ANIMAL WATCH-It appears from the lack of statistical support, that Councilman Paul Koretz and LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette were duped into believing a pet shop/puppy mill ban -- prohibiting 11 pet shops in Los Angeles from selling puppies, kittens and bunnies -- would notably impact Midwestern puppy mills (which breed an estimated 2.5 million puppies annually) and would empty City shelters.
Now, under AB 485, the State legislature is falling for the same hype in regard to the 95 pet stores statewide, with the exception of Antelope Valley Senator Scott Wilk, who cast the solitary 'No' vote. The legislature has not sought facts and figures to verify the claims of emotional advocates as to whether the premise is valid and that local experiments with bans have proven that a ban is the best way to bring pressure for better conditions in mass-breeding operations and discourage purchase of commercially bred pets in stores.
As a matter of fact, the ban precludes any conversation with potential mill-bred puppy purchasers, causing them to merely succumb to the adorable puppy/kitten/bunny pictures on the Internet (which has become a virtual farmers' market for pets.)
Less than ten percent of the 163 million estimated pets in the U.S. come from pet shops, and only five percent of pet owners purchase their furry family companion from that source, according to the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), the pet industry lobbying group representing commercial breeders. PIJAC objected ineffectively to AB 485 as it moved forward on July 17 on its way to a third reading in the Senate, with the only change being the effective date, which was extended to January 1, 2019.
“It’s time to stop the shipping of puppy mill dogs, cats, and rabbits into California pet shops, treated as mere commodities by these poorly regulated breeders,” Henry Brzezinski, Legislative Chair of the California Animal Control Directors Association, told World Animal News at a media conference where a veterinarian who testified as one of the main proponents is proudly holding...a puppy.
THE STRANGE POLITICS OF PUPPY MILL BANS
Andrew Hunte, head of The Hunte Corporation, the major mill-bred puppy provider, stated a year after the LA City ban, "To date, by PIJAC count, at least 62 municipalities across the country have imposed live animal retail bans."
In the same announcement, he endorsed Ed Sayres, former long-time President of the ASPCA, the nation's oldest humane organization, as the new President/CEO of PIJAC. The Chicago Tribune called it, A Match Made in a Puppy Mill.
This occurred shortly after Sayres left his $566,064 annual salary at the "A" to promote commercial breeding of puppies. He explained his change in stance, as now knowing he was "misinformed about the majority of breeders who work diligently to raise puppies humanely and to find lifetime homes through retail channels."
Sayres ran the ASPCA for nearly a decade, according to critic Humane Watch, as it discussed the angst of PIJAC members at being represented by Sayres, who had stated two years earlier:
“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…Please also visit NoPetStorePuppies.com and take the ASPCA’s pledge to refuse to shop at pet stores and on websites that sell puppies. That is one easy way that you can make a difference in the fight against puppy mills.”
On January 26, 2015, Sayres wrote in a PIJAC post, Puppies and Pet Choice: "Bans of pet store sales of dogs and cats that come from commercial breeders are not the solution. While most of their proponents are well intended, bans do nothing to improve the practices of their intended target – irresponsible breeders who mistreat animals…."
Sayres is not the only person associated with the ASPCA who had strong ties to the purebred dog industry. Roger Caras, former host of the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and author of Going for the Blue: Inside the World of Show Dogs and Dog Shows, served as the 14th president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals until he retired and became president emeritus, a consultant and public speaker for the organization.
ARE PUPPY MILLS COLLAPSING UNDER PET SHOP BANS?
Despite all the political grandstanding, the bans across the country appear to be a boon to puppy mills, which are reportedly thriving due to direct Internet sales. They seem to have had little impact on the growing puppy-seeking public in which millennials are waiting later to have children and are fulfilling their nurturing instincts with tiny canines easily obtained through Craigslist and other outlets over the Internet and delivered to any U.S. community -- with most coming directly from the Midwest puppy mills.
