Best Friends Blog
 

Landmark court injunction big victory for puppies and Best Friends volunteers

When we launched our puppy mill initiatives in 2008, we were focusing on the Los Angeles area. Our admittedly clumsy name for the campaign was “A Puppy Store Free L.A.” With a national rollout name of “A Puppy Store Free America,” we were reaching for the sky. While the clunky name didn’t make the cut, the strategy, as reviewed in my last post, is outpacing expectations.

The calculated abuse of innocence that is embodied in the puppy mill business is an offense that needs to end. In a 2010 post to this blog, I identified puppy mill dogs as the blood diamonds of animal welfare – beautiful things that consumers purchase with no understanding of the pain, suffering and death involved in bringing them to market.

Best Friends’ puppy mill initiatives set out from the start to make the connection for the consumer between the cute puppy in the pet store and the atrocity of the puppy mill — the unbelievable notion that nearly every puppy you see in a pet store comes from a puppy mill. Elizabeth Oreck, national manager of the puppy mill initiatives for Best Friends Animal Society, has led the initiatives from the start with a single-minded intensity. Elizabeth is a deceptively sweet-looking Tae Kwon Do black belt, and she approaches the puppy mill issue with the all the ferocity of a mother bear.

One of the most egregious offenders in this scenario, in my opinion, was a chain of stores in Los Angeles and surrounding areas called Barkworks. As a matter of policy, Barkworks’ staff would assure customers that their puppies were not from puppy mills, but from “reputable family breeders.” During our peaceful, educational demonstrations outside of Barkworks, which began nearly six years ago now, I visited these stores in Los Angeles many times and asked them about the source of their puppies. “Oh, yes, these puppies come from a reputable family breeder” was indeed their pat answer in every case.

Now, the California Superior Court of Los Angeles County, reacting to what began as an investigation prompted by Best Friends Animal Society, has entered a permanent injunction against Barkworks based on accusations that it acquires its animals from “puppy mills” and conceals that fact from consumers.

The injunction will ensure truth in advertising from the Barkworks Pet Store locations in Southern California. As part of the settlement, Barkworks agreed to compensate former customers for their veterinary bills to treat conditions common to mill-bred dogs. They also must now disclose more information about the source of its puppies to future customers. Specifically, the settlement requires Barkworks to disclose that its puppies may become sick with diseases like parvovirus and heart disease, and that it does not inspect the breeding facilities where the puppies originate.

Barkworks must also disclose the breeder’s name, contact information, and USDA certificate number, so that a consumer may do his or her own research into a puppy’s background.

This is a big victory for the animals. It not only prevents Barkworks from continuing to hide where their puppies come from, but it sends a message to every other pet store that dirty business practices will not be allowed. Any consumer who feels they’ve unwittingly purchased a puppy mill dog, should look to the Barkworks lawsuit as a how-to guide to right their wrong.

It’s a great day for the animals, but also for the tireless Best Friends volunteers, many of whom have worked for more than five years, tabling at several Barkworks locations throughout L.A. and Orange Counties. They’ve spoken with thousands and thousands of consumers, had petitions signed, and educated people about the importance of adoption. They helped gather the stories about the sick puppies who were sold and are the heroes of this story.

Puppy mills are as anachronistic as shelter killing. To find out how you can take action on puppy mill sales in your community, please visit our puppy mill initiatives page.

Julie Castle
Chief Marketing and Communications Officer
Best Friends Animal Society

  • Victoria Brooks

    Does this only apply to Barkworks? We have a chain store called Petland throughout Texas who says they’ve obtained their pets through reputable breeders, which we all know that if the breeders were that “reputable” they would be screening the buyers themselves. I would love to see that all pet stores have to disclose this to potential buyers (really, I would prefer that all pet stores only sell shelter pets, but this would be a nice step up from the current system.)

    • MelissaLMiller

      Hi Victoria,

      This particular injunction only applies to Barkworks in Southern California. You’re absolutely correct about Petland, and some of our tireless volunteers have even staged protests in Texas that resulted in the closure of the Georgetown store. We’re also working nationwide on humane pet ordinances to ban the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores unless they come from shelters or rescue groups — thus far more than 45 communities are on board! It is a long journey, but we have made so much progress. We hope our continued campaigns will help raise awareness about the plight of milled dogs and cats and continue to shut down pet stores supplied by them.

      Thank you for all that you’re doing for homeless pets in your community!

      Sincerely,
      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator

  • Sandy Spiwak-Wallin

    This is WONDERFUL news! However is there a way to shut down these stores like “Barkworks” and make it illegal to sell animals in malls, on the roadside ( new trend I recently head of on FB) and in downtown LA on Santee street where they sell all kinds of animals so I hear???

    • MelissaLMiller

      Hi Sandy,

      Thanks for your question. We are actually working nationwide on humane pet ordinances to ban the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores unless they come from shelters or rescue groups — thus far more than 45 communities are on board! Los Angeles has actually passed such an ordinance, which you can read more about here: http://blogs.bestfriends.org/index.php/2013/06/26/ban-on-sale-of-puppies-in-l-a/.

      It is a long journey, but we have made so much progress. We hope our continued campaigns will help raise awareness about the plight of milled dogs and cats and continue to shut down pet stores supplied by them.

      Thank you for all that you’re doing to help homeless pets in your community!

