By Bob Quarteroni
New York Times, Jan. 2, 2019
“California this week became the first state in the nation to bar pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits unless they come from animal shelters or rescue groups.
“The law targets the controversial breeding facilities known as puppy mills or kitten factories, which often operate with little or no oversight and ‘house animals in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate food, water, socialization or veterinary care,’ according to a fact sheet for the legislation.”
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) (May 15, 2018) — “Pennsylvania has the fourth highest number of puppy mills, that’s according to the Humane Society of the United States.
“The organization has released its 2018 Horrible Hundred report of the worst puppy mills in the country. They say nine on the list are located in Pennsylvania.”
Boy, if that doesn’t make you sick to your stomach as a Pennsylvania resident, someone ought to check you for a pulse.
Outrageous. Venal. Vile. And all for a little profit and a misguided conception of what makes a “good” dog or cat.
I get particularly exercised over this because my entire 70-year life has been immeasurably enriched by all the rescue dogs – and there have been many, most gone but none ever forgotten – who I have been privileged to know and love.
None so much as Opie, the love of my life, a little ball of love saved from a high-kill shelter in the south by the good folks at Blue Chip Animal Rescue, a local – and much loved — no kill shelter.
Opie has brought such joy, magic and love into my life that’s it’s truly indescribable. We’re an interspecies Romeo and Juliet and I’m damn proud of that fact.
But in the eyes of purebred lovers – which keep the puppy mills going because an estimated 90 percent of the dogs and cats sold at pet stores come from puppy mills – “mutts” like Opie are damaged goods.
How wrong they are.
Sure, he had a rough three years before we got him and has little fur on his back, problems with his paws that might have come from being restrained, and other blemishes and imperfections, but his love and truly unique personality and sheer joy at being alive trump any alleged bloodline.
But pet store buyers don’t look under the surface and in their quest for a “perfect pet” they allow the festering puppy mills to thrive.
If you’re not familiar with the vile world of puppy mills they are essentially concentration camps for dogs, as cruel and mean as Auschwitz and Treblinka.
The Animal Center at Michigan State University describes them this way:
“Puppy mills are facilities where dogs are forced to breed their whole lives until they are physically incapable…. At that time, the dogs are either sold to other breeders, left on the side of the road, neglected, or even killed. The dogs spend twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week in cages, with often little to no contact with people or the outside world. The facilities that are classified as puppy mills are kept in deplorable and unsanitary conditions, lack proper veterinary care for the dogs, yet often have USDA licenses….”
Yep, your government at work.
Pennsylvania has hundreds of puppy mills but they are overwhelmingly located in Lancaster County and –surprise, surprise (at least to me) — run by the plain people.
According to PAWS, “Lancaster County, Pennsylvania has been called the puppy mill capital of the U.S., and the trade is largely dominated by the Amish…. There are about 300 licensed breeders in Lancaster County alone, and rescue workers estimate another 600 unlicensed facilities operate in barns and sheds. Those breeders go to great measures to avoid discovery. Secretive and profitable. Breeders can make upwards of half million dollars a year.”
Another folksy architype down the drain.
An ABC report found a very simple reason for the Amish breeders: greed. According to Bill Smith, founder of Main Line Animal Rescue who spends his time trying to rescue dogs from Lancaster County breeders, “Dogs in this community are viewed as livestock. Nothing more. Chickens or pigs or goats. It’s just a source of income for them.”
Thankfully. Some state legislators have seen the light and have introduced legislation to make us California East, at least when it comes to puppy mills.
According to the Jan. 19 Daily Local News of West Chester, state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19 of West Whiteland, and Sen. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown, announced reintroduced bipartisan legislation to prohibit the sale of commercially raised dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores across Pennsylvania.
The bill is dubbed Victoria’s Law, in honor of a Victoria, a 10-year-old German Shepherd puppy mill survivor.
“We’ve tried so many times to stop puppy mills in Pennsylvania and I am confident that Victoria’s Law will be the economic noose that ends them once and for all,” Dinniman said. “If we can cut off their source of revenue, we can put them out of existence and ensure that no more dogs, like Victoria, are hurt by this cruel and inhumane practice.”
Let’s hope it passes and we can stop the moral stench emanating from Lancaster County and all the other stables of animal evil across the state.
For the sake of all the other Opies out there waiting to make someone as happy as he’s made me — and for the thousands upon thousands of poor creatures being tortured in puppy mills –it is clearly time to muzzle, forever, these rabid enterprises.
Bob Quarteroni, a frequent PennLive Opinion contributor, is a former columnist and editor at the Centre Daily Times. He lives in Swoyersville, Pa. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His nature blog is http://www.bobqnature.com.