Holding a pair of Chihuahuas in a blanket, Grace Kelly Herbert told the story of Ollie and Tooch.
The Montgomery County woman said she saved the couple from a Missouri puppy mill owner who had neglected them and was simply looking to use them to produce litters and supplement his salary.
They have suffered from various ailments and illnesses, she said, adding that both have lost their teeth in recent years.
“It’s a miracle they lived to be 9 years old,” Kelly Herbert said Friday, amid sounds of cameras and barking dogs, as the Chihuahuas stayed close to their adoptive mother. She spoke to the Lehigh County Humane Society in Allentown on behalf of a bill that would target unscrupulous pet breeders and stores that obtain pets.
State Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Lehigh-Northampton, signed on last month to co-sponsor the bill with Republican Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York. The Pet Retail Bill, Senate Bill 234, aka “Victoria’s Law,” would end the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores by the so-called “puppy mills”.
Lawmakers say the law would restrict the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits to pet stores, where mill animals often go. It would also regulate where pet stores source their puppies. The current law doesn’t require it and does little to protect consumers beyond reimbursement for sick animals, according to Boscola.
Three states — Maryland, Maine and California — and about 370 communities in other states have passed similar laws, according to background information. They include Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and three other Pennsylvania municipalities. Lawmakers also said the issue was at the forefront, with pet adoptions and sales surging during the pandemic.
Lawmakers also said those profiting from the “pet store pipeline,” including the American Kennel Club, oppose their measure because it will hurt their bottom line.
Contacted ahead of the press conference, representatives from American Kennel Club and Lehigh Valley disagreed, with both saying part of their mission is to create consumer protections that allow people to own healthy pets.
“There are a lot of reputable breeders out there,” said Walt Amante of South Whitehall Township, vice president of the Lehigh Valley Kennel Club. “You spend that money on a thoroughbred, go to the breeder. Whereas if you buy a puppy mill dog, you do it blind. If you go to the breeder, you will know if he takes care of his dogs.
Boscola said after the event that reputable pet stores and breeders aren’t targeted by the legislation, but “that’s how that pet store gets the animal from an unscrupulous breeder, a puppy mill.”
Roy Afflerbach, former mayor of Allentown and state legislator, participated as a lobbyist with the Humane Society of the United States.
“These people are driven by mission, and mission is much better than the pursuit of profit,” Afflerbach said of The Humane Society staff and volunteers. “It’s the difference between pet stores selling animals and humane societies trying to end the puppy mill generation.”
Why is the measure nicknamed Victoria’s Law? He is named after a German Shepherd that Kelly Herbert adopted from a questionable breeder. Victoria gave birth to more than 150 puppies during her time at the factory, she said, but Victoria also had a genetic condition that ultimately left her paralyzed and she was eventually euthanized.
Unbeknownst to unsuspecting consumers, Victoria’s offspring likely inherited the condition, Kelly Herbert said. Victoria died on February 26, 2019, according to Kelly Herbert, who runs Finding Shelter Animal Rescue.
“The day she passed,” Kelly Herbert said, with a photo of Grace and “#Victoriaslaw” on a banner outside the podium, “we promised her one last time that we would try to get this across on her behalf and Memory.
“We won’t stop fighting until we put an end to puppy mills.”
The daily update for the Lehigh Valley businessman.
The Humane Society announced separately this week that it is embarking on a $3.9 million campaign to renovate and expand a full-service community veterinary clinic. Groundbreaking is scheduled for May 17 at the Dixon Street facility, thanks to $1 million from a grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
Shelter renovations are expected to continue until the end of the year, the organization said.
For more information, visit lehighcountyhumanesociety.org/capital-campaign. For questions or comments, email [email protected]
Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding on Friday proposed raising dog license fees from $6.50 to $10 a year, saying the state needs additional revenue to fund rangers -dogs. He warned that without the increased fees, residents will face an increased risk of coming into contact with a dangerous dog or being the victim of a dog-related incident.
“They will notice dog attacks becoming more frequent in their neighborhood,” Redding said in a press release. “They will notice that there is no one to require these dogs to be confined and muzzled or to ensure that they are up to date on their rabies vaccinations. They will notice that owners of vicious dogs are not insured to cover their medical expenses.
Lawmakers including State Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, have introduced bills to raise the fee.
Morning Call reporter Anthony Salamone can be reached at 610-820-6694 or [email protected].