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ASPCA Pummels Puppy Mills With Pressure From Consumers, Politicians

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Hurting puppies is unfathomable to most of us. Americans love puppies, and many of us agree with the late Charles M. Schulz's sentiments: "Happiness is a warm puppy." But despite all the adoration, puppies (and their mothers) continue to suffer in puppy mills. Thankfully, recent developments, including a rule proposed by the USDA that would close a gaping loophole puppy mill operators are exploiting, make me optimistic about the future of our nation's puppies.

Approximately nine months ago, the ASPCA launched our national "No Pet Store Puppies" campaign. Our aim was to raise awareness about puppy mill cruelty and to reduce the demand for puppies that come from puppy mills by asking consumers to pledge not to purchase anything from pet stores or websites that sell puppies. In this relatively short period of time, the results have been amazing. More than 100,000 people have signed a pledge to support our "No Pet Store Puppies" campaign, and these supporters are striking fear in groups that oppose puppy mill reforms. People are getting the message, and some pet stores have discontinued their puppy sales, including Jack's Pets, which owns and operates 27 regional stores located throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

The "No Pet Store Puppies" campaign has also changed operations at Marketplace on Facebook. Many puppies sold online come from puppy mills, and many of those online dogs are shipped to consumers who have never met them or ensured they were raised humanely. In response to concerns raised by the ASPCA, approximately 30,000 puppy sales ads were removed from Marketplace on Facebook in an effort to combat puppy mills.

We hope that Marketplace on Facebook is the first big domino to fall and that websites that sell puppies will discontinue that practice. The mountain to climb is high as countless websites, such as nextdaypets.com and puppyfind.com, sell puppies to unsuspecting members of the public who often have no idea that the animals being sold probably came from puppy mills. The puppy sales ads advertise the descendants of "champions" and employ a variety of catchy terms, including certified kennel, AKC registered, pedigreed, and health certified, to sell puppy mill dogs. In fact, those terms are usually meaningless. For example, being AKC-registered means nothing more than the puppy's parents both had AKC papers. Many AKC-registered dogs are sold in puppy mills.

One of the reasons that these deceptive practices of selling puppy mill dogs to consumers over the Internet proliferates is that these sales are exempt from any federal oversight. Thanks in part to the 32,000 people who signed a petition posted by the ASPCA and The Humane Society of the United State in September 2011 asking President Obama to crack down on puppy mills, the USDA has proposed a rule that would close the legal loophole that permits puppy mills to sell animals over the Internet without any regulation.

Large-scale commercial breeders who sell puppies online should be subject to periodic inspections and should be required to meet certain standards of care for their dogs. Many of you signed the petition, and I'm now asking you to take this next important step by commenting on the proposed rule. Breeders will try to prevent it from being finalized, so your input will truly make a difference. You can add your comment supporting the proposed rule to close the loophole here.

Never forget how much puppies need us to continue fighting for them. The ASPCA is pushing for laws, regulations and consumer action that would stop puppy mills from breeding and selling abused and neglected animals. But as long as puppy mills exist, we'll also do all we can to rescue puppies and breeding mothers and fathers who are confined there. Late last year, we sent a team to Arkansas to rescue more than 150 dogs that were living in a puppy mill. All of those puppies who were living in filth are now safe and serving as reminders of why we must continue the fight to protect dogs like them.