Burbank Takes on Puppy Mills – A Pet Store Owners Perspective

Note: This is part three of a series on the issue of pet stores selling puppies in Burbank (California), whether the city should prevent sales of puppies in Burbank, and a greater issue of animal abuse through the distribution of puppies produced in “puppy mills.”  The series was originally posted at BurbankNBeyond by the author.

By John Savageau
BurbankNBeyond

A young mixed-breed puppy looking for a homeAs of January 2013 there is only one remaining pet store selling puppies in Burbank.  That is Peggy Woods Pet Emporium.  Another pet store, Millennium Pets, stopped selling puppies in 2012, although they still sell birds, reptiles, and pet supplies.

Interviews with pet store owners, including Ira Lippman from Peggy Woods Pet Emporium and Vahe from Millennium Pets indicates animals rights groups, including BurbankCROPS and Best Friends Animal Society have put tremendous pressure on their operations, with frequent visits by members who informally inspect their facilities, subjectively documenting conditions within the facility for use in either discrediting or exposing violations within the shop.

Other pet store owners, including Anne Gaffney at Pet Haven, insist pet stores can do just fine without selling puppies, and the number of rescues available, or dogs from local breeders eliminate the need for pet stores to ship in puppies from puppy mills in the Mid-West.

As Peggy Woods Pet Emporium is the last pet store in Burbank selling puppies, Ira Lippman has the most to lose from any city council decision that may prevent sales of puppies at pet stores in Burbank.  BurbankNBeyond did an extended interview with Lippman to get a better perspective on his position regarding the issue of puppy sales, puppy mills, and the motivation of animal rights groups which oppse his business model.

BurbankNBeyond:  Why do you think this whole issue came up?

Ira Lippman:  There are a number of reasons.  One, there is a national issue with some of the humane groups that just don’t want puppies to be sold.  They just don’t feel that animals should be sold.

So they use many tactics.  The one that’s carrying this is the Best Friends Group. And they (animal rights groups) are doing it state by state, local by local, to stop the sale of puppies.  They go to communities without pet stores and go to communities with little resistance and get the city councils to pass ordinances just to stop the sale of puppies.

They have their own agenda in that they do (pet) adoptions.  And they bring animals from other places to find homes in these communities.

Our Burbank shelter does not have excess animals.  We don’t have a problem in Burbank.  They (Burbank Animal Shelter) “lottery” animals, so people (who want to adopt) are often disappointed.

We feel people deserve to have a choice in where they get their pet.

BurbankNBeyond:  So an organization like Best Friends,  are they saying that if I want a husky puppy, that I don’t have the right to purchase a husky puppy?

Ira Lippman:  They are saying they don’t want you to purchase it in a pet store.  They are saying they want you to adopt animals.  They don’t think you should be getting pure breeds, unless they have them for adoption.

They do a service that is a nice service, but not everyone wants to get an adopted animal.  There are differences of opinions.

When you raise a puppy in your home it develops the fabric of your family, its personality, the characteristics that it has.

BurbankNBeyond:  But what about the high numbers of animals being euthanized, over population, those issues raised by the animal rights groups?

Ira Lippman:  They (animals rights groups) blame this over-population on the pet stores.   Our puppies never end up in the shelters.  They (regulators) know where our puppies go.  We are not the problem.

BurbankNBeyond:  Is there anything nefarious about  the animal rights groups?

Ira Lippman:  I don’t  like the idea they don’t want me to be in business.    They are part of this greater idea that people shouldn’t be able to buy pets.  They challenge pet ownership.  They feel people should just adopt them.

I’m OK with adoption.  We support a lot of adoptions.  I think it is a really nice thing.  But why shouldn’t we have choice?  In America we deserve choice.

If people don’t want to buy a puppy it’s OK.

We are part of the community.  We provide programs for middle school kids to come and get service hours to walk puppies and learn to take care of them and socialize them.

BurbankNBeyond: What about puppy mills?

