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Your View: Puppy mills are cruel. Here’s how we can stop them.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are over 10,000 active puppy mills in the United States, with an estimated 500,000 dogs kept solely for breeding purposes and a staggering 2.6 million puppies originating from puppy mills sold each year.
As residents of the Lehigh Valley, it’s time we confront a harsh reality: Our hard-earned dollars are inadvertently funding the cruel and unethical operations of commercial breeding operations and puppy mills.
Sheryl Petrillo
While these operations may boast they are licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the horrific reality of where that cute puppy in the pet store or an online site comes from is hidden from the public eye. Routine kennel inspections publicly posted by the state Department of Agriculture do not depict the day-to-day cruelty and abuse inflicted upon “man’s best friends” at these commercial breeding operations.
The Lehigh Valley has been making strides towards becoming a leader in the humane treatment of animals. Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton and Forks Township have enacted ordinances prohibiting the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits (and guinea pigs in a few cases) in pet stores. This progressive move acknowledges the ethical issues surrounding the sale of animals sourced from commercial breeding operations and puppy mills.
The fundamental problem is commercial breeding operations prioritize profit over animal welfare, and many subject animals to cramped and unsanitary conditions, inadequate health care, and little to no socialization. Purchasing animals from pet stores perpetuates this cycle of suffering, as every animal bought means one less chance for a shelter animal to find a loving home.
Our local shelters are facing a crisis. The influx of abandoned and surrendered animals is overwhelming, pushing these facilities to their limits. Organizations like the Center for Animal Health and Welfare in Williams Township, the Lehigh Valley Humane Society in Allentown, Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab, The Sanctuary at Haafsville and Peaceable Kingdom are inundated with adoptable animals desperately seeking homes.
Yet pet stores and unregulated online breeders and brokers continue to exploit animals, thus exacerbating this problem.
What’s more alarming is uninformed consumers’ perceptions that purchasing a puppy from a pet store or online for exorbitant prices is perhaps a status symbol. Hybrid animals like shih-poos, bernedoodles, cavapoos and French bulldogs are marketed as exclusive and trendy, fetching prices upward of $3,000 to as high as $10,000 or more online.
Many of these hybrids come with a multitude of medical and genetic problems that purchasers don’t see right away or have no knowledge of, leading them into unexpected debt from veterinary bills or more commonly, surrendering the animal to a shelter because they cannot afford the veterinary bills.
Adopting an animal from a rescue or shelter comes with many perks: The adoption fee goes back to the rescue or shelter operations. Shelter animals are vetted as well as the humans seeking to adopt them. Adopters sign contracts that they agree to spay or neuter the animal (if not done already), and if for any reason they cannot keep the animal, they are to bring back the animal to the place of adoption. Animals are microchipped at adoption to help ensure they are returned home safely in the event they get lost.
Alternately, pet stores and online sellers do not vet humans or do background checks. All you need to purchase an animal from them is a driver’s license and the ability to pay or finance.
I urge the people of the Lehigh Valley to educate themselves on the truth behind the animals sold in pet stores, in newspaper ads, on roadside farms and online platforms. Together, we must demand better practices and full transparency, support local shelters and rescues, and advocate for legislation that protects animals and consumers alike.
Do your due diligence and research all the information and data provided by nonprofit organizations such as Bailing Out Benji and the Humane Society of the United States regarding puppy mills. We simply cannot rely on the legislators that we have voted into office to do the right thing.
We need to educate ourselves and put our money where our mouth is. Two ways for us to make our voices heard are to vote with our dollars and to vote for candidates who will advocate for human and animals’ rights.
Sheryl Petrillo of Lower Saucon Township is president of the nonprofit Animal Defenders Greater Lehigh Valley.
Source: Morningcall

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