“Doggie in the window” singer hopes to sing the swan song for puppy mills
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2008:
WASHINGTON D.C.– “At the time,” in 1952, “‘Doggie in the
Window’ seemed like a sweet and harmless message,” recalls singer
Patti Page. Selling more than a million copies in five months, the
song became Page’s fourth recording to top the charts in five
years–and became the unofficial anthem of the pet industry.
Opening with the question “How much is that doggie in the
window? I do hope that doggie is for sale,” the song helped to
popularize the concept of purchasing commercially bred puppies from
pet stores, at a time when the overwhelming majority of pet dogs in
the U.S. were mongrels and about 30% of the U.S. dog population were
street dogs, as in much of the developing world today.
Page recorded “Doggie in the Window” for a children’s album,
early in the “Baby Boom” that doubled the U.S. human population and
brought a trebling of the pet population within a generation of the
end of World War II. By the time the “Baby Boom” children began
raising families and acquiring pets of their own, the U.S. street
dog population had been eradicated by the combination of improved
sanitation, more vehicular traffic, and more aggressive animal
control. Nearly half the dogs in the U.S. were now purebreds, and
U.S. animal shelters were killing seven times as many dogs as in 1952.
Page, now 81, had no intention of helping to build the
puppy mill industry, a happenstance that she has now regretted in
public statements and endorsements of animal shelters for more than
half of her life. In 1952 Page had never heard of puppy mills. The
term “puppy mill” appears to have first been used in a mainstream
U.S. newspaper in December 1953. The older term “doggy mill” had in
half a century never crossed from humane society newsletters into
common mainstream use.
In support of the Humane Society of the U.S. anti-puppy mill
campaign, Page recently recorded a new version of “Doggie in the
Window” called “Do you see that doggie in the shelter?” It begins,
“Do you see that doggie in the shelter, the one with the take me
home eyes? If you give him your love and attention, he will be your
best friend for life.” The new version may not climb the pop charts,
though it might if a current singing star picks it up, but Page and
HSUS hope it will bookend an era–along with U.S. President-elect
Barack Obama’s pledge to adopt a shelter dog for his daughters.
Speaking from the HSUS head office in Washington D.C.,
Humane Society Legislative Fund president Mike Markarian on November
20, 2008 rolled out for media the findings of an eight-month
investigation of the treatment of the doggies in the windows of the
Petland chain, believed to be the largest chain still selling dogs
from high-volume breeders.
Founded by Ohio entrepreneur Ed Kunzelman in 1967, Petland
now has 140 U.S. franchises, plus 63 more in Canada, Chile,
France, Japan, and South Africa.
“More than 25 new domestic stores are scheduled to open
within the next twelve months,” asserts the Petland web site. But
the Petland expansions of most concern to the humane community are
abroad. Petland in May 2008 opened a store in Shanghai, China,
where pet acquisition is booming, and announced that “franchise
agreements have been finalized for the future openings of Petland
stores in Mexico and Puerto Rico,” both nations with abundant street
dogs and desperately underfunded rescue groups.
HSUS investigators said that they visited 21 Petland stores
plus 35 breeders and distributors who sell puppies to Petland, and
reviewed USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service records on
more than 100 breeders who are believed to be Petland suppliers.
USDA inspectors found that more than 60% of the breeders had
committed serious infractions of the federal Animal Welfare Act,
HSUS staff said.
“Assuring consumers that they only buy puppies from good
breeders with the highest standards of care, some Petland stores
even buy puppies from brokers and middlemen, and may not even know
who the breeder is until after the puppy arrives in the store,”
“Petland should join leading retailers like PETCO and
PetSmart,” Markarian recommended, “who have socially responsible
policies of not selling puppies in their stores and who instead work
with humane societies and rescue groups to promote adoptions of
Many Petland franchises do work with humane societies and
rescue groups to promote adoptions–more than 92%, president Frank
Difatta and director of business improvement Brian Winslow told media
in 2006. Petland claims to have found homes for more than 270,000
animals since 2001.
But Petland also sells dogs from breeders. Controversies
involving animal care and the health of animals bought from Petland
have erupted in at least 10 U.S. cities since 2005. The American
Kennel Club in September 2006 reportedly reached an agreement with
Petland to promote AKC registration within the Petland stores, but
withdrew from the deal under pressure from members of AKC-affiliated
breed rescue networks.
The 24 Petland franchises in Quebec in October 2008
co-sponsored a fundraising event for Anima-Quebec, the nonprofit
agency created by the Quebec government in 2006 to supersede the
Montreal SPCA and local humane societies in doing humane law
enforcement. Part of the work of Anima-Quebec is supposed to be
policing alleged puppy mills, but Quebec animal advocates have
alleged ever since it formed that the presence of Pet Industry Joint
Advisory Council Canada representative Louis McCann on the
Anima-Quebec board ensures that it will defend the breeding industry.