Ira Lippman:  It’s an emotional issue.  This whole puppy mill issue.  I don’t support puppy mills.  They are substandard breeders.  Many of our dogs and cats (that we sell) come from our community.  We don’t just get our puppies from professional breeders, we also get them from local community members.  We provide a service to find a home for puppies they have.

We don’t have a problem in our community.  This group (Best Friends) came into our community to push their agenda.  They go to lots of communities and push their agenda.  They rally people, and they want you to adopt their animals.

BurbankNBeyond:  What do they get out of it?

Ira Lippman:  Well they make money.  It is a multi-million dollar organization.  They get donations, they get fees for doing whatever their business is, they get fees for whatever.  They get to work under the umbrella of a non-profit.

I don’t have a problem with people going to (local hobby and small) breeders and get a puppy.  I don’t have a problem with that.  It is not easy to find a breeder to get a puppy.  You don’t know if that is necessarily a good puppy to buy.  Depending on the breeder you go to most breeders have no regulation.

So what happens when you take away a legal vehicle for people to buy something?  You go underground.  There are huge Internet and street corner sales of puppies.  The people want to have a pet, and if you don’t have a vehicle for them to buy it they find it somewhere else.  There will always be a source.

Those groups are not regulated at all.  The adoption organizations also have no regulations at all.  None.

All the state and local laws are exempted to the adoption groups.

If they sell a puppy and it gets sick you don’t really know what that puppy is going to be like.  You don’t really know the history.  You are stuck with it, and you have no recourse whatsoever.

We (pet store owners and professional breeders) are a highly regulated industry.  For example in California we have the Polanco Act.  We abide by it fully.

Excerpt from “Polanco Act”

The Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act requires pet dealers (i.e., retail sellers of more than 50 dogs or cats in the previous year; not including animal shelters and humane societies) to have a permit, maintain certain health and safety standards for their animals, sell only healthy animals, and provide written spay-neuter, health, animal history and other information and disclosures to pet buyers.

If after 15 days from purchase a dog or cat becomes ill due to an illness that existed at the time of sale, or if within one year after purchase a dog or cat has a congenital or hereditary condition that adversely affects the health of the dog or cat, an owner is offered a refund, another puppy or kitten, or reimbursement of veterinary bills up to 150 percent of the purchase price of the puppy or kitten.

The Pet Store Animal Care Act, effective in 2009, requires every pet store that sells live companion animals and fish to formulate a documented program consisting of routine care, preventative care, emergency care, disease control and prevention, veterinary treatment, and euthanasia. (HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE SECTION 122125-122220)

Burbank Animal Control does a monthly inspection visit to the store, and we abide by all laws and regulations.  We don’t have a problem.

BurbankNBeyond:  Where do you think this is going to go in Burbank?

Ira Lippman:  I don’t know.  They are very, very vigilant group that are backing this policy.  They go from town to town, they are a profession, they have huge budgets to make this happen.  They rally up the people, put pressure on the council people, and people get emotional about it.

A puppy wants to adopt a familyBut we don’t have a problem in Burbank.  And I try to explain, “why chase business away from Burbank?”

We (pet shop owners) are not causing the over-abundance of animals in the pet shelters.  Again we are highly regulated.  Even as much as how we keep the animals in our store.  How we sell them, where they come from – everybody know the parents, what their birth dates were – those things have to be (on a )5 page document with a written guarantee.  At least three veterinarians have seen that dog before it ever goes home.

The puppies come (to us) in a beautifully outfitted transportation facility (provided by Hunte Corporation).  They are all independently housed and they have a controlled environment.  They have 24 hour care.  They drive straight through from wherever they are coming from (Hunte’s distribution facility is in Goodman, MO).

Their facility, you can see it online, is beautiful.

I believe Hunte wrote a letter to every city council person and invited them to come see their facilities.  And for them to base their decisions on facts.  These groups (animal rights groups) don’t let facts get in their way.

