PHOENIX, ARIZONA – Animal Wellness Action (AWA) and Bailing Out Benji (BOB) called upon the cities of Tempe and Tucson, and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to investigate allegations that local pet stores known as Puppies ‘N Love and Animal Kingdom are purchasing puppies from certain breeders in violation of Arizona state law, according to the press release.
Puppies ‘N Love and Animal Kingdom buy and truck puppies in from puppy mills in the Midwest for sale in their stores. Most puppy mills have hundreds of dogs on a single property, making it virtually impossible for these operators to properly socialize the animals, provide adequate veterinary care, allow the animals to live in suitable housing that is protected from the elements, and exhibit their natural behaviors.
“Our investigation uncovered irrefutable evidence these pet stores are violating Arizona’s state law,” said Lain Kahlstrom, director of State Affairs at Animal Wellness Action. “These pet store owners are fraudulently representing to customers they don’t procure dogs from puppy mills but, in fact, they are getting dogs from high-volume, out-of-state breeders with direct violations of the Animal Welfare Act.”
In 2016, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed SB 1248 into law in an attempt to stop pet stores from obtaining puppies from some of the worst puppy mills, while simultaneously taking away the ability for Arizona cities to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs at the local level, according to the release. The law stipulated that pet stores were not to buy dogs from breeders with Animal Welfare Act violations uncovered by US Department of Agriculture inspectors during the last two years.
Through a public records request to Arizona’s Department of Agriculture, Bailing Out Benji and Animal Wellness Action obtained records from 2017 to early 2020. The records detail that approximately 250 puppies from out-of-state breeders with direct violations of the Animal Welfare Act were shipped to the named pet stores during that timeframe and resold to the public.
- Sugarfork Kennels received a direct violation of the Animal Welfare Act in October of 2017. For the following two years, Puppies ‘N Love and Animal Kingdom imported approximately 237 puppies from the breeding facility.
- Wilbur Byler received a direct violation in October of 2019. Since that time, at least 10 puppies have arrived in Arizona for resale at the named stores.
According to the release, the state law also provides that pet stores must list the name and license of the breeder on each cage and in any electronic marketing, so that the public may research the breeders themselves. The pet stores do not comply fully with this legal standard either. BOB and AWA have documented instances of missing and incorrect information on cages, making it nearly impossible for buyers to receive the appropriate information about where their puppy came from.
“This pet store chain had this law written just for them and they lobby for it to stay in place every single year – and they couldn’t even follow the law that they helped write and pass for themselves,” said Nicole Galvan, Arizona director of Bailing Out Benji. “The scary thing is that other pet stores in other states are lobbying to copy this law – to preempt cities from banning these deplorable business practices outright.”
“When the State passed the puppy mill preemption law, it cut short efforts in Tucson, Tempe, and in the Phoenix area to clamp down on the horrendous exploitation of puppies that was happening then, and continues to occur," said Steve Kozachik, Tucson city council member, representing Ward 6. “Through this joint effort we've been able to demonstrate that reality to the legislators who put the profits of a few ahead of a moral obligation to address the problem. I'm hopeful that now they'll understand the importance of removing that preemption so local jurisdictions can work to put an end to the puppy mill industry."
More than 350 local governments and three states throughout the US have enacted ordinances to ban pet stores from selling dogs sourced from puppy mills. And in Congress, representatives Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) have introduced the Petfax Act, which would establish a federal law requiring sellers of dogs and cats to disclose certain information about the animal, including the source and number of dogs being bred. That bill would also make it illegal to misrepresent the source of the animal.
Additionally, the months-long investigation uncovered possible violations of federal law. The stores are openly engaging in activities that mandate regular USDA inspection. Under current federal law, pet stores are exempt from USDA inspection because that is where puppies, buyers, and sellers meet. However, when puppies are housed at an intermediary site, and when puppies are displayed at other locations to engage with the public for promotional purposes, those activities are not covered by the pet store exemption and are thus subject to inspection. Thus far, the inspections have not happened, pre the release.
“Arizona law relating to pet stores’ sourcing of animals is weak, and difficult to enforce”, said Terry Goddard, a former attorney general of Arizona. “It’s my hope that legislators will take a serious look at the massive amount of work that had to be done in preparation for the recent enforcement and take the appropriate steps to amend the law to make enforcement more efficient so we can end the puppy mill system of irresponsible breeding.”
If you bought a puppy from either Puppies ‘N Love or Animal Kingdom and are concerned about the source of your puppy, or if your puppy was sick, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.