THLN’s Priority Agenda for the 2025 Texas Legislative Session
In 2025, THLN plans to support a bill that will help put an end to cruel puppy mill practices and protect both pets and consumers by requiring that only healthy animals sourced from shelters and rescues be sold in retail pet stores. Currently, many retail pet stores source their puppies and kittens from unscrupulous, out-of-state puppy mills.
Out-of-state puppy mills store puppies in poor conditions, take them away from their moms too soon, and truck them hundreds or thousands of miles across the country to be sold in retail pet stores and there’s a reason why only one of the top 25 retailers still sells dogs from these conditions. This year alone, Dallas, Houston, and New Braunfels passed humane pet store ordinances, demonstrating the need and support for a statewide law. While 17 cities across Texas have passed retail pet store ordinances, millions of Texans are still vulnerable to the deceptive business practices used to sell puppies sourced from inhumane puppy mills. All Texans deserve to be protected from buying sick, defective puppies.
During the 2023 legislative session, the bill received huge bipartisan support but ultimately couldn’t get past the finish line before the session ended.
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THIS LAW WILL STOP THE PUPPY MILL PIPELINE TO TEXAS.
What is The Puppy Mill Pipeline to Texas?
The Puppy Mill Pipeline to Texas.
Puppy mill breeders in other states rely on Texas retail pet stores to present a clean, spotless store with a happy puppy. Customers don’t think about where puppies are born, where the breeding dogs are kept, or how they are treated. We prop up this puppy pipeline by allowing puppy mill puppies to be sold in Texas.
Here is what happens: a puppy broker (a middleman who obtains puppies in bulk from commercial breeders and is responsible for transporting the puppies to the retail store) buys puppies and re-sells the puppies to retailers. A cargo van picks up the puppies (holding up to 150), drives thousands of miles to Texas from Nebraska, Missouri, Ohio, and elsewhere, and goes to one store and the next until all the puppies are dropped off.
Despite these puppy brokers trucking puppies over long distances to their final retail destinations, there is no limit to the number of continuous hours puppies may be trucked or how many puppies may be packed into one cargo van. A puppy only needs to be offered food and water once every 12 hours, and the driver is not required to have any animal care experience. Young puppies with underdeveloped immune systems spending hours or days in a dirty (urine and feces-soaked), confined cargo truck can significantly stress their immune systems, resulting in disease transmission or worse. Former pet store employees disclose that retail pet store owners don’t want their profits used up on vet bills, so these puppies don’t get better. They are sold to the unassuming public, and this is why so many people go home with a puppy that might have parvo, distemper, giardia, campylobacter, and so on. Unsuspecting Texans buy these puppies, become attached, and are soon faced with crushing vet bills and the potential death of their new pet.
If the puppies aren’t sick, they can quickly develop behavioral issues. The puppies are sitting in glass boxes at nine, ten, and eleven weeks old, not being socialized.
Unfair lending practices, unscrupulous balloon payments, or immediate vet bills from a sick puppy.
The story is always the same. A consumer unwittingly purchases a seriously ill dog through a loan with an interest rate as high as 189%. The consumer is put in a room where they sit with a puppy, and it’s love at first sight. Then, the price is disclosed, and adding taxes, a supply kit and other add-ons can cost thousands of dollars. The consumer puts down a small deposit, and, with the help of the staff, the consumer signs an agreement financing the rest of the purchase through a loan or possibly two. It’s never disclosed that interest rates can balloon if they do not pay off the loan within ninety days. The documents placed before the consumer are irrelevant to them, as the focus is on the puppy. In addition, they do not know the puppy has serious health problems that would lead to multiple costly veterinary trips that would impact their ability to pay off the loan.
Here are some examples:
— A New Jersey consumer who bought a cocker spaniel was charged 152% interest, five times the legal limit of 30% in New Jersey.
— A Georgia consumer complained that the pet store didn’t tell her EasyPay’s finance charges amounted to an interest rate of 180%. “My puppy was supposed to cost $2,500 (and) now costs almost $7,000.”
