When Memphians decide to own a pet, they should look for a responsible breeder who raises their animals with care and sells directly to the public, never to pet stores.
Right now in the Midwest, tens of thousands of dogs are stacked and cramped in outdoor cages just six inches taller than their bodies, their suffering made worse by the freezing temperatures now plaguing the country.
It’s hard to believe anyone who would forbid keeping dogs in such terrible conditions, but Ed Sayres did so in “Targeting retail pet stores like Petland won’t solve the complex problem of puppy mills,” an op-ed that has was published on February 12.
Sayres has been identified as the former ASPCA president, but readers have not been made aware of his various roles within the pet industry since leaving the ASPCA in 2013, including with Petland, the very chain he defends.
The reason this matters is that the company is considering opening a store in Memphis and is working to scuttle the city council’s draft order banning local pet stores from selling dogs.
Worse than omitting his connection to the puppy industry, Sayres has misled readers about what puppy mills are. The link between puppy mills and retail pet stores like Petland is well documented, as are the challenges posed by weak regulations and lax enforcement by the United States Department of Agriculture and state authorities. .
These and other factors leave dogs who, for the sole purpose of breeding, languish under the grim circumstances described above.
Ending puppy mills
The measure, if passed, would permanently close another community to inhumane commercial ranchers whose operations deprive animals of many of their most basic physical, behavioral and socio-psychological needs.
It would also ensure that no local consumer experiences the heartbreak and financial burden that many face when selling them sick puppies through deceptive sales tactics and loan options that can be seen as predatory.
The ordinance effort is led by Memphis Animal Services, whose dedicated staff, along with many other shelters and rescues in the area, strive to place homeless and adoptable animals with loving families. It is also supported by hundreds of residents who have reached out to council to ask for its adoption.
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Pet stores aren’t the only way to find a pet
Not all Memphians will want to adopt their next pet, but that is no reason to allow Petland to sell puppies raised in inhumane conditions. Instead, people can look for a responsible breeder who breeds their animals with care and sells directly to the public, never to pet stores.
By sourcing puppies from puppy mills, Petland is exacerbating the region’s already serious animal overpopulation problems.
Rather than continuing to champion an outdated business model that relies on selling factory puppies to puppies, Petland might agree to take a humane, community-driven approach that focuses on selling pet products, grooming and daycare services; and partnering with animal rescue organizations to adopt animals. Other Petland franchises are already doing this successfully.
The movement to stop puppy mills via sales bans is gaining incredible momentum. Nearly 400 cities, counties and states have passed laws prohibiting the retail sale of commercially raised puppies. Nashville and Franklin set the standard in Tennessee by doing so, and Memphis can do its part by issuing an ordinance that will stop the sale of overpriced, often sick puppy mill puppies to unsuspecting consumers.
There is of course a basic principle of supply and demand at play here. When the cruel puppy mills have nothing to sell, they will cease to exist. Human sources such as animal shelters and rescues, and small-scale ranchers who do not mass produce animals will thrive.
Those who welcome such animals into their homes will sleep better knowing that they have avoided the mass production model.
And the animals who benefit from this change in thinking and practice will be much better off.
Amy Jessie is the Puppy Mill Policy Director for the Humane Society of the United States.
Elizabeth Oreck is the National Director of Puppy Mill Initiatives at the Best Friends Animal Society.