A Fight in Phoenix: The Faces of Good and Evil

In December 2013, Phoenix city officials passed an ordinance prohibiting pet stores from selling dogs obtained from commercial breeders. The law forbids pet shops from selling dogs from sources other than non-profit rescue facilities and shelters. Phoenix is one of more than 50 cities to have passed such legislation, all aimed at undermining the health of puppy mills, large scale commercial breeding facilities that serve as the primary source of puppies trafficked by pet stores.

Frank and Vicki Mineo, the owners of a chain of pet stores called Puppies ‘N Love, have filed a federal lawsuit in response to the Phoenix ordinance (why this is being handled on a federal level is unclear to me). The Mineos, fearful of losing their livelihood, have claimed that the city of Phoenix overstepped its bounds. A judge has granted an injunction prohibiting Phoenix from enforcing the law until the case is further evaluated.

If you have followed my blog posts, you know where I stand on this issue. I’ve been a long-time advocate of driving puppy mills into extinction, and have encouraged you to make a pledge to boycott pet stores that sell puppies. I believe I stand with the “good guys”- those who place the welfare of animals ahead of financial gain.

Unfortunately, some of the “bad guys” in the puppy mill battle are heavy hitters with deep pockets. One such “bad guy” is the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). The PIJAC is one of the largest pro-puppy mill lobbying groups. Two of the movers and shakers within this organization are Ryan Boyle of the Hunte Corporation, the largest broker of puppy mill dogs in the United States, and Joe Watson of Petland, a huge pet store chain that retails puppies throughout the United States. PIJAC’s persistent support of puppy mills doesn’t surprise me one bit.

What did surprise me was learning that the American Pet Products Association (APPA) has gone to the dark side. This organization, in conjunction with PIJAC, has donated a large sum of money (talkin’ six figures here) to support the Mineos in their legal battle against Phoenix.

Exactly what does the APPA do? As stated on their website,

Founded in 1958, APPA is the leading not-for-profit trade association made up of over 1000 pet product manufacturers, their representatives, importers and livestock suppliers. Our membership consists of a diverse group representing both large corporations and growing business enterprises worldwide.

APPA’s mission is to promote, develop and advance pet ownership and the pet products industry and to provide the services necessary to help its members prosper. To accomplish these objectives and to provide APPA members with valuable benefits, the Association works hard to develop programs and services which serve our members’ unique needs.

Bob Vetere, President and CEO of the APPA, is practically an institution. For years now, he has been the voice of the APPA, announcing how much money the American pet-loving public spends on their pets every year. I wish he would stick to this script.

In relationship to the Mineo case, Mr. Vetere stated,

We all want to see puppy mills eliminated today. But America’s pet lovers have made it clear that banning the sale of dogs and cats at local pet stores in not the best way to do it. What this poll tells us is that pet owners want tougher breeder standards so that they can be confident that dogs and cats are raised humanely and in the best interests of the animal.

Attention Mr. Vetere! The poll you refer to appears to be a complete farce aimed at duping the public while protecting the best interests (make than monetary interests) of the for-profit businesses you represent. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the regulatory body in charge of promoting “tougher breeder standards” has failed miserably to improve conditions for puppy mill dogs. The USDA makes progress one millimeter at a time, when what is needed is one mile at a time. Additionally, efforts to enforce existing USDA guidelines are abysmal at best. Lastly, Mr. Vetere, what is wrong with tackling the puppy mill issue with a multi-pronged approach? Why not institute “tougher breeder standards” while, at the same time, eliminating the sale of pet store puppies?

Shame on you Bob Vetere and the organization you represent. I am deeply disappointed that you have gone to the dark side where financial gain trumps common decency. By the way, your online bio mentions that you have a Golden Retriever named Dakota. Did you purchase him from a pet store?

In honor of Puppy Mill Awareness Day (just happened on September 21st), I invite each and every one of you to take at least one small, simple step towards the goal of eradicating puppy mills. Take the pledge to boycott pet stores that sell puppies, educate people you know who want to adopt a puppy, organize a letter-writing party to send a message to your city leaders, give a talk in your child’s classroom, share this blog post with others, or better yet, write your own blog post! Go for it!

An addendum that is literally hot off the press- PIJAC has announced that Edwin J. Sayres, former president and CEO of the ASPCA, has been appointed president and CEO of PIJAC. Let’s hope this creates some positive change.

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.


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13 Comments on “A Fight in Phoenix: The Faces of Good and Evil

  1. I, too, deplore puppy mills, but well intentioned but misguided legislation like this is throwing the baby out with the bathwater while encouraging a whole new class of dog misery.

    The commercial enterprise of re-selling shelter pets has created an industry of shelter dogs warehoused in barns in dismal conditions of filth and inhumanity equal to the worst of puppy mills. Faux “non-profit” “rescues” are, in fact, profit driven business models. They aren’t any better than puppy mills,; if anything, they are worse, because they misrepresent dogs and play off the emotion of wanting to help dogs when it is simply a business.