“It’s like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse when it
comes to puppy mills,” charges Rebecca Aldworth, Canadian
representative for the Humane Society International subsidiary of
McCann, a former inspector for the Montreal SPCA, has
denied running inference for breeders, but reportedly testified
recently in a private lawsuit against a major breeder than the
defendant is not a “puppy mill.”
But as Sidhartha Banerjee of Canadian Press pointed out, the
definitions of “puppy mill” accepted by the industry and used by
animal advocates are quite different.
“Certain people say that if there are 50 or 60 or 100 animals
in cages, that’s a puppy mill,” Anima-Quebec executive director
Veronique Langlois told Banerjee. “Or if the owner is making money,
it’s a puppy mill. But breeding is not illegal. But certainly there
are criteria for keeping animals. We prefer to use the terms ethical
or unethical breeding.”
Responded Montreal SPCA acting director Alana Devine, “In my
opinion anyone who is breeding a large number of dogs of all
different breeds and profiting from it as their main source of income
is not properly treating the animals. It is actually impossible to
turn a profit from breeding dogs,” Devine opined, “because if
you’re doing it properly, the cost of caring from them and caring
for the puppies is so astronomical.”
The Montreal SPCA retains law enforcement authority. In
early October 2008, the Montreal SPCA raided two alleged puppy mills
north of Montreal, impounding about 275 allegedly emaciated,
The AKC and Anima-Quebec controversies involving Petland
spotlight the longstanding conflict between the concepts of
self-policing, favored by the pet industry, and external
supervision and enforcement, favored by the humane community.
The argument for self-policing is that the pet industry
itself has an interest in maintaining a good reputation by breeding
and selling only healthy, temperamentally stable animals.
Counter-arguments include that the price of even an expensive
purebred animal is so low that individual consumers have little
chance to hold breeders and dealers accountable through civil
lawsuits, since the maximum damage award is usually the price paid
for the animal. Class action lawsuits are difficult to bring against
an industry with so many different suppliers and vendors.
Further, the procedures by which breeders and dealers cull
unhealthy and unstable animals are often in themselves inhumane.
In addition, the traditional animal care standards of the
pet industry have historically been so low that the accepted norms of
the industry cannot be accepted as satisfactory from a humane
Finally, the goal of animal welfare advocacy is to prevent
suffering from occurring, not just to detect and punish it after the
fact. Imposing animal care standards from outside the industry is a
means of raising the floor level of husbandry beyond what the pet
industry itself has voluntarily done.
HSUS in targeting Petland spotlighted recent “puppy mill”
cases in Oklahoma, where 24 breeders are Petland suppliers.
One case involved Robert and Darlene Lourance of Duncan,
whose 500-dog facility was cited by USDA inspectors earlier in 2008
for having injured animals who had apparently not breen properly
treated, improper record keeping, failing to provide adequate food
and shelter, and failing to maintain sanitary conditions.
Another case was the November 2, 2008 seizure of 107
starving cocker spaniels and miniature poodles from the premises of
Sue Davis, 52, and Randall Dick, 55, in Colcord. Nine dead dogs
had been scavenged by some of the others, Delaware County sheriff’s
deputy Mark Berry told Sheila Stogsdill of the Oklahoman. The dogs
were believed to have been last fed on October 25.
The nearest animal shelter, the Grove Humane Society, could
not house all of the dogs, and neither could any other shelter in
Oklahoma. Eventually 98 dogs were taken first to Salina, Kansas,
and were then relayed to the Denver Dumb Friends League.
“Oklahoma ranks second in the nation with 625 breeders
licensed by the USDA,” explained Associated Press writer Sean
Murphy. “That trails only Missouri, which has more than 1,600
federally licensed breeders. But that only includes breeders who
sell animals to retailers or brokers. There is no federal or state
oversight of breeders who sell directly to the public, and with the
explosion of people purchasing animals over the Internet, those
unregulated breeders are where many of the problems are.”
“Puppy millers are moving to Oklahoma because of lax law
enforcement,” alleged HSUS spokesperson Stephanie Shain.
“The Internet has just ramped this problem up,” HSUS
Oklahoma representative Cynthia Armstrong told Murphy. “People can
create a cute Web site with a puppy sitting on a gingham blanket,
but there’s no telling what kind of conditions those animals came
“This year, Louisiana, Pennsyl-vania, and Virginia passed
strong anti-puppy mill laws, and the Farm Bill passed by the U.S.
Congress banned the import of young dogs from foreign puppy mills,”
Markarian mentioned, seeking support for an amendment to the federal
Animal Welfare Act that would “require that dogs get 60 minutes of
exercise per day rather than being confined in cages for their entire
lives, and would also apply the Animal Welfare Act to puppy breeders
who sell directly to the public or over the Internet.”
The Pennsylvania law, endorsed into law by Governor Ed
Rendell on October 9, created a nine-member Canine Health Board.
