Humane Pet Acquisition Proposal
The Humane Pet Acquisition Proposal is a collection of templates, including an example ordinance, that cities or counties can use to combat puppy mills and address other problems related to the retail sale of animals. The proposal would ban the retail sale of animals that are illegal to own, including farm animals with a provision to obtain a permit, and exotic, wild and dangerous animals. It would also ban the retail sale of cats and dogs that flood area shelters and ban the retail sale of rabbits, ferrets, long lived birds and large reptiles. Nonprofit organizations and breeders selling directly to the public are excluded.
Humane Pet Acquisition Proposal Templates
One Page Fact Sheet
Proposal Cover Letter
Example Michigan Ordinance
Reasons Animals Should Not Be Sold In Retail Stores Impact Statements
1) A presentation that can be tailored for your city
2) Michigan Shelter Statistics by county
3) Example FOIA Request Letter
4) Example Letter to the Editor
5) Example Press Release
6) HPAP Letters of Support (Shelters, Vets, Non Companion Animal Rescues..) (In progress)
7) List of current and pending Michigan state laws relating to animals
8) List of retail stores by county (In progress)
9) List of puppy breeders and brokers for each store (upon request)
10) Interstate Health Certificates for some Michigan pet stores (upon request)
11) Recent Michigan pet store cruelty convictions case summaries
12) Recent Michigan pet store investigations (In progress)
13) HSUS Puppy Buyer Complaints Summary (2007-2011)
14) SE Michigan Pet Store Complaints Summary (upon request)
15) USDA commercial kennels by state
16) USDA commercial facility photos including 8,000 photos from 2010 – 2012 (upon request)
17) Michigan commercial kennel investigations (In progress)
18) Michigan 2009 licensed kennels by county/city. (upon request)
19) Alternatives – List of Michigan non-companion animal rescue organizations
20) List of 100 Michigan Pet Stores that took the ‘Puppy Friendly’ Pledge
21) List of U.S. municipalities that have passed laws banning pet store sales
22) Law Article: “Shutting Off Sales Outlets for Commercial Mass Breeders”
These materials were prepared by Pam Sordyl, Founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of SE Michigan with input from The Michigan Humane Society, Pet Fund Alliance, Dearborn Animal Shelter, Great Lakes Rabbit Rescue, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS), The Puppy Mill Project and local animal attorneys.
Pam is available to speak to your organization or group about the Humane Pet Acquisition Proposal and a variety of other topics related to commercial breeding. Feel free to contact her at 734-718-7100 or email@example.com
Organizations Supporting the Humane Pet Acquisition Proposal
Midwest Rabbit Rescue (Ann Arbor, Mi)
Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary (Willis, Mi)
Motor City Ferrets (Hazel Park, Mi)
Black Sheep Crossing (Northport, Mi)
A Pets on Parade Inc. Exotic Animal Rescue and Rehab (Saginaw, Mi)
An Implementation Guide to Banning Retails Sales of Animals
Animal-friendly communities throughout the country are finding creative ways to combat puppy mills and other kinds of animal warehousing. Some have begun by enacting ordinances directed at reducing the suffering of puppy mill dogs – by regulating either the puppy mills, pet stores themselves or the manner in which puppies are sold. This guide is designed to help you pass an ordinance to reduce the number of animals sold retail, and to instead promote humane pet adoptions.
“But there are no puppy selling stores in my community.”
The best place to start. Communities that do not have stores selling puppies are the best places to start – less opposition! Taking a preventative approach will deter live animal-selling stores from selling puppies, which often carry the highest profit margins and profits. There is at least one reason to ban each type of animal from retail sales, but most Michigan communities have a store selling small birds, animals and fish, like Petco, PetSmart and Pet Supplies Plus, that will have to migrate away from small animal sales first. Determining which animals should be prohibited to own or be sold in your area may depend on what current animal-related problems your community is facing. It may be helpful to talk with the local officials who are (or will be) charged with enforcement, such as animal control officers or public health officials.
Learn the process
The process for local legislation varies around the country, so take the time to get familiar with how things work in your community. An official or employee in your local government may be able to help you. Typically, for a city or county government, a bill is introduced to a council by a member of that council. These individuals are usually called council members or aldermen. In some cases, proposed legislation will go to a small committee for review. Other times, the entire council may vote on it without a committee. Proposed legislation may be discussed at several meetings over a few months so that public comments may be heard. Sometimes amendments (changes) will be suggested or made, though these amendments will also need to be voted on before being inserted into the proposed legislation.
The following supporting documents will need to be gathered or generated for your city or county.
1. List of local animal organizations or stakeholders
2. Local animal related ordinances
3. List of retail pet stores by city or county
4. List of suppliers with violations and inventory numbers
5. List of pet store complaints 6. Snapshot of homeless animals in need
Find Local Animal Organizations and Stakeholders
Create a list of the local alternatives available to families for finding homeless animals available for adoption. You can start with your local state licensed shelters that are open to the public. A list of the 162 Michigan Licensed is maintained by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and is available as a supporting document. Find further non-profit organizations using Petfinder.com and search by zip code.
