The Revolution Starts Here, Now!
Sunday, October 26, 2014
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Ending Puppy Mills Forever
In a prior article I wrote about three laws that, in this man's view, would recast the current animal landscape systemically. This article addresses the second of these laws. For the first law click here and read this article. The stories from puppy mills are the true tales of horror for many in the animal movement. They represent the fulcrum on which the entire breed, sell, kill paradigm rests. Luminaries from Oprah Winfrey to Jaime Lee Curtis have decried the systemic evil that is injected into our society by these institutions. Yet almost no political figure of note has taken on the banner. Typical for this column, the integral question we once again echo is WHY?

First, for the uninitiated, an outline of just exactly what a puppy mill is. They are agri businesses that produce and sell dogs and cats. Unlike farms that produce and sell animals for slaughter, their specialty is household pets. They are run exactly as they are, businesses, with the profit incentive as their central driver. What does a corporate CEO do to maximize profits? Cut costs and raise prices. Exactly the tactics puppy mill owners/managers utilize, except when they cut costs, our animal friends suffer and die. The media is full of puppy mill horror stories: Puppies stuffed 20 to a cage wallowing in their own feces, wounds untreated becoming infected, lack of water, lack of compassion, sheer places of misery. Yet these institutions are protected by the all powerful farm lobby and the AKC (American Kennel Club). They hold hands in sympathy fearing any break in the chain of armor will topple the animal dam, affecting the way ALL animals (including farm animals) are treated. This, they greatly fear will upend their businesses, resulting in monetary losses.

The animal equation, like all formulas of mathematical balance, contains two parameters of import; input and output. Input in this case is the supply of pets produced, output is the number of pets adopted. If the two figures are equal, you have just created a no kill America. Unfortunately, the supply number is far greater than the adoption figure, resulting in over 4,000,000 pets being killed in so called 'shelters'.

For some reason all current solutions to this problem only attack the latter figure, namely output. Nathan Winograd's No Kill Equation, Maddie's Fund's rescue solution and everything in between only address the animal problem from the perspective of how to increase adoptions. This writer takes issue with this concept. There can be no solution to the animal problem without addressing the supply side of the equation! NO amount of marketing whiz and magic can compensate for an unfettered supply of dogs and cats continually dropped into a saturated market with only profit as a motivating force. Remember 'supply and demand' only applies to the SELLING and BUYING of the pets. As all pet purchases come, in effect, with a permanent 'return it anytime guarantee' (to a shelter that is), the laws of economics only apply to the first part of the transaction. The RETURN part acts as a convenient garbage disposal for your purchase.

So how do we solve this conundrum and achieve the elusive goal of eradicating puppy mills forever? Simply by making the RETAIL sale of cats and dogs illegal! Pet shops are but a progeny of the puppy mills. They are the lifeblood of the entire paradigm, the great majority of the cats and dogs sold at pet stores originate in puppy mills. Thus the Achilles heal of the puppy mills is their distribution system. Disrupt the distribution channel, you choke the host. One need not address the puppy mills directly, a truly complex task.

Pet stores are a sore on the face of modernity anyway. Interested in adopting a child? How would you like to go shopping in a store full of children, all begging to be loved and taken by you. Dante's vision of hell on Earth, a society no one would want to live in. Yet this is exactly what we do! In the latest survey 91% of American pet owners consider a pet 'part of their family', yet they seem perfectly content in shopping for this 'member of the family' in a store. Abhorrent to animal lovers and it should be just as disturbing to caring folks everywhere.

The largest city in the United States felt exactly that way, passing an ordinance in early 2013 that forbid pet shops from selling dogs, cats and rabbits purchased from breeders and puppy mills! The law requires them to only sell pets taken from LA shelters or bona fide rescue organizations. LA became the 32nd city to put forth such prohibition, joining Albuquerque's lead as the first city to do so in 2006. San Diego city council is preparing to vote on a similar law and we thought it informational to quote the specific language.

"unlawful for any person to display, offer for sale, deliver, barter, auction, give away, transfer or sell any live dog, cat or rabbit in any pet shop, retail business or other commercial establishment located in the city of San Diego, unless the dog, cat or rabbit was obtained from a city or county animal shelter or animal control agency, a humane society or a nonprofit rescue organization."

Albuquerque's lead has actually provided market evidence as to the validity of this course of action. According to Peggy Weigle, executive director of Animal Humane New Mexico, since the ban started, animal adoptions have increased 23% and euthanasia at city shelters has decreased by 35%! Those statistics produce some big numbers when applied accross the United States.

What would be the impact of delegitimizing pet stores? In one word nothing! Pet stores do not provide a public need in any form. In our reformed world, people would now gravitate to shelters to find their pet. Shelters, bolstered by the higher quality adopters walking in the door would invest in upgrading their adoption facilities. Nicer rooms, cleaner facilities all resulting in more adoptions and even more importantly, at least from the shelters perspective, more adoption fees! 'The closing of pet stores would lead pet sales to backyard breeders or to the Internet' you say. Both of these issues will be addressed in the third of these articles, enumerating the third required law. But shutting down pet stores would fire a big arrow into the dispassionate rubric that has become the animal status quo. No pet stores; no puppy mills, no puppy mills; more shelter adoptions, more shelter adoptions; less killing!

This writer, being far from brilliant, cannot muse as to why this solution has not been embraced by any of the luminaries decrying the evils of puppy mills. Why has Oprah Winfrey not put her money and prodigious political influence into espousing such change? I have no idea! Why has much of the animal establishment looked the other way, focusing all their energies towards increasing adoptions? A thankless, costly and unfruitful task? Again I draw a blank.

Simply outlaw the retail sale of all pet animals! Within one year the dread of puppy mills will be a thing of the recent past, happily the pendulum is swinging the way of righteousness, just for once.
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