It’s been a big year for animal advocates in the Chicago-area that are working to educate about pet store puppies and puppy mills. Several stories and organizations made headlines as more stories making that connection started to make the news. Here’s a look back on 2012:
Distemper outbreak – The year started with the heartbreaking news story about sick Christmas puppies sold by Happiness is Pets. The dogs came down with distemper and in the end around a dozen dogs either died after getting very sick or were euthanized. According to the Humane Society of the United States, the puppies all came in on the same transport from Iowa puppy mills.
The pet owners that purchased sick dogs have filed a lawsuit against the pet store, accusing Happiness is Pets of consumer fraud for selling puppy mill dogs. The fuzzy face of the lawsuit is the only surviving dog from the outbreak, a Dachshund named Dakota. Puppies rarely recover from distemper and Dakota’s family spent thousand in veterinary bills before she made a full recovery. (See update on Dakota.)
America Inspired – In February, Cari Meyers, founder of The Puppy Mill Project (TPMP), was honored for her work as a finalist in the Examiner’s American Inspired contest. Animal advocates voted early and often to propel her to a come-from-behind victory in the Leadership category for her work to educate and advocate on behalf of the dogs left behind in puppy mills.
Puppy transports – On a cold February morning, Chicago police officers thought something was amiss when they saw a van parked in the Little Village neighborhood. They checked the van and found 43 puppies crammed into cages on their way to a Chicago pet store. Two men who worked for a puppy broker initially faced charges misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty before a judge dismissed the charges and returned the dogs to them.
Michigan Mill busted – In April, Western Michigan police followed up on a neighbor’s complaint and found hundred of dogs living in squalor in a puppy mill. Animal advocates from around the Midwest pitched in to help Allegan County Animal Shelter and the Wishbone Pet Rescue Alliance with the large-scale rescue. Over 370 dogs were sprung from the puppy mill and moved to various rescues. The actual number of dogs rescued was more than 370 since an unknown number of mother dogs gave birth after their rescue.
Kindness to Animal Awards – The Puppy Mill Project capped off their annual Mothers in the Mills gala in May on Mother’s Day weekend with its inaugural Kindness to Animals Awards. The organization honored Greg Gordon of Dog Patch Pet and Feed in Naperville who stopped selling puppies and moved to a rescue model. The group also honored Officers Steven Olsen and Anthony Litwin, the two officers that busted the puppy transport in February, and their Sergeant Maria Whiteside.
Protests – Throughout the year, several groups continued to hold protests outside pet stores to help spread the word of the connection between pet shop dogs and puppy mills. The Puppy Mill Project marched outside pet stores in Chicago and the Western Suburbs and CAPS continued to protest in the Southwest suburbs.
The biggest march came on National Puppy Mill Awareness Day at the end of September. The Puppy Mill Project organized the event attended by over 250 animal advocates from throughout the Midwest. Volunteers from many shelters and rescues marched from the Chicago River to the Hancock Building and back to take their story to Chicago’s Mag Mile (see video). City Clerk Susanna Mendoza was front and center educating Michigan Avenue Shoppers about Puppy Mills.
It’s Not Cool to Be Cruel – Lush Cosmetics awarded TPMP a grant to launch an education campaign called It’s Not Cool To Be Cruel. The campaign will reach out to school children and the general public to educate about the cruelty of puppy mills and also connect the dots between puppy mills and dogs sold in pet stores and online. The campaign covers other aspects of what children are facing everyday beyond just focusing on animals are treated.
Rescues – Several Chicago-area rescues continued to step up to save dogs sprung from puppy mills. Some of those groups include – The Chicago English Bulldog Rescue, The Chicago French Bulldog Rescue, Crossroads Shih Tzu Rescue, Midwest Dachshund Rescue, ARF-IL, Annie’s Little Angels and more.
Going Humane – What a difference a year makes! Dog Patch Pet and Feed sold their last puppy at the end of January. Greg Gordon and staff continue to save death row dogs in Chicago, but they now also work with other organizations rescuing puppies from parts of the country where too many puppies are currently euthanized. He has worked with A Place to Bark, Save our Strays and Annie’s Little Angels to facilitate rescues and also rescues on his on from Chicago Animal Care and Control. In 2012, Dog Patch adopted out 191 dogs and puppies and over 200 kittens.
Ordinances – Two Chicago suburbs – Villa Park and Oswego – passed ordinances that will make it more difficult for pet stores that sell dogs and cats to open in their community. Efforts are underway in Chicago and the state of Illinois to prohibit the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.
Puppy mill pet store connection – Weeks before Christmas the Humane Society of the United States unveiled the results of their own undercover investigation that connected pets sold in 12 Chicago pet stores to puppy mills. This backs up investigations already conducted by The Puppy Mill Project on those stores and four other retailers.
“We are pleased to have the support of the HSUS in bringing to light the seriousness of the situation,” says Cari Meyers, founder of TPMP. “We’ve found in our investigation in the past three years that the dogs sold here come from some of the worst breeding operations in the country. The HSUS’s report backs up what we have found and have been telling people in Illinois all along about pets sold in pet stores.”
Read some of the stories below to learn more about puppy mills and their connection to pet shops, Internet pet sales and pet sold in ads. Learn about The Puppy Mill Project online and follow them on Facebook.
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