At Long Last! Puppy Mills No Longer Populating L.A. Store Windows

Last week, the City Council banned the retail sale of dogs (and cats and bunnies).
Two dogs lie on newspapers in a metal box at a pet store. (Photo: The Daily Truffle)
Nov 7, 2012· 2 MIN READ
wrote the bestseller Soldier Dogs and was staff writer at USA Today and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Bad news for puppy mills! Those wretched backyard pooch factories just lost a major customer. So did a whole lot of pet stores that sell these cruelly manufactured pups.

Last week the Los Angeles City Council banned the retail sale of dogs (and cats and bunnies). You know the song “How Much is that Doggy in the Window”? It won’t have a whole lot of relevance around Los Angeles anymore.

Los Angeles is the 28th city in North America (the tenth in my home state of California alone!) to ban retail sale of dogs. It’s also the largest city to do so. Toronto recently enacted similar legislation.

MORE: Arkansas Puppy Mill Raided: Over 100 Dogs Freed

“It’s a very good day for the people and animals of L.A.,” Elizabeth Oreck, Best Friends Animal Society national manager of puppy mill initiatives, said in a KHOU report. “Not only will this restrict the flow of animals coming into our city from pet mills and backyard breeders, it will help alleviate the pet overpopulation problem in our shelters by providing more opportunities for rescued animals to find homes.

Some 70,000 pets are killed in Los Angeles County shelters every year. Best Friends worked with the city for 2.5 years to help enact the law that should take a bite out of these needless pet deaths.

Puppy mills and backyard breeders are responsible for most of the dogs sold at pet stores. Their conditions are usually deplorable. Adult breeder dogs can spend their entire lives outdoors in chicken coop-like cages, bearing litter after litter, sleeping in their feces, with wire for flooring, and little or no human contact.

The puppies are often sickly—sometimes from careless inbreeding, sometimes from the bad conditions of the mother dogs, often from both. And too many of those cute little buggers you see at pet stores don’t make it.

I knew a woman who paid $1,000 for a Yorkshire terrier puppy at a pet store. She had no idea what a puppy mill was at the time. Three days later, the pup was dead. She got a nasty wakeup call about the truth behind the “doggy in the window.”

The Los Angeles ordinance will not ban the sale of responsible hobby breeders. Adopting is the best way to go, in my opinion, and if you’re hankering for a particular breed, you can probably find one via rescue groups or sites like But if you want to buy that special breed, there will still be plenty of far-more responsible breeders to choose from.

If you walk into a pet store in a community that has banned the retail sale of dogs andcats, and see some on display, don’t be alarmed: They’re not for sale. (Unless the store is in flagrant violation of the law.) They’re up for adoption via various rescue groups and shelters. What a great ending to a sad story that’s been going on for far too long.

Los Angeles is a trendsetter in many ways. Let’s hope the banning of retail dog (and cat) sales will quickly catch on all over North America. I think it may well. Since the Los Angeles vote, Best Friends has been deluged with requests from other municipalities.

“We are witnessing a cultural shift that comes from true grassroots advocacy in action,” says Oreck. “It is only a matter of time before there will be very few places where one will be able to walk into a pet store and purchase an animal from a puppy or kitten mill.”

What’s a puppy mill to do in this environment? Close up shop and stop the cruelty? Yeah, I’ll take that option.

Have you ever bought a dog or cat from a pet store? Would you have done so if you’d known that your pet was likely from a puppy/kitten mill? Do you think it’s about time for this legislation, or do you view it as an infringement on the right to do business?

I, for one, have a very waggly tail about the ban. How ’bout you?

Do you think it’s about time for this legislation, or do you view it as an infringement on the right to do business?