#SaveThePuppies Part Four: How Do We Fix This?

This is part four in our series detailing an investigation from Animal Wellness Action and Bailing Out Benji into the selling of puppy mill dogs in Arizona and the failure of a 2016 state law to deliver any protections for dogs. For parts one, two and three, click here.

In Part One of our series into Arizona’s failure to crack down on puppy — we brought to your attention the owners of five pet stores who are profiting puppies from breeders with USDA violations and thwarting the state law by refusing to provide their records to the authorities. 

The intent of Arizona’s 2016 state law (S.B. 1248) was to “strengthen penalties for pet store owners who do not take measures to ensure that the animals under their care are from a licensed, safe, sanitary, and humane place.” This was in direct response to demand from citizens that pet stores should not buy and import puppies from large, commercial puppy mills out of state which crank out puppies like a Pez dispenser.  

Our investigation exposed that this law is a total dud. It’s unenforceable. As we wrote in last week’s blog, pet stores are not being held accountable to it. 

So, how do we fix this very broken piece of legislation?

The right way to fix this is to repeal the part of the state law that preempts cities from acting on the ordinances they already passed. Advocates tried this pathway in the recent legislative session, but Arizona’s legislature tends to favor business interests and lobbyists over the welfare of animals and protection of their constituents.

If this part of the law were repealed, cities could once again prohibit the purchase and importation of puppies from mills and require pet stores to adhere to a humane model instead — where the only animals available for purchase come from shelters. This business model is proven and sustainable in other parts of the country. 

Last year, nearly 9,000 dogs and cats in shelters were killed in Arizona. It’s a tragic loss of life; these animals deserved to find loving homes and found none. As such, there are plenty of adoptable animals who would benefit if pet stores featured and promoted these homeless animals, as opposed to importing thousands more puppies (and kittens) into the state. 

Our team has drafted amended language that we urge the legislature to pass. The highlights include:

  • Repealing the preemption so that cities may once again prohibit pet stores from trading in puppy mill puppies.
  • Making it clear that the STATE has responsibility to enforce the law, as opposed to pawning off enforcement on ill-equipped cities and counties.
  • Allowing for citizen enforcement, so that individuals may seek relief for these animals in a court of local jurisdiction.
  • Striking the language about “good faith” efforts by pet store owners to verify if breeders have clean licenses. Currently, pet store owners easily claim they “didn’t know” and can be released from liability.
  • Requiring pet store owners to submit all breeders’ inspection reports to the state prior to purchase and importation, demonstrating compliance with the law.

But we can’t fix this without your help. Below are some actions we need YOU to take TODAY to help us #SaveThePuppies:

  1. Sign on to our letter to Governor Doug Ducey. Gov. Ducey signed the law, expressing his support for animal welfare. Please take two minutes now to urge him to take action to fix what has now proven to be an obviously unenforceable law. 
  2. Call or email Arizona state legislators, urging them to do the same. (If you’re uncertain how to contact AZ state legislators, you can look them up here.)
  3. Share our blogs with your networks, urging them to take the same actions. 

The citizens and animals of Arizona deserve better than to have pet store owners flouting the state law to import and sell puppies from breeders with violations of the Animal Welfare Act on their records. These breeders have no business selling puppies to any pet stores, let alone pet stores in Arizona where it’s against state law. 

Fixing Arizona’s state law will reverberate across the country, with breeders unable to peddle their puppies in the Grand Canyon state.  It will give momentum to the national movement to to prohibit the retail sale of puppy mill dogs altogether.  Last, and most important, it will help educate the unsuspecting public about the horrors of puppy mills and help them to choose adoption #AdoptDontShop. 

Take action for these puppies — they need you