Let’s Keep Pet Stores From Selling Sick, Neglected Puppy Mill Pets

Finnegan and Rayne Zmirak, after many months of rehab and medical care.

By John Zmirak Published on May 2, 2021

Since The Stream is a national website, I don’t often write about Texas legislation — apart from pro-life or pro-family bills. Many of those are currently pending before our state reps. So please read what our state capitol expert, Robert Oscar Lopez, reports about them. But today I’ll make an exception on a subject that touches me close to home: fighting cruelty and neglect aimed at dogs and cats. Culture Map Dallas reports:

In promising news for animals, the Texas House of Representatives approved a bill that would make it illegal in the state of Texas for pet stores to sell animals from puppy mills.

Sponsored by Texas Representative Jared Patterson, Bill 1818 calls for pet stores in counties with more than 200,000 residents to get animals from: an animal shelter, animal rescue organization, or breeder licensed by the state of Texas.

In a statement, Patterson noted that “an estimated 2 million puppies sold annually across the U.S. originate from puppy mills while 2-3 million puppies and cats are euthanized by pet shelters every year. Commercially bred dogs often live in horrendous conditions and suffer from an array of illnesses, often unknown to the consumer. Although 24 out of the 25 top pet stores already adhere to the humane model, Texas must enforce a minimum standard so that new pet owners can rest assured knowing that their dog or cat was raised and treated with care.”

Patterson represents House District 106, which encompasses the eastern portion of Denton County, including Frisco, which is home to a notorious Petland store that’s been the subject of investigations by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and charged with mistreating its animals. An undercover investigator kept a diary documenting puppies that had bloody diarrhea, vomiting, sneezing, coughing, or were visibly underweight.

The bill is primarily a shot at Petland, which is the only big pet store company in Texas still selling animals known to be procured from puppy mills.

The Puppy Mill Dogs I Rescued

This bill touches me close to home, because the two beagles I rescued in 2016 came originally from that Frisco Petland store, and hence from a puppy mill. At just 10 months old, Finnegan and Rayne were underweight, scarred, and in terrible shape. They had chronic, liquid tar diarrhea. That led the careless family who’d first bought them to leave them outside in their yard, equipped with cruel anti-barking shock collars. (Their necks were raw and infected when I got them from a local rescue.)

When I took the dogs to the vet, they turned out to have six different parasites, which they’d apparently been born with. Their poor mother, caged in a puppy mill and forced to breed over and over again, had passed on her sicknesses to them. She wouldn’t have suffered from any of them if the puppy mill had given her … a $5 heartworm pill, just once a month. It would have prevented all those parasites. They couldn’t be bothered.

Neither the puppy mill, Petland, or the original owners had ever seen fit to offer treatment to Finny and Rayne. Each of my new puppies had the white blood cell count of a terminal cancer patient.

I spent thousands of dollars and 42 days to de-worm them (it usually takes 1-3). They required weekly fecal tests, and needed their paws and butts wiped clean after each of their five walks per day. The best internist in Dallas was flummoxed at how long they took to recover.

Most Such Dogs Don’t Have Happy Endings

Their story has a happy ending, thankfully. After many months of tender care, they fully recovered. But most dogs that come from puppy mills won’t end up with lunatics like me. (Read my old column “Beagles Keep Getting Me Evicted.” Finny and Rayne regained their voices, and howled themselves silly till I had to move out of my beloved loft in Downtown Dallas.) Instead, such dogs might get only rudimentary care, and end up at kill shelters, dying needlessly after short, painful lives.

Dogs are one of God’s most loving gifts to mankind. They deserve far better than this.

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As rational people we know that animals don’t have “rights” strictly defined. If they did, we’d have to arrest other animals that violated those rights by eating them in the wild. As Christians we know that we have “dominion” over Creation. But part of that right entails a responsibility: not to engage in needless or careless cruelty toward them. Our factory farms are frequent sites of such evils. That’s a good reason to try to only purchase “happy” beef, pork, etc., from companies like Niman Ranch, which give such animals decent lives before their deaths.

Don’t Treat God’s Gifts Like Trash

We have a special God-given responsibility, I’d argue, for animals closely linked to human well-being and happiness over the centuries, such as our pets, our horses, and our dairy animals. The Hindus’ reverence for cows is exaggerated, but it’s not insane. It grew out of a very real appreciation of how much we benefit from those gentle creatures.

It’s too easy to forget our responsibilities to animals when we become distant from them. When animals are treated not as God’s creatures but only commodities in a business venture, these innocent, gentle beings are likely to suffer. One reason we have a government is to counter such evils.

Let’s reach across the aisle to promise: Not on our watch. If you live in Texas, I hope you will contact your state senators and Governor Abbott to support Bill 1818. Wherever you live, find out if puppy mill animals are sold in your state. If alas they are, then register your protest with your own local representatives. It’s a great way of thanking God and forgetting not all His benefits. (Ps. 103:2)

Another great way? Rescuing a needy pet from a shelter! I’ve rescued or fostered seven dogs over the years, and never regretted it.


John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream, and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.” 

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