HB 5916/5917

The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society of West Michigan opposes HB 5916/5917, and asks you to do the same.
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The Facts

(Provided by HSUS)

HB 5916/5917 would strip localities of their right to regulate pet stores and protect consumers while protecting cruel puppy mills and their pet store sales outlets.

HB 5916 includes weak provisions that would not place any meaningful regulations on pet stores.

Stores would still be able to source from:

1) unregulated breeders, even those with horrible welfare records, as long as they claim they are not "large-scale breeders"/ have less than 15 breeding females; and

2) USDA-licensed breeders without certain violations, which does not stop stores from sourcing from puppy mills (see below USDA fact sheet).

The provisions of HB 5916 are unenforceable.

Michigan authorities would have no way of knowing if an out-of-state breeder actually has less than 15 breeding females, nor what USDA violations a breeder has because this information is no longer publically available. Requiring breeders to provide inspection reports to pet stores and/or enforcement authorities does not fix this problem, as breeders would have a financial incentive to only share clean reports.

HB 5916/5917 seek to protect the minority of pet stores clinging to an outdated and socially unacceptable business model.

The huge majority of pet stores do not sell puppies. Rather, they profit from the $69 billion dollar pet market, which saw an increase in every spending category except live animal sales. Rather than relying on sale of animals from inhumane commercial breeders-the only sources churning out enough puppies to fill pet stores' cages-Michigan's puppy selling pet stores should convert to a more humane, and profitable business model.

HB 5916/5917 would harm Michigan consumers by preventing localities from protecting them from puppy-selling pet stores.

Pet stores often lie about where their puppies come from, utilize predatory lending schemes, and sell sick and behaviorally challenged puppies. They also import puppies from out-of-state mills, while residents' tax dollars are spent housing and euthanizing homeless dogs. These bills could also give consumers the false sense that pet stores are properly regulated by the state and required to only source from quality, humane breeders.

Michigan lawmakers should promote responsible breeders and adoption rather than pet stores.

Responsible breeders care deeply for their animals and only sell directly to the public, never through pet stores. When buying a puppy from a responsible breeder one gets to see the conditions the animals live in, ask the breeder questions, and bring home a puppy that is healthy and well-socialized. And, Michigan shelters and rescues are full of healthy, adoptable dogs of all sizes, breeds, temperaments, and ages in need of homes. HB 5916/5917 would place Michigan squarely on the wrong side of the puppy mill issue, and would not reflect the morals and values of the pet-loving population of Michigan. 

The truth about USDA-licensed breeders

USDA regulations for commercial breeders are shockingly weak, allowing breeders to keep dogs in conditions that the public would find horrifying. 

 A USDA - licensed facility may legally: 

  • Confine hundreds dogs in cages only 6 inches larger than themselves for their entire lives
  • Provide only wire flooring in cages
  • Deny dogs exercise and socialization
  • Keep dogs in frigid or sweltering temperatures for up to 4 hours
  • Breed dogs repeatedly and excessively, without limits
  • Provide no regular veterinary care beyond an annual walk-though of the facility

In 2010 the USDA audited itself and the Office of lnspector General released a report stating that:The enforcement process was ineffective against problem dealers, inspectors did not cite or document violations properly as needed to support enforcement actions, and penalties were minimal at best. Shocking photographs in the report showed horrific cruelty. 

On its website the USDA notes: "We do not 'certify' establishments...a USDA license is not a 'seal of approval' but rather a legal designation that a facility has successfully passed its pre-license inspection and is legally entitled to use regulated animals for regulated activities. 

The HSUS's annual Horrible Hundred reports, including the report released in May 2018, documented instances of breeders with numerous and egregious USDA violations spanning many years who remain licensed. 

The USDA continues to protect animal abusers, as evidenced by recent events.

