It’s a Doggy Dog World: Pet Stores Across the Country Are Now Required to Sell Rescued Animals

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In late 2014, an Arizona judge took a big step in the fight against puppy mills, upholding a law requiring pet stores to sell dogs rescued from shelters. In essence, the new law aims to discourage people from purchasing dogs from inept breeders and inhumanely run kennels. Phoenix is now one of more than 60 cities across the United States in which a similar law can be found, suggesting that there is a significant trend in consumer habits that supports the rescuing of animals versus the purchase of a pedigreed dog. The fight against puppy mills is a response to countless reports of abused, neglected, and unhealthy dogs being churned out of what many see as dog factories, where a hearty bottom line is the main objective.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a puppy mill is defined as a “large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Unlike responsible breeders, who place the utmost importance on producing the healthiest puppies possible, breeding at puppy mills is performed without consideration of genetic quality. This results in generations of dogs with unchecked hereditary defects.” The new Phoenix ordinance, like many others across the country, do make a distinction between the often illegal, unregulated puppy mills from the licensed, professional breeders. However, the city’s new law requires that all pet stores sell pets from shelters only, a move that could affect the profits of licensed breeders who have sold dogs to pet stores in the past.

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As was reported in the Huffington Post, the Phoenix law was originally put into place in 2013, but the owner of a local pet store challenged it, arguing that it prevented interstate commerce. Judge David Campbell disagreed, and the law on the books now states that ““pet stores may only sell animals obtained from animal shelters or rescue organizations” and further prohibiting the use of live animals as prizes at things like carnivals and amusement parks.

The Humane Society has also taken up the fight for shelter-only dogs in pet stores, and has provided supporters with tools to contribute to the cause. Folks have the option of texting PUPS to 30644 to find local “puppy-friendly pet stores,” and they also offer a statewide search function to make it easier for dog lovers to rescue their next pal.

These nationwide laws do not outlaw the purchase of dogs from breeders or mills, but they are certainly a major step towards the promotion of animal rescue as the default position in a business model that for decades centered around shiny, new, purebred goods. Furthermore, the laws revolving around dogs speak to a larger trend in animal activism happening worldwide. Recent reports of SeaWorld experiencing upwards of an 80% decline in profits suggest that consumer spending habits are being directly affected by animal activism (in this case, the amusement park’s sinking profits are being attributed mostly to the documentary film Blackfish). A global outcry broke the internet in recent weeks when American dentist Walter Palmer took part in the hunting and killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe. And, just today, New York magazine reported that designer Stella McCartney has vowed to discontinue the use of wool from Patagonia in her clothing designs after seeing a video allegedly showing the mistreatment of sheep by farmers there.

The conversation about sustainability, the environment, and green technology is perhaps one of the most dominant narratives in today’s news, but the inclusion of animal rights often seems to be omitted from the discourse. What role, if any, does the treatment of animals play in making our planet healthier and happier?

Related: President Obama Aims to Address Climate Change with Historic Regulations (Video)