They are really savvy.  They have training in warfare. They’re good at what they do.  I understand that.

BurbankNBeyond:  What do you expect from the upcoming debate at the city council meeting?

Ira Lippman:  We are hoping the council makes their decision based on factual information

Lippman claims they do not buy puppies from mills.  He noted staff from his store had visited breeders, visited the Hunte Corporation, and were satisfied both were providing a safe and healthy environment for puppies.  In addition, he has the ability to view and select puppies online through the Hunte website, ordering only those animals which meet the following criteria:

  1. Meet their specific requirements
  2. Come from “approved” breeders
  3. Have a complete audit trail and documentation

If they find an animal that is provided by a breeder which is not on their “approved” list, they will go through the USDA website and check for compliance or violations prior to placing an order.

BurbankNBeyond:  Do you ever procure puppies from local sources?

Ira Lippman:  Yes.  In the past 60 days we have offered puppies from at least five different litters, including a St. Bernard litter and a Maltese litter.

Lippman continues that it is not always possible to get the breeds needed for their customers via local breeders, and thus they need to go to a company such as Hunte to procure the animals ordered by local customers.

BurbankNBeyond:  If we acknowledge the reality of dogs being euthanized in shelters, and the reality of abuses in puppy mills, what should we, as an American society do to solve this problem?

Ira Lippman:  Of course we need to start spaying and neutering our pets.  The trend nationwide is a reduction of animal euthanasia due to better public awareness of the need to spay and neuter animals, and eliminate unwanted litters.

We need to force the federal and state governments to enforce laws regulating breeders.  Puppy mills need to be put out of business.

BurbankNBeyond:  What will happen if the city council determines we should stop the sale of puppies in pet stores?

Ira Lippman:  We will adapt.  However, this is the United States.  Don’t we have the right to have a choice?  This is not only a matter of protecting the interest of animals, they (city council) are also making a decision protecting the rights of the citizens of Burbank.

The Burbank City Council is planning to discuss the pet store issue at an upcoming city council meeting.  The issue is to consider enacting a law or ordinance such as recently enacted in Glendale (Ordinance #5748) which states “no pet store shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise transfer or dispose of dogs or cats in the City of Glendale on or after the effective date of this Chapter.”

BurbankNBeyond encourages a healthy, open debate on the issue, and for citizens and residents to contact their city council members to inform them of your position, concerns, or recommendations prior to making an decision on the issue of preventing puppy sales in Burbank.

You can contact all Burbank City Council members by email at CityCouncil@ci.burbank.ca.us

Previous articles in this series:

 

John Savageau welcomes comments from readers.  Please send your comments to jsavageau@burbanknbeyond.com.

Burbank Takes on Puppy Mills – An Animal Rights Perspective

Editor’s Note: This is part two in a series looking at the controversial topic of “Puppy Mills” and the attempt to ban the sale of the animals in Burbank, which will be taken up by the City Council possibly in late January.  Originally published by author in BurbankNBeyond.

In January the City of Burbank will again engage in discussion on whether or not to follow 12 other California cities, including Glendale, Hermosa Beach, Irvine, Los Angeles, and others in both LA and Orange Counties, in banning the sale of pets in retail businesses, including pet shops.

The question many ask is simply, “why?”

There is no simple answer.  However contributing justification includes:

  • Alleged sadistic treatment of breeding animals and litters at commercial breeders – primarily in mid-western states, through the logistics process delivering animals to retail pet stores
  • High number of available rescue dogs, either abandoned or surrendered to an animal shelter or rescue, and subsequent need to euthanize animals which can no longer be housed at shelters due to excessive numbers
  • Danger of “in-breeding” by incompetent or unethical breeders
  • Obsolete laws and ordinances protecting the safety and welfare of animals

Part 2 of the series “Burbank Takes on Puppy Mills” will focus on the position of animal rights groups, shelters, and adoption agencies and their views on the above topics.  Future articles in the series will try to dig further into the perspectives of pet shop owners, and city council members preparing to weigh in on the issue.