Gather information on local ordinances and state laws for conflicts
Most city attorneys will want to know if the proposal conflicts with any current laws. The HPAP does not conflict with any Michigan state laws. You can provide a list of Michigan animal-related laws to the city attorney for reference. See supporting documents. Check the city and county ordinances. Start online by searching ordinances on Municode http://www.municode.com/library/MI. Select the state the city. Not all cities use Municode. If the city’s ordinances are available on Municode, they may not reflect recent changes. It is a good place to start and confirm later. Search for “animals”, “dogs”, “dangerous” to find all ordinances that apply to animals. Your city may already prohibit “kennels” which includes pet stores. They may already restrict roadside sales. Find out which animals are prohibited to own. If families are not allowed to own farm animals, then the stores should not be selling them. Don’t forget to look for county ordinances that may or may not be posted online. It is always a good idea to call the county offices and speak to the ordinance department.
Build your case
Gather as much information about the stores selling live animals in your community. Start by making a list and summarizing which types of animals are sold at each store and which ones hold adoption events. Some may have already pledged not to sell puppies through the 2010 Pet Friendly Pet Stores initiative. See supporting documents.
Canine breeder information, if not provided by the store, can be found several ways. First, shipping records referred to as Interstate Health Certificates have been collected by Puppy Mill Awareness of SE Michigan (PMA) since 2008 and are available upon request. These certificates are public record and are required by all states. Second, PetShopPuppies.org has been logging sick dog cases, which also includes breeder and broker information. Once you collect the breeder name and address, you can gather more information from their USDA license. USDA licensed commercial breeders are inspected annually and the inspection reports are available online along with inventory numbers. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/efoia/. Photos are available through the Freedom of Information Act FOIA. See supporting documents for a sample FOIA request letter.
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Director,
Freedom of Information and Privacy Act Staff
4700 River Road, Unit 50 Riverdale, MD 20737.
Often Zoning Departments have breeder information if Special Use Permits are required. They often take photos of the kennel.
Gather as much information about the local shelters, including the number of animals euthanized each year. In Michigan, each shelter is required to report this information to the Michigan Department of Agriculture. PMA can provide the latest reports in MS Excel in the supporting documents. The annual shelter report also includes statistics for ferrets and a category called “Other Animals”. You may want to call your local shelter to find out what types of animals were included in “Other Animals”.
Find all the alternative places to adopt animals that are easily available to families for each type of animal prohibited. PMA has prepared a list of non-companion animals in Michigan in the supporting documents. Start with Petfinder.com. This site allows you to search organizations within a zip code range. It also will allow you to see how many of each type of animal is available within 100 miles of the zip code. Gather pet store complaints. Most cases go unreported, but the most common place to find complaints regarding a pet store is the local Animal Control and PetShopPuppies.org. Often families post reviews online. Try Googling the store name, and include all Yelp, Ripoff and Yahoo reviews. Other sources for complaint information include the Attorney General’s office and police department. You can check with the court to find out if the store has been sued.
Check the store’s Better Business Bureau Rating http://www.bbb.org/. If complaints are filed and the store resolves them, the store’s score is not lowered. Some information regarding the complaint can be found online.
How to submit a FOIA request
To collect public records you need to submit a Freedom of Information Act Request. This can simply be an email or letter. See an example FOIA request letter in the supporting documents. Be sure to include exactly what you are looking for and the timeframe. If you try to request records covering too many years, this could delay your request and cost more money. By law, they have five days to respond. Sometimes they will respond with an extension letter. Some will include pre-payment. You can always call and negotiate a way to reduce the fees.
Check with your local shelter and rescue organizations to find out which stores are allowing adoption events and have other programs to support the homeless animals in the community. Are your local shelters and rescue organizations willing to hold adoption events at stores that are currently selling animals? Some rabbit and ferret rescues prefer not to hold adoption events. Visit the stores that may be impacted by the proposal, and speak with the manager or owner about a transition away from live sales. You may be surprised that they may be willing to stop selling rabbits, if that is the only animal they sell that will be impacted by the ordinance.
Update template documents
The HPAP includes the following templates to be provided to your city officials.
1. Presentation Template
2. One-Page Fact Sheet
3. Proposal Cover Letter
4. Example Michigan Ordinance 5. Reasons animals should not be sold in retail stores
6. Impact Statements
Update the “Fact Sheet” with your city or county’s information. One pagers are handy during initial meetings. It includes the purpose, goals, what it should do and not do, the impact and outlines the alternatives.
Prepare a “cover letter” that introduces the proposal and include an “ask” statement. This cover letter can be sent to the Mayor or city council person, city attorney, planning director, etc. It should include the problems you want to fix. Adding details specific to the city or nearby cities can be more effective. Ask for a study group, or meeting with the city attorney to review an example ordinance for consideration. Deliver the cover letter in person and ask for a meeting. Often, they are available and have an open door policy. Bring your back up documents!
