now decide for themselves whether they would follow suit or not. Although there were no guarantees, hopes were high that these towns would now be enlightened and choose the puppy mill-free path.

To top it off, the governor of our state, Governor Patrick Quinn, announced his support for proposed legislation involving a statewide ban. He himself shares his home with a rescue dog, and is determined to improve animal welfare in Illinois. To say we in this state were elated would definitely be an understatement. In a matter of weeks, we went from wondering if a ban would pass in the City of Big Shoulders, to the relief of believing puppy mill pets would no longer be sold in stores within our state borders.

Then reality hit. The reasons we've had to fight this inhumane situation for so long came back to smack us in the face. Widespread ignorance of the true conditions dogs must endure in commercial breeding facilities (aka puppy mills). Consumer gullibility for the hard-sell and bs promoted by pet stores. Greed and fear of losing their "cash cows" by pet store owners. Politicians with their eyes on tax revenues, and a history of bowing to business interests.

I've just described those things as politely as I possibly could.

Petland sources its puppies from the Hunte Corporation (Source: Companion Animal Protection Society)

What we have today is precarious, our long-fought-for gains in the fight against pet stores selling puppy mill dogs seemingly slipping away from us. Currently, Cook County is discussing an amendment, which would water down the original legislation to the point where it would be quite lame. And if the county's legislation lacks any teeth, Chicago's will probably follow suit. And this set of circumstances would all but kill any hopes of state legislation.

We came so close.

So why the change of heart? Pet store owners started howling about proposed legislation. And stomped their feet on the legislation that was passed. And are lying through their teeth. They could still have a business, sell rescue pups even - but it wouldn't be as easy, as cheap, and with as much profit as what they've been doing. Puppy mill dogs are big business.

Amish and Mennonite Puppy Mills

Ron Berning, owner of the Happiness is Pets chain, stood before the Orland Park village board at a recent meeting to speak as to why this home-rule town should not consider banning what he currently sells. He gave the usual spiel about how the community wants what he provides, that it would be detrimental if the residents did not have a source for "purebred dogs", and that he personally assists his breeders with the latest in equipment and superior housing for their dogs.

Oh, and get this -- he's recently changed some of his breeders, and was very proud to assert that he now obtains many of his puppies from Amish breeders.

This is where I feel compelled to insert the question, Which part of "Amish breeders are the worst of all puppy millers" don't you get?

(WARNING: Graphic)

(Milder, for those who cannot view the above video)

The Amish are known to be the least humane with their dogs, which they consider at best "livestock". The Grabers (featured in the graphic video) sell their dogs to broker Levi Graber, who in turn sells the puppies to pet stores in Illinois.

The Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) has spent years investigating commercial breeding facilities, and has compiled a laundry list of despicable puppy millers and their dirty deeds. Ida McCarthy, Chicago Coordinator of CAPS, recently wrote about Mr. Berning's breeders and their records reflecting violations of the Animal Welfare Act.  She has followed his business closely, studied his business practices and researched his breeding sources. She can tell you all about the trucks that pull up to his stores. And the sad contents within.

CAPS investigators have witnessed firsthand the breeding facilities that Happiness is Pets has received their puppies from. In fact, CAPS has investigated over 1,000 puppy mills. Here is an investigation of one of Berning's main breeders -

For details: Steve Kruse Kennels (Source: Companion Animal Protection Society)

Despite the spread of considerations for banning the retail sale of pets, or perhaps because of it - Mr. Berning's chain is in the process of opening a new store in Naperville, another home-rule town. And just like the back-peddling Cook County, the dead state bill, and the probable mangling of what had been a terrific law enacted in Chicago - Orland Park and now Naperville, among other home-rule towns, are debating and weighing the pros and cons, discussing and researching their options on this subject.

What should be a clear-cut, no-question-about-it decision, has become one of those "we need to study this" political footballs. So much for progress in Illinois. We're back to square one, having to explain what a puppy mill is, that the "breeders" who sell to pet stores are ALL puppy mills (any decent breeder would never, ever sell through a pet store) - and that it's not a matter of breeder vs. rescue, it's a matter of outlawing the avenues for puppy mill sales.

This is not just an animal welfare issue, mind you, even though there's obviously a very strong argument for that. It's also a consumer protection issue. Just ask any of the pet parents who've joined the class action lawsuit against Happiness Is Pets. As much as these municipalities want to cover their butts and pay due diligence to the interests of revenues, business interests, and keeping their retailers happy -- they should also be considering the fraud that is perpetrated by pet store owners against their patrons.

