“Why protect animals when people are hungry or suffering?”
“It’s a free country. People have the right to make money however they want.”
“What do I care if people are selling defective puppies? I don’t even want a dog.”
If every informed animal lover in the country advocated and voted to ban puppy mills, it still wouldn’t happen. Why? Because we need the votes of people who don’t consider themselves animal lovers to join us.
And how likely is that to happen?
Very likely. If we can show that measures that protect animals are also good for people.
Puppy Mills Harm People (even if they don’t want a dog)
Twenty states have passed pet “lemon laws” to protect consumers who buy pet store dogs who turn out to be ill (15 of those states also protect people buying kittens). The St. Louis Better Business Bureau has received so many complaints about dogs from commercial breeding facilities that they issued a report calling for stiffer penalties, more regulations, and greater adoption of rescue animals. Yes, the Better Business Bureau is calling for more government regulation and shelter adoptions.
Lemon laws don’t protect animals. They protect human consumers.
And that’s the key to change.
What are the ways puppy mills harm people? Even if they never buy a dog?
Puppy Mills Suppress the Tax Base of a Community
No, not all tax assessments are created equal.
When tax assessors in most states figure out the value of a property to know what the owner will pay in property tax, they look at the market rate.
However, agricultural land is treated differently. Instead of looking at the “highest and best use” for the land, assessors look at the value of its current use. Accordingly, farm land is assessed at a lower rate than commercial or residential properties.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Especially since most farms produce necessities—like food. And food production has a very low profit margin for farmers.
But that means that residents of states with lots of puppy mills are subsidizing the production of a high-profit luxury item when they have to make up for the loss of tax dollars from the commercial breeding facility.
I wonder if Steve King’s (who represents major puppy mill state Iowa in the House of Representatives and routinely blocks animal protection legislation – click link for petition) constituents would be happy if they knew they were paying more in property taxes so people in other states could have puppies?
Puppy Mills Stress Food Safety Resources
Who inspects puppy mills to be sure commercial breeders are following the laws? The USDA.
Who inspects food production facilities and farms to make sure we’re not eating contaminated produce, milk, and meat? The USDA.
Who continues to receive less funding? The USDA.
I’m not saying puppy mills are receiving so many USDA inspections that
- conditions are good for the animals in them, or
- that hundreds of inspectors are being taken away from inspecting food productions.
However, if puppy mills didn’t exist (and there’s no reason they should), the USDA could allocate their limited resources to helping to keep the U.S food supply safe for everyone.
I wonder if anyone made sick by the last e. Coli infection in their bagged lettuce would be thrilled to hear that USDA inspectors who could be inspecting their food are inspecting farms producing designer dogs for spoiled girls to carry in their purses until they tire of them?
Puppy Mills are a “Blight” Business
Cute cafes with outdoor seating draw tourists, shoppers, and other attractive businesses. Like attracts like.
No one wants to build an attractive neighborhood, an independent dairy , or artisanal cheese business next to a property defined by loud barking at all hours and bad smells.
I’m not a snob.
I know that yuppie businesses are only one piece of a successful economy. We need business that produce power, empty septic systems, and handle waste.
But we don’t need puppy mills. And counties and states that allow large commercial dog breeding facilities to operate are not managing their economy well to benefit their citizens. They’ve given up and taken the easy way. And by allowing puppy mills, they’re likely increasing their costs and harming their local economy.
Puppy Mills Stress Animal Control
Animal control departments exist to protect human health.
Stray dogs carry disease and pose a bite risk. So counties and states set up agencies to round up stray dogs and contain them.
What happens when someone with poor impulse control buys a cute puppy who turns out to be impossible to house train and unsociable? Or if the person is just too busy for the responsibilities of a perfectly nice little dog?
They turn that puppy over to their local shelter or animal control facility and tell themselves someone will probably adopt it.
California shelters have been overwhelmed with Chihuahuas. Shelters that are run by Animal Control use their limited resources not protecting human health, but processing and in many cases, killing, the puppy mill dogs that flood their facilities.
Wow! That’s a lot of bridges that could be repaired, children educated, or pollution cleaned up. And it’s a huge bill for American taxpayers to deal with a problem for which puppy mills are a significant cause.
Puppy Mills Harm People – Talking Points
When you talk to an animal lover, maybe someone standing outside a pet store making googly eyes at a puppy, share what you know about the cruel conditions of puppy mill.
But when you’re talking to people who don’t care about protecting animals, remember these talking points:
- Puppies are a high-profit, luxury good produced on land whose owners pay less in taxes than they would if they had another business.
- The USDA puts limited resources to inspecting breeding facilities when they could be using those resources to keep our food safe.
- Puppy mills are blight businesses that make other businesses less likely to locate nearby.
- Unwanted puppy mill dogs cost taxpayers billions in taxes used to support local Animal Control agencies.
If we want to change conditions for all animals, we need to make the case that what’s good for the dog (and cat and ferret etc.) is good for everyone.
Thank you to everyone who commented on my January post for Blog the Change (Want to Protect Animals? Care for People.). If you’re looking for something to write about, you’ll find inspiration in the comments challenging me to figure out what’s bad for humans about several animal welfare tragedies.
Your Turn: If you believe that what’s good for animals is also good for people, would you please share this post? It’s easy if you use the share buttons on top of the comments section. Thank you.
photo credits: (Dogs seized from puppy mill)Life Lenses via photopin cc. (Lancaster dairy farm)Tony Fischer Photography via photopin cc. (Tax protesters) Fibonacci Blue via photopin cc. Click on the images to learn more about the photographers.