A Sep 4, 2016 updated post on the Huffington Post, I Quit My Job to Manage My Dog, depicts the increasing happy stories posted about puppies obtained from an Ohio breeder and delivered in a Walmart parking lot.
Also, consumers are expressing increasing concerns -- ignited by the overwhelming number of publicized attacks on new adopters by dogs from shelters and rescues -- over the temperaments and safety of adopted/shelter animals. Although wanting to help "save" unwanted/homeless animals, adopters are beginning to doubt the wisdom of the "no kill" movement which insists that dogs that have expressed aggression are just "formerly abused" and now "safe" after a stint of confinement and rehabilitation in animal-shelter 'play groups' or at a "rescue."
LOS ANGELES NEEDS TO CLEAN UP ITS OWN "BACKYARD"
The World Animal News coverage on the pending triumph by passage of AB 485, states:
This legislation will replace high volume commercially bred animals by showcasing dogs, cats, and rabbits from local animal shelters and rescue groups in pet retail stores statewide. AB 485 will be a gigantic step forward in solving the state’s pet overpopulation crisis and will shut the door on cruel puppy mills from importing animals for sale into California.
These “pet retail stores” are merely pet shops for an unlimited number of large dogs, located in business communities all over LA, where the odor, noise, environmental hazard of toxic waste, and the potential for spread of disease are not addressed by local government. Now the State is also proposing to ignore these important protections for animals and humans who live and work in the area.
Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz, who testified for AB 485 and boasts about passage of the LA City ban in 2012, provided no statistical data to show that puppy-mill bans have either reduced shelter populations or had a significant impact on euthanasia, since the few purebred animals surrendered are either quickly adopted from shelters or taken by breed rescues.
On June 3, 2017, an Internet search showed 1,004 private and commercial ads in just the local Recycler for puppies in the Los Angeles area, priced from $450 to $3,500 and appearing to be from local and out-of-state suppliers. Some sellers said they could provide pups of various breeds, indicating a puppy broker, most likely connected to the puppy-mill industry.
Stats recently provided on the LAAS website by GM Brenda Barnette, former breeder and AKC legislative representative, show that Breeders' Licenses issued in LA rose 40% in the period from Final FY 15/16 to Final FY 16/17 -- from 801 to 1,121. There is no notice given to breeders to obtain a City tax permit. Backyard breeding is not subject to any oversight, inspection or health check of the female. The number of puppies allowed is unlimited up to four months of age.
AB 485 FORFEITS PROTECTIONS FOR ANIMALS IN RESCUE/RETAIL PET SHOPS
If AB 485 passes and is signed by Governor Brown, it must be AMENDED to include the provisions of CA - Pet Store - Chapter 9. Pet Store Animal Care Act
AB 485 allows rescuers to be exempt from the very well-written, detailed and strict provisions of CA Health & Safety Code § 122350 - 122361, plus the stringent Polanco,-Farr, Lockyer Pet Protection Act. These protections need to be extended to "retail pet rescue shops." Rescuers are not required to have any animal-related experience, nor is there any type of background check for a 501(c)3.
A GLIMPSE AT RESCUE IN LOS ANGELES
Best Friends Animal Society
One of the most visible "rescue" organizations is Best Friends Animal Society which started as a religious group, the Process Church of the Final Judgment, and maintains a large sanctuary in Utah. It now occupies a $19 million City-owned shelter in LA, free of charge, and with facility maintenance included.
In his Jan. 9, 2017, CityWatch article, How Best Friends Animal Society Rips Off LA … with City Hall’s Blessing, Daniel Guss writes, "According to its most recent tax return, in the five-year period ending in 2015, it took in $313,676,006 in total support -- tens of millions of dollars more than when it came to LA in 2011. That is not Best Friends’ worth; it is just its income..."