      Sincerely,
      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator

  • Susan Crane-Sundell

    Thank you for bringing to light the clandestine aspects of puppy mills. It will now be an issue that no one can avoid if they choose to purchase a puppy from a pet store chain in LA. Hopefully other pet stores will be compelled to the same disclosure. No reputable breeder sells a litter to a pet store chain, nor any pet store. Toy breeds are the most abused by this system. They have the greatest appeal to people who casually wander into pet stores. Hopefully this law will bring about a new level of awareness to the “casual” pet owner and make them think twice about impulse buying.

    We now have an Animal Cruelty Watch List in New York State. As of January 2014, when disgraceful illegal and unlicensed puppy mills are raided and animals confiscated, if charges are filed and the perpetrators convicted, we will be able to potentially add the names of these animal abusers to the list. It may not be the most direct way of combating puppy mills, but it is another tool that may prove effective for closing down some of the most egregious offenders with the most disgraceful conditions.

    Thank you for all that you do for animals!

  • PaminIndy

    IF ONLY WE COULD DO AWAY WITH PUPPY AND KITTEN MILLS, NO PET WOULD EVER BE HOMELESS…..

    Many blessings to all who work to make animals’ lives better. We are their only voice. So I am using my voice to post this repeatedly, until it somehow falls into the hands of someone who has the authority and the courage to help us put an end to puppy and kitten mills.

    PUPPY MILLS ARE GLUTTING THE SYSTEM

    We will euthanize 10,000 pets today at our animal shelters and city Animal Care & Control facilities. We will euthanize 10,000 pets tomorrow too, and most every day. Unless our lawmakers enact regulations on the production of puppy and kitten mills, this pet overpopulation crisis is doomed to increase. This is costing our government millions of dollars, which are OUR TAX DOLLARS! And they are being spent to KILL PETS that the PUPPY MILLS ARE PRODUCING. What is wrong with this picture? The USDA has NEGLECTED to regulate this mill production, to the point that our country is about to explode with dead and suffering animals. Surely, our government must know that this has to stop! I will never understand how the USDA has any business having pets under the same regulations, (or the lack thereof), as poultry, slaughter hogs and beef cattle producers…WE DO NOT EAT DOGS AND CATS IN THIS COUNTRY, they are pets! Our government must stop allowing them to be mass produced like they were food animals! And the conditions that we accept as “USDA approved” for these animals to live in, consist of a lifetime of horrific neglect and deprivation! These pets don’t even go to slaughter when they are old enough and fattened up. They live their entire lives in a cage, often left out in all kinds of weather, with little or no veterinary care. The female’s’ life is spent carrying, nursing, or grieving her lost babies, until she is bred yet again. Then about twice a year, the male shares her cage until mating is complete. Then he is returned to languish in his own filthy cage until it is time to breed again. This only ends for them when they die, or become “no longer good for breeding” I don’t know what, if any regulation exists for their “disposal”. But the numbers of dead and decaying animal carcasses that are strewn throughout the property of far too many of these mills, speak volumes. Unfortunately, the financial influence of the Agriculture business has managed to supersede the horrific conditions of the animals, the pet overpopulation crisis, even the glutting of our own systems! IF YOU SHOP AT A PET STORE THAT SELLS PETS, YOU ARE SUPPORTING THIS HORRIFIC CRUELTY!

    WE THE PEOPLE, MUST RISE UP AND DEMAND THAT OUR GOVERNMENT ENACT LAWS TO END THIS INSANITY! I guarantee you, if the beef producers were churning out millions of pounds of beef in a year, and we only ate half of it, and the other half had to be “disposed of” at great expense to the government, you can bet the USDA would be slapping some major restrictions on beef production. So why don’t they see that we are euthanizing over four million pets a year, and the puppy and kitten mills are “producing” a majority of them? IS OUR GOVERNMENT REALLY SO “OWNED” BY THE PUPPY MILL/AG INDUSTRY, THAT THEY BETRAY THEIR CONSTITUENTS, WASTE OUR TAX DOLLARS AND GLUT THEIR OWN SYSTEM? We must find a way to rid our world of this horrific business of abuse and neglect! OUR GOVERNMENT MUST TAKE ACTION TODAY!

    PAMELA M. BECK

  • Qhaveat Pharaohs

    “Specifically, the settlement requires Barkworks to disclose that its puppies may become sick with diseases like parvovirus and heart disease, and that it does not inspect the breeding facilities where the puppies originate.” What about shelters and rescues? Will they be held to the same standard? After all, a sick/potentially sick animal is a sick animal, no matter where it comes from.

    • MelissaLMiller

      Hi Qhaveat,

      Thanks for your question. Barkworks is required to disclose the sources and potential health problems of their puppies because they were sued by customers who were led to believe that the pups did not come from puppy mills. Additionally, the “papers” and the expensive price tags leads the public to believe that there is an elaborate system of health evaluation in place, as well as a continuous chain of ownership from birth of the animal and intimate knowledge of the animal.

      Shelters offer or imply no such knowledge of the animal and if asked, shelters do disclose that unless an animal is an owner surrender, they have no idea of its history and can only comment on the health of the animal based on their experience with the animal and the medical history in the shelter which is made available to the public.

      I hope this helps to clarify. Thanks for all that you are doing to help homeless pets and fight puppy mills!

      Sincerely,
      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator