Iowa has a puppy mill problem. According to Bailing Out Benji, an advocacy organization with teams based in Iowa and several other states, there are over 250 puppy mills in Iowa. Collectively, these mass-breeding operations house 16,500 adult breeding dogs and ship approximately 100,000 puppies to pet stores throughout the U.S. every year.
Bailing Out Benji works hard to educate people about puppy mills through advocacy initiatives, and by holding weekend protests outside a local pet store that buys its puppies from local puppy mills. But the organization’s efforts don’t stop there. They know that the key to fighting against puppy mills is tackling the issue from all angles, including the sale of commercially-bred puppies in pet stores.
Ordinances banning the retail sale of dogs and cats from commercial breeding facilities have been implemented in over 250 jurisdictions throughout the U.S. and Canada. Large cities like Boston, Las Vegas, and Chicago have passed retail bans, and California recently made history by passing a state-wide ordinance banning the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. But as the team at Bailing Out Benji has shown, you don’t have to be a big city to make a big impact.
A Small Town Makes a Big Impact
The tiny town of Fraser, Iowa only has a population of 100, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make a big difference in the lives of animals. City council member Amy Laube is an animal lover who volunteers for the local Humane Society, so when Bailing Out Benji founder and president, Mindi Callison, reached out to her about a potential pet store ban, she was completely on board. Callison helped draft the official proposal for the ban, which the Fraser City Council passed with a unanimous vote in October.
The ordinance marks the first retail ban for Iowa, helping to pave the way for other cities in the Midwestern agricultural state that want to take a stand against puppy mills. “If cities like Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; and Las Vegas, NV can take a stand against puppy mills, why not Fraser, Iowa?” said Callison. “And we don’t plan on stopping there. We want more cities in Iowa to take a stand, and we are here and ready to help more advocates propose such a ban.”
The Connection Between Pet Stores and Puppy Mills
Bailing Out Benji has worked to prove the connection between puppy mills and pet stores. They know that puppy mills continue to thrive because of demand and that each puppy purchased from a pet store helps contribute to a never-ending cycle of suffering, with the adult breeding dogs paying the ultimate price.
To maximize their profits, the adult dogs in puppy mills receive just enough care to keep them alive. They’re rarely groomed, which can result in matting that causes painful skin conditions, and their toenails can grow so long that they become embedded in the paw pads, making it painful to walk. Veterinary care is minimal, meaning animals can suffer from disease and injuries for weeks, if not longer, and interaction with humans is limited.
The dogs deserve better, but weak laws requiring only minimum standards of care make it difficult to hold puppy mills responsible for their neglectful actions. The Horrible Hundred report published by the Humane Society of the United States shows how puppy mills remain in operation despite having multiple violations. And because of that, one of the most effective ways to fight against this cruel industry is to start at the consumer level through education and legislative action like retail bans.
How Retail Bans Help Fight Against Puppy Mills
A city or town doesn’t need to have a pet store for a retail ban to take effect. These bans work by restricting both existing and future businesses, meaning anyone who opens a pet store in a community where a retail ban has been passed must adhere to the rules. These bans aren’t meant to put stores out of business completely. Instead, they require them to adopt a humane pet store model by featuring pets from local shelters.
Countless national chains and local businesses have been successful using business models that focus on supplies and services. And by working with local shelters to host adoption events, they help give homeless pets a second chance. They’ve proven that you can have a successful business without supporting animal cruelty.
You Can Help Make a Difference
There are approximately 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S. You can help put an end to puppy mills by choosing adoption, and by supporting stores that operate using a humane business model. You can also get involved with organizations like Bailing Our Benji that are working toward a day where cruel puppy mills cease to exist.
All image source: Bailing Out Benji/Facebook