Hope for Paws
And, at the other end of the rescue spectrum size wise is, Hope for Paws, a Los Angeles-based 501(c)3 organization, which changes its address often, is described as:
"Founded by Eldad and Audrey Hagar this all-animal rescue organization rescues animals that are facing death or danger through abuse or abandonment. They pay for veterinary costs and work in tandem with other animal welfare organizations to rescue and foster abused and suffering animals, eventually finding them permanent loving homes once they have recovered.
"Since 2008, Eldad and Audrey have been running this two-person non-profit animal-rescue organization full-time."
Charity Navigator shows Hope for Paws reporting on its 2015 Latest Form 990 Return, that it has an Asset Amount of $1,573,119 and an Income Amount of $4,156,608.
April 28, 2017, investigative reporter David Goldstein uncovered the illegal status of purported non-profit rescue, "Saving Spot" in West Hollywood.
THE "CULTURE OF RESCUE" - WHEN HELPING BECOMES HURTING
On the human side of animal rescue, in few other endeavors is it more likely that good intentions can go awry. Rescuers need rules and restrictions to help them say "no" to appeals to "take just one more."
A July 20, 2015, must-read Los Angeles Magazine article, When is a Rescuer a Hoarder?, centers on author/writer Carol Mithers' interview with the former head of a Chihuahua rescue in Burbank, Kimmy Peck, while she was on trial for animal cruelty after many years of continuing accusations (mainly by other rescuers) that she was a hoarder.
One commenter referred to a “Culture of Rescue.” Lori Weisse, founder of Downtown Dog Rescue in LA dissected the dilemma of "rescue":
"Rescue’s central fact is failure: Choosing to save one animal means leaving another behind…But you have to accept that you can’t save them all, or you’ll go crazy. The flip side of the failure is a high as addictive as any drug. To be known as a rescuer is to receive constant praise: “You’re a saint for what you do! You’re an angel!” It takes being strong and self-aware, with good boundaries…to avoid succumbing to the despair or getting drunk on the power."
Gary Patronek, former director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy at Tufts University, is a veterinarian "...[w]ho’d seen collectors’ homes crowded with starving, excrement-caked dogs and cats," Carol Mithers writes. He describes the psychological aspect that can turn helping (rescue) into hoarding (hurting), "...[a]nimals fix a broken self—they offer a relationship that hoarders can’t get from people. Animals, unlike lovers or children, never demand, never say no, never leave … ‘They’re mine and they need me,’ reads the hoarding narrative. ‘Without me, they will die.’”
On May 7, 2016, CBS reported on the seizure of nearly 70 dogs from Lucky Puppy Rescue & Retail on Ventura Blvd. The shelter’s owner was charged with illegal kennel operation and animal neglect, according to LA Animal Services, which stated that some of the dogs suffer from medical conditions and were being examined for further health problems.
In a Facebook post, Lucky Puppy said “[They] have seized every single one of my babies and taken them back to the very shelter many of them were rescued from."
Many of the dogs were seized from the rescuer's home. On May 10, Canyon News reported that Rachel Kennedy, the owner of Lucky Puppy, who was accused of hoarding, had been charged with animal neglect and an illegal kennel operation.
CALIFORNIA PET SHOP/PUPPY MILL BAN A BOON TO INTERNET ADVERTISERS
Unfortunately, there is no "infrastructure" in place or proposed in AB 485 to make a statewide ban on puppy-mill pet shops a success. But legislators do not want to become the victims of e-mail blasts that they are "anti-animal."
Lots of people win politically with the passage of AB 485, except small rescues that cannot compete with the high-visibility Retail Rescue Centers, the animals who may be kept in overcrowded conditions, and the TAXPAYERS.
There is no mechanism in AB 485 to establish a system of taxation for the sales of animals (called "adoption fees.") Some rescue organizations post prices per animal of up to $750. Some "start at $450." This profit is not available to the shelters that provide the animals and are tax supported.
Puppy Mills now have direct access to customers without the "middle man" and no State regulation. PIJAC may have inadvertently -- or intentionally -- won for its members by weak opposition.
AB 485 does not address the treatment of animals in puppy mills. It merely excludes California from the conversation.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.