Those consumers happen to be voters, in case these town board members and congressmen need a reminder.

There is no need to discuss, debate, research, and issue more stores sell puppy mill dogs (and cats and rabbits). Chicago was right in the first place. Those who want a guaranteed (and healthy) purebred pet should find an excellent breeder. You would never get their quality from a pet shop anyway. All others can choose from the infinite variety of pets available for adoption from shelters and rescue organizations.

And the pet stores can do what they should be doing - sell pet supplies.


  1. LOVE THIS BLOG KIM! Thank you for spreading the word. Someday ( I know it will happen ), there will no longer be dogs sold in pet stores. We're the beginning of the end for them.

    1. Aw, Thank you, Ida! And a big thank you to you, and all your CAPS volunteers, who give of your time and energies, never asking for a thing - except freedom for puppy mill dogs and an end to the pet store fraud. You guys totally rock!!!
      Yes, yes, yes to that ending!!! And I hope we get to see that, too. Long time coming!

  2. Yes, all of those humans who do that are evil and politicians are just as bad. We should spay and neuter them all.

    1. ...and you're talking about those humans being neutered, right? bwahaha Great idea, Brian! ;)

  3. The passion, the anger, the outrage is coming through in your vitally important article. So much corruption and all in the name of a quick buck. Puppy Mills, Puppy Farms, no matter the term, they need to be eradicated and the pet shops most assuredly should not be in collusion with such inhumanity towards our precious dogs. Yep, they should be selling pet food.

    Thank you for this powerfully impassioned, emotive post.

    In hope,


    1. Thank you, Gary. Indeed, in hope! There's plenty to feel negatively about, but hopefully soon, very soon, we'll have seen the tides finally turning.
      Pet shop customers are getting ripped off, dogs are needlessly suffering from health woes thanks to shoddy breeding practices, and parent dogs live miserable and tortured lives in the mills. It's important we see an end to this!

  4. Kim:

    Thank you for yet another wonderful blog about pet shops and puppy mills. I want your readers to know that 25 percent of dogs in shelters are purebreds, so if one wants a purebred dog, that is the best place to start. You'll save a life and your rescued purebred will appreciate your doing so. The Companion Animal Protection Society does not advocate buying dogs, cats, or rabbits from breeders, even "legitimate" ones, while millions of unwanted animals die in shelters each year.

    Ron Berning now claims that most of Happiness is Pet's puppies come from Indiana breeders. He's been buying from them for a long time through Levi Graber, the infamous broker. He also listed a number of unlicensed (supposedly exempt) breeders in Indiana. These breeders cannot sell to him directly without a USDA license, so if they are doing so, it is illegal.

    Here are links to "Puppy Pipeline," which aired in 2007 on WTHR (NBC) in Indianapolis.

    CAPS investigated Amish breeders and worked with WTHR to put the story together.
    These are some of the breeders who sell to Levi Graber.

    Finally, CAPS is proud to announce that Ida McCarthy's new title is Illinois director.

    Thank you again,

    Deborah Howard
    Companion Animal Protection Society

    1. Thank you so much, Deborah, for the "Puppy Pipeline" links. I'd been looking for those, what you provided in that collaboration with NBC is enormously informative. I only wish we had more (mainstream media) programs like that one to highlight this issue.

      On behalf of all of us...Congratulations, Ida!! Our state is now in the best of hands, that's for sure. I'm looking forward to seeing all you accomplish in the months ahead!

      And thank you, Deborah, for ALL you have done over the years in your fight against the cruelty and inhumanity of puppy mills. You are an inspiration!

    2. Thank you, Kim, for the kind words. Ida McCarthy is tenacious and not to be messed with. The "Puppy Pipeline" stories used to be on our website but now appear to be missing. We are currently working with another station in Indiana (that is all I can say for now).

    3. Ida is precisely the kind of person we need for what needs to be done. Fabulous news are another program, can't wait for the details!
      Keeping the faith :)

  5. Argh, the frustration of two steps forward, one step back, it is so disheartening. Furiously hope this time, it is seen through.

    1. Ah, Leo - you know the dance all to well, don't you?! It is indeed disheartening. Thanks so much for your wishes - perhaps we all together will one day see a world without any puppy mills/puppy farms. In the meantime, best wishes to you, too!

  6. you go girl!!!!! Just tweeted and pinned!

    1. Thanks for spreading the message, Caren!

      Happy Caturday ;)


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