  • April 2018: USDA sent a letter to licenses stating that they were considering announcing some inspections in advance. This would allow breeders time to cover up violations or even hide sick or injured dogs. 
  • April 2018: USDA confirmed to the HSUS that it has not revoked a single dog breeder license in the last year, despite overwhelming evidence of cruelty.
  • January 2018: USDA announced proposal to allow third party groups to inspect puppy mills. This could allow industry groups that have a financial stake in perpetuating puppy mills to be part of the inspection process, which would be like putting a fox in charge of a henhouse.
  • February 2017: USDA removed inspection reports from its website. Some reports have been restored, but breeder names, business names and license numbers are blacked out so neither the public nor state enforcement agents can connect breeders with violations.

H.B. 5916/5917: Bad for animals and consumers

Background

As consumers have learned more about the source of that “puppy in the window,” over 260 localities across the nation, including 3 in Michigan, have prohibited the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores. In response, pet stores and their lobbyists are going state-to-state, asking lawmakers to pass preemption bills that prohibit local regulation of pet stores. Earlier this year, Florida and Georgia lawmakers rejected similar preemption bills, as did Tennessee, Illinois and Georgia lawmakers last year. 

H.B. 5916/5917 protects animal abusers and their pet store sales outlets

Pet stores would still be able to source from: 

 Completely unregulated, unlicensed breeders, including backyard breeders, that have less than 15 breeding females, regardless of their animal welfare histories;

 Puppy mill brokers—middlemen sellers who often transport dogs hundreds of miles in cramped, unsanitary conditions—regardless of their animal welfare histories;

 Breeders with 15 or more breeding female dogs (large-scale breeders) who are USDA-licensed and haven’t received certain violations—a distinction that says little about  humane treatment.

These provisions are unenforceable and will do nothing to stop pet stores from sourcing from breeders that keep dogs in condition that the public would find horrifying. 

 Enforcement authorities will have absolutely no way of knowing if the unlicensed breeders are actually too small to be licensed or merely large breeders that should be licensed but have avoided all oversight.

 Enforcement authorities will have no way of knowing if USDA-licensed breeders have the violations listed in the law because this information is no longer publicly available from the USDA, and breeders will have a financial incentive to cherry pick reports, only giving pet stores and enforcement agents the clean ones.

 Even if a breeder is USDA-licensed and without the listed violations, this says nothing about the quality of the breeder. USDA standards are shockingly low, allowing dogs to spend their entire lives languishing wire cages only 6 inches larger than themselves, and the USDA admits it does a horrible job of enforcing these dangerously low standards.

H.B. 5917 would strip local governments of their right to protect consumers, and strip the public of their right to address local issues with their elected officials. 

By preventing localities from regulating puppy-selling pet stores, local officials would not be able to: 

 Protect consumers from deceitful pet stores that claim to only source from small, local, humane breeders when that is far from the truth;

 Protect consumers from paying thousands of dollars in veterinary bills to care for their sick pet store puppies, and the heartbreak of seeing their puppy suffer or even die;

 Protect consumers from pet stores’ predatory lending schemes and gag orders;

 Effectively manage pet overpopulation, even though it is local governments and tax payers who must fund shelters that house and euthanize homeless animals.

The puppy-selling pet stores and their lobbyists who are pushing these bills are asking legislators to protect an outdated and socially unacceptable business model. 

 It is well-documented and indisputable by anyone outside of the puppy mill pipeline that in humane commercial breeding facilities supply pet stores with puppies.

 Stores that sell commercially raised puppies are an outlier in their own industry as the huge majority of pet stores, including the largest and most successful chains and small mom and pop shops, do not sell puppies.

 Last year, Americans spent $69 billion on their pets, and every category, including pet food, products, and services, saw an increase except live animal sales, which the pet industry predicts will continue to decline.

 Local ordinances that prohibit the sale of dogs in pet stores do not close businesses, but merely require them to change their business model to a more humane one.

 Pet stores are not needed to supply the public with new pets, as only 4% of Americans obtain dogs from pet stores. A far better option for those who choose not to adopt are responsible breeders who care deeply for their dogs and sell directly to the public.