Wayne Pacelle is the president and chief executive officer of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This Op-Ed is adapted from a post on the blog A Humane Nation, where the content ran before appearing in LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
The vast majority of dogs currently sold in U.S. pet stores come from puppy mills. Yet nearly every time undercover investigators from The HSUS have taken hidden cameras into pet stores, we've caught owners and store personnel misrepresenting the source of the dogs — almost invariably claiming the dogs come from "responsible breeders."
That pattern of behavior is one reason why The HSUS has been pushing for pet-store disclosure laws all over the country, requiring pet-store owners to post the name of the breeder, location and U.S. Department of Agriculture license number on the cage of each puppy for sale, so that consumers have access to more information before making a purchasing decision. The HSUS knows what responsible breeders look like, because we work with so many of them, and they support the work we're doing.
In Maryland, we helped pass a pet store disclosure law that has now been in effect for a full year. But in a recent investigation, we found that 75 percent of all of the stores known to sell puppies in the state are not complying with this simple policy of transparency. Perhaps pet-store owners know that if consumers were aware of where their puppies were coming from, they wouldn't buy them.
Animal advocates don't just do work in the pet stores, but also at the awful facilities masquerading as responsible breeders. Just last month, The HSUS, local animal-welfare groups, and the sheriff's department in Pender County, N.C., rescued dogs from one such place. More than 100 dogs and other animals were found living in horrendous conditions. Local law enforcement became concerned after receiving a complaint about a sick puppy purchased from the facility. Although the owner surrendered all of the animals, many were found to be suffering from various untreated medical conditions. The dogs and puppies were living outside in wire chicken coops and in a breezeway that could only be charitably described as filthy. [When Animals Suffer, the Country Pays a Price (Op-Ed ) ]
The animals are now receiving much needed care at The Wake County SPCA and The Guildford County Animal Shelter — two of our incredible shelter partners in the state. Once the animals recover, they will be placed into homes where they will finally receive the love and affection they deserve.
In the past few years, The HSUS Animal Rescue Team has engaged in 14 puppy-mill interventions in North Carolina — more than any other state during this time frame. The state's anemic laws relating to large-scale commercial dog breeding have allowed it to become a haven for unscrupulous puppy mill operators. This year, state lawmakers in the North Carolina House passed HB 930, a bill designed to provide protections for dogs bred in commercial breeding facilities, but it stalled in the Senate. But we'll be at it again in 2014 to complete the job.
One of the people who helped the dogs at the Pender County facility is veterinarian Elisa Sumakeris. Before HSUS state director Kim Alboum learned that we had the green light on the rescue, Dr. Sumakeris was scheduled to spend the day with her daughter Joanna. Instead, Dr. Sumakeris asked her daughter if it was okay for her to go on the bust to help provide medical care for the dogs. Joanna didn't miss a beat and said, "help those puppies." That's the spirit of generosity, transcending the generations, that's going to allow us to triumph in the end and stamp out puppy-mill cruelty throughout the nation.
Pacelle's most recent Op-Ed was "Why is a University Accepting Random-Source Research Dogs?" This article was adapted from "Dog-Tired of Puppy Mills," which first appeared on the HSUS blog A Humane Nation. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on LiveScience.