The board was mandated to “craft temporary guidelines for large
kennels within 45 days” of appointment, explained Philadelphia
Inquirer Harrisburg bureau reporter Amy Worden. As defined by the
law, “large kennels” means about 650 breeders who sell dogs to pet
stores or otherwise sell more than 60 dogs per year. Nearly 2,000
other licensed Pennsylvania kennel operators sell few enough dogs to
“The board will provide detailed language to address extreme
temperatures, poor ventilation, high ammonia levels, and bad
lighting,” summarized Worden. “Among the new requirements: larger
cage sizes, the elimination of cage stacking, outdoor exercise, and
semi-annual veterinary care. The board will consider appeals by
breeders for exemptions to the exercise and flooring requirements.
The law bans wire flooring,” Worden explained, “but allows various
forms of slatted or slanted flooring to allow drainage.”
Breeders will have until October 2009 to bring their
facilities into compliance.
Governor Rendell had pushed to reinforce the Pennsylvania
laws regulating dog breeding since 2006. Rendell started about a
year after Main Line Animal Rescue, of Chester Prings,
Pennsyvlania, began posting billboards alongside the Pennsylvania
Turnpike, advising visitors that they were entering puppy mill
country. Main Line Animal Rescue later extended the billboard
campaign to Chicago, where one of the billboards inspired Oprah
Winfrey to devote a show to the Pennsylvania puppy mill issue.
“Made up of veterinarians appointed by Rendell, Republican
and Democratic legislative leaders, the Pennsylvania Veterinary
Medical Association, and the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary
Medical School, the health board was proposed as a last-minute
compromise to ensure passage [of the new law] in the Senate,” wrote
Less than a week after Rendell signed the new law,
Pennsylvania attorney general Tom Corbett asked the Common-wealth
Court to fine dog breeders Joyce and Raymond Stoltzfus of Lancaster
County $4.4 million, and permanently revoke their right to do
business in Pennsylvania.
“The filing charges that the Stoltzfuses, who operate CC
Pets L.L.C., failed to identify their business in 884 ads on Internet
sites and in at least four newspapers, including The Inquirer, as
required under a 2005 consent petition,” summarized Worden. “CC
Pets sold more than 2,000 puppies last year, putting it among the
state’s highest-volume dog sellers. In 2005, the Stoltzfuses were
the subject of the largest-ever state consumer fraud settlement
involving the sale of sick and defective dogs. The suit was filed on
behalf of 171 people who bought sick dogs from the Stoltzfuses, then
doing business as Puppy Love Kennel. The Stoltzfuses were fined
$75,000 in restitution and costs and were required to get health
checks for the puppies they sold and to identify their kennel in all
The 2005 consent agreement settled charges that the
Stoltzfuses violated a 2000 agreement that settled a case filed in
The new action against the Stoltz-fuses came about two weeks
after the Pennsyl-vania State Department of Agriculture revoked the
license of Upper Milford Township breeder Derbe “Skip” Eckhart, who
did business as Almost Heaven Kennels. Pennsylvania SPCA personnel
“found more than 800 animals in squalid conditions” in an early
October raid on Almost Heaven, Worden recounted.
Eckhart “has long been notorious in animal protection circles
because of a 20-year history of cruelty charges and other offenses,”
wrote Daniel Patrick Sheehan of the Allentown Morning Call, yet
Almost Heaven received passing marks from six inspections by the
Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforce-ment during 2007 and 2008.
After the Eckhart raid, the Pennsylvania Department of
Agriculture transferred southeast regional dog warden supervisor
Richard Martrich to the state Bureau of Weights & Measures.
“Department spokes-man Chris Ryder declined to comment on the reasons
for the transfer, saying it was a personnel matter,” wrote Worden.
“Martrich, who also declined to comment, was removed from
active duty in July pending an investigation, after a July 17 raid
on a Chester County kennel revealed widespread abuse and poor
conditions,” Worden added.
The Pennsylvania SPCA on that occasion impounded 103 dogs
from Limestone Kennel in Cochranville. Owner John S. Blank, 54,
voluntarily surrendered his kennel license.
“Under Martrich, Lime-stone Kennel received only clean
inspections for the last three years,” noted Worden.
Blank was put out of business after “he gave away several old
dogs with health problems to people who turned out to be volunteers
with Main Line Animal Rescue,” recounted Philadelphia Inquirer staff
writer Nancy Peterson. “Bill Smith, executive director of the
organization, took them to the Pennsylvania SPCA. The Pennsylvania
SPCA sent undercover agent Ashley Mutch to Blank’s kennel. Blank
sold her a sickly three-week-old puppy,” who died at the
Pennsylvania SPCA shelter.
“Agents raided the farm a week later,” said Peterson.
Some breeders, seeing declining sales of high-priced dogs
due to the U.S. economic recession, are turning their dogs over to
rescue groups rather than invest in meeting the new Pennsylvania
standards, wrote Erin Negley of the Reading Eagle on December 2,
2008. A breeder had just given 12 dogs who previously might have
sold for $500 and up to the Animal Rescue League, in Cumru Township.