“A pet store that closes its doors is a lost opportunity for shelter animals.” (Elizabeth Oreck)

Best Friends Animal Society East Valley ShelterAccording to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) a puppy mill is a ”large-scale commercial dog breeding operation that places profit over the well-being of its dogs—who are often severely neglected—and acts without regard to responsible breeding practices.”

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) states there are an estimated 10,000 puppy mills in America, producing more than 2,000,000 puppies for distribution throughout the United States.  USUS also notes there are up to 3,000,000 animals euthanized at shelters annually.

No-Kill Los Angeles, an initiative of the Best Friends Animal Society, states 56,121 animals entered LA city shelters in 2011. More than 17,000 of those animals were euthanized.

Horrible numbers.  Nobody wants to see or think about such a waste of life, and the thought a family pet could come to such an end.  This is the reason animal rights groups such as Burbank CROPS (Citizens for Rescue-Only Pet Stores) and the Best Friends Animal Society are engaged not only in trying to save the lives of animals, but also in preventing the cruelty inflicted on both breeding stock and puppies (this article will focus on puppies, however the same issue applies to cats, birds, and other animals as well).

The Real Problem

Animal right groups, such as Burbank CROPS, do not want to shut down pet stores, as Shelly Rizzotti, Burbank CROPS member explains, they simply want to prevent pet stores from selling or distributing commercially bred “puppy mill” dogs.

No group has an objection to people buying pure bred puppies – from responsible hobby breeders or individuals.  According to Elizabeth Oreck, National Manager of Puppy Mill Initiatives for the Best Friends Animal Society, those sources will normally screen and vet prospective buyers or adopters prior to allowing an animal to join the adopting family.

Responsible breeders will follow a code of ethics, which includes a very detailed set of guidelines for breeding animals.  There are representative specific breeds ranging from the Mountain Dog Association, German Shepard Dog Club, Great Dane Club of America, Golden Retriever Club of America, to the Yorkshire Terrier Club of America and all breeds in between.  A standard clause in all the codes of ethics includes a statement similar to:

Breeders shall not knowingly sell to dog wholesalers, retailers or pet stores, known or suspected puppy mills, or commercial breeders. Breeders shall not donate dogs or puppies as prizes nor knowingly allow any dogs of their breeding to fall into public trust. All advertisement of puppies and dogs, written or oral shall be factual and as forthright and honest as possible in both substance and implication. (Mountain Dog Association).

Anne Gaffney, owner of Burbank’s Pet Haven, goes even further.  She notes that “with all the rescue animals available, people should give those animals the first chance.“  Gaffney continued ”adopting a pet is all about the connection.   You cannot buy a connection, and it is possible the connection between you and a pet may have nothing to do with the breed.”

Laws Regulating Commercial Breeders

There are many laws and codes regulating commercial breeders, including federal, state, and local.  At the top of the regulatory structure is the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which dates back to 1966.  The US Department of Agriculture website states the AWA regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers.  The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requires that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public.

California has additional regulations including the Pet Store Animal Care Act, Pet Protection Act, Breeder Warranty Act, and according to a City of Burbank Study dated 16 October 2012, more than 50 other laws dealing with mistreatment of animals.

The Burbank Municipal Code, Title 5, Article 14 (Pet Shops), provides very specific guidelines on how pet shops must care for animals.  Officers from the Burbank Animal Shelter do perform periodic inspections, and according to Brenda Castaneda, Burbank Animal Shelter Superintendent, will cite violators for offenses.

An existing loophole in the regulatory environment surrounds the sale of puppies over the Internet.  This issue is being addressed by both congress and the senate at the federal level (HR835/S707), however the issue has not yet been solved, and as of today there is little or no regulation on the sale of commercially bred puppies over the Internet.

It should be noted that animal shelters and rescues are not required to comply with all laws and codes which regulate pet shops and commercial breeders, although all shelters are subject to inspection to ensure the health and safety of resident animals.