    It also encourages commercial enterprises to look overseas to find dogs to fulfill their business needs. This deprives homes to the shelter dogs of the United States, increasing euthanasia of local dogs. It also brings disease (including rabies) and temperament problems into the country because you can bet money those dogs aren’t vetted or temperament tested before shipment… they are selected mostly on size. There are other perspectives that are perhaps better elocuted and less biased than these, but here is a start http://www.naiaonline.org/naia-library/articles/humane-or-insane/

    Although it is laudable to want to stop indiscriminate breeding of dogs for an ignorant public, there are better ways to approach the problem than with badly worded, easily abused legislation that broad brushes all breeders (really… what exactly is a “commercial breeder”? In my state, that includes hobby breeders)

    I wish i had better links at the tips of my fingers, but here is another one on pop-up, faux rescues

    These are all complex issues and so far, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The best so far is buyer education, but in a culture where people are driven to the cheapest product at the expense of their own jobs, the same mentality prevails in the pet buying enterprise and at the dogs’ expense. I do breeder referral for my breed club, and the number of offensive requests for cheap puppies never fails to amaze me (“what do you mean they sell for $800 and up? I can find a purebred on Craigslist for $150, why can’t you help me? You people need to price your dogs better” ).


    Know your breed.
    Do your homework.
    Buy from a breeder who gets health clearances and does small number of well-planned annual breedings.
    Buy a puppy from a seller you can visit and inspect conditions personally.
    Check references.
    Talk to a breed club.
    Go to a dog show.
    Talk to people.

    Expect to pay for quality.

  2. 1) Don’t hold your breath regarding Sayres defection to PIJAC! They must be paying him a bundle! Shame on him…….

    2) ASPCA does NOT “routinely kill unwanted” animals. It is however a fact that there is no such thing as a “no-kill” shelter. ASPCA is overloaded and can’t keep all give-ups. No facility can. When a “no kill” shelter runs out of space, they refuse to take in more. Not their fault – ours!

    I often dreamed about buying an island and take in all homeless companions. No matter how big the island would be, how long do you think it would take before I ran out of space?

    I have never patronized pet stores which sell live animals, be they dogs, cats, mice, rats, birds, rabbits, chinchillas, etc. Never will!

    Shame on us, too!

  3. So well said Dr. Nancy!
    Some people think they are saving a life and don’t realize they are supporting such a horrid industry, enabling it to continue.
    I signed the Pledge and posted on Facebook. Thank you for taking such a strong & well educated stand!

  4. In So. California, the the dog rescues and public have picketed the pet stores selling puppy mill puppies at their stores. It has been successful. Two pet stores in my neighborhood have closed. What also worked was approaching the pet store owner with a solution which was to work with the rescues and shelters to get puppies and pure bred dogs from the shelters. The adoption fees înclude spay/neuter, vaccinations and microchip.The first pet store where this was done was on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. It has been very successful because People do not like going the shelter. He carries all the merchandise that the new family will need for their new family member. Of course he gets repeat customers who want to support him as well as others who believe in what he is doing.
    These petstore owners in Az need to think outside the box and become part of the solution not the problem. The public will want to continue to support them.

  5. First, happy woos for every community that bans the sale of dogs bred in misery and abuse!
    Second, don’t get your hopes up about the former ASPCA president and CEO being president and CEO of PIJAC; ASPCA has a long history of killing unwanted animals and vehemently opposing No Kill programs. He’s in it to make money, not for the welfare of animals. (Read “friendly Fire” or “Redemption” by Nathan Winograd)
    Here in my county, we ran all the pet stores that sold puppies either out of business or to the light, where they showcase rescues animals. (Don’t forget there are kitten mills, too, and just as bad), over 20 years ago. Petsmart was the first big box store to only ever showcase rescues :-)
    We need to fight to support laws that outlaw cruelty, but the main change will come from local citizen action. What we did here was to stand outside stores selling puppies, and hand out printed info to people going in, about the horrors of puppy mills, and how shopping there supported the mills, even if they were not buying animals. Sales dropped off dramatically, making it uneconomical to sell puppies.

    It takes more effort than clicking “like” on facebook, but what other thing do you do that directly saves lives???No one who loves animals would ever support the hidden cruelty, so it is a very easy campaign!

  6. I wonder if Mr. Vetere and his cohorts have ever stepped inside the kennels of the animal control facilities in his area. I have heard that some of the northern states do not have the overcrowding problems seen here in the south. Let him come to my facility and I will give him an ear full as well as an eye opening tour. I would like to see how he would like to live in the kind of conditions that these animals are subjected to! I am curious to as to where he purchased his golden retriever. And we wonder why a portion of our youth are so indifferent to pain and suffering of the human and animal kind.

  7. I have taken the pledge . . . I was glad to see that by entering my zip code, the “thank you page” returns a list of shops in my area that sell puppies. Good to know the specific stores to avoid!

  8. Most likely the reason it’s a federal case is that it involves interstate commerce, which under the Constitution is regulated by the federal government rather than locally.

  9. Well stated Nancy. Thanks for bringing the bad guys out from under the carpet. I plan on sharing this blog with my readers and network.

  10. One more thing, I stop by the now rescue operated pet store in the Chandler Mall and I always ask how adoptions are going. How many? Is this working? Yes! They are adopting out hundreds of pets, having great success!

  11. I live in Chandler AZ which is a suburb of Phoenix.
    Read this as it was a great victory.
    One of the pet stores closed was in the Chandler Mall. This is where I bought Sammy and Andy, my first two Dachshunds. Andy was always sick and died at age 7. I was stupid and did not know about puppy mills. Every time I walk by the pet store where I bought Andy and see it is now a rescue operated pet store I feel at least there won’t be anymore Andy’s coming out of that store. We must raise awareness, this is key.