Update the “Example Michigan Ordinance” to accommodate the cities’ current ordinances. Many city attorneys will appreciate all the pre-work and ensures loopholes are closed.
The “Reasons Animals Should Not Be Sold in Retail Stores” document may need to be updated for your city. For example, if farm animals are allowed, that reason would need to be removed. Most of the reasons for prohibiting sales of animals are the same for all cities. You may discover there are even more reasons to ban the retail sale of certain animals. Some cities pay other cities per animal if they do not have their own shelter. There could be cost savings to highlight.
Update the “Impact” document. This should include a list of all the stores impacted or not impacted by the proposal. You will also want to state that there is no financial impact to the city for banning retail sales.
Get community support
Supporting a local ordinance means doing things like testifying at council meetings, contacting council members to express support for the ordinance, and informing others about the ordinance. Even in big cities, it can be common for very few people to get involved in local government (which means a small group of people are changing laws and policies), so getting active community support can make or break the legislation you are trying to pass.
A diverse coalition will show your elected officials that a significant portion of the community supports your efforts. Examples of people who you’ll want involved in your project at some point (and who you may call upon to testify in support of your proposal) include:
Animal Control Officers
Shelter director, staff, veterinarians, workers
Health Dept Inspector
Parents Dog owners
Consumers who have purchased sick animals
Find a friend in office
Public officials tend to take their constituents’ interests seriously, so try talking to your own council member or alderman first. As much as we’d like the people we vote for to agree with us, this may not always work. If your own council member isn’t interested, don’t despair. Try to find another official with an interest in animal issues and pitch your idea to them. Often, your local animal control bureau or non‐profit humane society can point you towards a sympathetic decision‐maker.
Introduce the proposal
After discussing the idea with some decision makers, follow-up with a formal letter with exactly what you are trying to accomplish and problems you wish to fix. Take the cover letter, in person, to the Mayor. Bring another local stakeholder that they may be familiar with, like the local animal shelter director. When delivering the letter and Fact Sheet, ask for a meeting with the Mayor. Often they are available and have an open door policy. If they seem responsive, ask for the next steps. Can you meet with the city attorney to consider the impact? Ask if there is a council person that they would recommend working with? Or ask for a study group to review an example ordinance for consideration. This is the best way to start networking. The mayor can ensure the appropriate city officials take an initial look so you can start gaining support. You can also simply take the proposal packet (make copies) to the city council’s regular monthly meetings. The public is usually given three minutes to speak.
Local officials read local papers! Schedule a meeting with the editor or editorial board of your local paper to ask them to support your proposal. Contact other media outlets, including television and radio, to let them know about your efforts. Write letters to the editor of your local paper, remembering to state your case concisely (most papers prefer letters of 150‐250 words). Sample letters to the editor are included in the supporting documents.
You can also issue a press release. If you feel that you need to gain more public support before a vote or to attend a committee meeting where the issues are debated, you can write your own press release and include your own quotes from stakeholders. Or you may want to just issue a press release after it has been adopted. See supporting documents for an example press release.
If your council calls a public meeting to discuss your proposal, you should testify and get members of your coalition to testify with you. Plan ahead of time to make sure that everyone doesn’t speak on the exact same points (a common problem at public hearings). For example, it may be wasteful and frustrating for legislators to have a dozen people talk about the abuse and neglect in puppy mills without mentioning the tax payer burden of animal care and control agencies that manage animal homeless issues day to day. Knowing how puppy mills impact communities all over the country—even when they are not in your backyard—is a very important point to communicate.
It is particularly helpful if you can get animal control officers to testify on behalf of their agencies. Enforcement professionals in uniform can add an additional air of importance and mainstream acceptance to an issue. It’s especially important to have an individual who will be enforcing the ordinance—this will vary by community.
Compromise (if needed)
As easy and straight forward as this all sounds, things may not run so smoothly. Whether because of enforcement issues or strong opposition, sometimes you may have to compromise on your ordinance. This is ok. Be prepared to compromise ahead of time. Know what parts of your ordinance are most important and which ones can be set aside, if needed.
Celebrate victory, but remain vigilant
You’ve completed a great accomplishment, so be proud of all of your hard work. Unfortunately, passing an ordinance doesn’t mean that it will be enacted as is, well‐enforced, or will remain a part of local law forever. Sometimes city or county attorneys will change the language of legislation that has been passed. In other cases, the law may be challenged in court and defeated. Whatever the situation, keep an eye out for related issues in your community after your ordinance has passed.
Regroup after defeat
You may not win your battle on the first time around, but don’t give up. Maybe your council just wasn’t ready for this particular issue at this time. However, now you have introduced them to the many ways in which puppy mills affect communities. Talk to those council members who voted against your bill and find out why. You can learn from this experience and try to pass a better bill in the future. Start planning your next victory.