The Road Puppies Travel to Burbank Pet Stores

Puppies finding their way to pet stores will normally be bred in a commercial environment in the mid-west, primarily in Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, or surprisingly Amish communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania.  Puppies are delivered at around 6~7 weeks old by the breeder to a distribution or logistics company, such as the Hunte Company, based in Goodman, Missouri.

Puppy Journey from Mill to Pet ShopHunte collects animals in their Missouri facility during the course of a week, during which time there will be health screening and matching pet shop demand with available stock.  A truck loaded with puppies will then head out across the country, delivering puppies to pet stores, including those in California.

The trip can take several days, during which time the puppies remain in cages, being fed and checked by delivery staff along the route.

A company such as Hunte will deliver an order to a pet shop, and the pet owner will inspect the animals, and either accept or reject the animal at the point of delivery.  If the pet passes arrival inspection, the pet store will settle with the delivery company, and then process the animal locally, sometimes passing through a veterinarian on the way to display in the store.

By the time a puppy hits the display cage, it is normally around 8 weeks old, having been away from its mother for about 2 weeks.

According to Christy Shilling, a CROPS member, the issue is “black and white.”  Shilling continued “This is about factory farming of mill animals.  Those terms are synonymous, of puppy mills, of puppy farms mass-producing animals.  It is cruel, and they do have violations.  That’s what we’d like to stop.  It’s not about attacking one store, but it is about attacking the mills.”

The goal of CROPS is to educate the public, and ultimately of course to stop the practice of puppy mills and retail sales of mill animals altogether.

A Model for the Future

None of the rights groups or individuals interviewed wants to prevent families from adding a pet to their family.  Pets have been part of social and family units since the beginning of recorded history, and it is a healthy relationship.

Rizzotti paints a model where pet stores may still provide pets to their customers, as adoption outlets for rescue animals.  In most cases the business model for a pet store is not in pushing flesh, but rather in selling pet supplies such as feed, toys, and environments.

Rizzotti explains there are still ample pure bred animals available through rescues, including puppies.     As noted, there are breeding clubs and organizations for nearly all types of breeds, all with a strict code of how they raise, handle, and sell puppies.

An example search on the website breeders.net revealed three Yorkshire Terrier breeders within 10 miles of Burbank’s 91501 zip code.  One breeder listed, who asked to remain anonymous, has the following splash on the website:   Adorable tiny male puppies, AKC, 1st shots, Champion Bloodlines, great personalities available to good homes. No Agents, No Pet Shops, & No Brokers, NO SHIPPING.

In a phone conversation with the breeder she passionately explained that her dogs only were only available to buyers she personally screened, and the transfer required a list of steps, including full papers, shot record, visit to a veterinarian prior to accepting the puppy.  The breeder is a member of the American Kennel Club (AKC), and claims complete adherence to AKC

The American Kennel Club has an investigations and inspections program to both ensure the health and safety of animals within member kennels, as well as checking paperwork for compliance with club standards.  Field agents may also conduct DNA testing on dogs to verify the pedigree and parentage of puppies.

While the AKC inspection process has no penal or regulatory authority, if a kennel or breeder has major deficiencies during an inspection, they may lose their membership in the AKC, be fined, or in a worst case the AKC may contact law enforcement to ensure the animals are protected.

What Do Animal Rights Groups Want from Burbank?

Rizzotti is very clear about the objectives Burbank CROPS wishes to accomplish in the upcoming Burbank City Council discussion on pet stores and puppy mills.  That is to support elimination of puppy mills, and prevent pet stores from selling commercially bred animals originating in puppy mills.

Part 3 of this series will explore the perspective of pet store owners selling puppies, and others who do not support the position of animal rights groups on the topics of commercial breeding and pet store sales.

BurbankNBeyond and Pacific-Tier Communications would like to hear from all readers on the topic, regardless of your position.  Please send your comments to savageau@pacific-tier.com

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