— A Florida consumer said he was left with damaged credit after buying a puppy that immediately fell ill and eventually died. “I only borrowed $2,200 … I owe $5,500 on my credit report due to interest,” the consumer complained.
And when the puppy dies, the collection companies continue to call.
In 2019 and 2021, a bill was introduced in Congress to provide a permanent, national solution to the “rent-a-bank” issue by establishing a 36% interest rate cap that would apply to all lenders. But that proposal has faced stiff opposition from the finance industry and has yet to be approved by Congress.
Jurisdictions that have passed a Humane Pet Store Bill.
Seven states have stopped the sale of puppies in pet stores, including Washington, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Maine, Vermont, California, and Maryland. Currently, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts are in the process of passing these laws.
The City of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2006, was the first ordinance that stopped the sale of puppies in pet stores. Currently, 471 cities have passed these ordinances, including the following stores from Texas: Austin, College Station, Dallas, El Paso, Euless, Fort Worth, Houston, New Braunfels, San Antonio, Sherman, and Waco. THLN and our grassroots nation were instrumental in many of these victories.
On May 11, 2022, the city of Dallas passed the Humane Pet Store Ordinance unanimously. Out of 33 pet stores, only one – Dallas Petland - was out of compliance with this potential ordinance and selling puppies. In 2020, this pet store imported 1,348 dogs from out-of-state puppy millers (Source: Bailing Out Benji). Once the ordinance passed, the city of Dallas was sued, and the lawsuit stated that the law was unconstitutional. Not one pet store has won a case trying to invalidate a Humane pet store ordinance. All 22 local, state, and federal lawsuits have failed. As in this example, the lawsuit was tossed out, and Dallas Petland closed its doors soon after.
THLN and local advocates passed a Humane Pet Store law on January 18, 2022, and Houston gave the pet stores one year to comply. During that time, Houston Petland targeted this ordinance to reverse the ban on selling puppies in pet stores by either being grandfathered in or regulated, but ultimately failed. As of January 18, 2023, puppies may no longer be sold in Houston Pet stores (but they are available for adoption through animal shelters and rescues (i.e., humanely sourced). Houston pet stores that do not comply are subject to a fine of $500 per puppy per day. Six stores either moved or became compliant, but one refused to follow the law. On August 3, 2023, Petland Bellaire failed to appear in court, and a warrant was issued. Stay tuned for updates on the Houston Petland case!
The work that THLN and other grassroots activists have done at the local level is a tremendous momentum builder for Texas to be the eighth state to pass this law.
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History of the Humane Pet Store Bill
During the 87th Legislative Session, Rep. Jared Patterson filed HB 1818, which would create a civil penalty for pet stores selling animals from puppy mills. The bill passed out of the Texas House Committee on Business & Industry during its first session. It received substantial bipartisan support in the Senate, but ultimately, HB 1818 did not meet the final deadline to be passed into law before the end of the 87th Legislative Session.
On December 2, 2022, Rep. Patterson filed HB 870, which, like its 2021 predecessor HB 1818, required that only healthy dogs and cats sourced from shelters and rescues be sold in retail pet stores. The law brings consistency across Texas’ largest counties – those with a population of 200,000 or more – primarily suburban and urban areas.
TEXAS AG INVESTIGATION
On April 27, 2023, the Texas Attorney General issued a Civil Investigative Demand related to possible violations by Petland, Inc. and its franchises of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices & Consumer Protection Act. This follows other investigations by attorney generals in other states like Florida. According to the Florida complaint, the pet stores falsely claim the puppies for sale are already, or could be, registered with the American Kennel Club and make misrepresentations that puppies come from USDA breeders. This is a step in the right direction for Texas!
“I’m proud to file HB 870 once again to provide the necessary restrictions to protect pets and their owners.” -Representative Jared Patterson.
HB 870 had a hearing in the Texas House Committee on Business & Industry on April 24, 2023. The pet store lobbyists and breeders flooded the hearing room, which was a battle. Ultimately, the bill did not get to the floor for a House vote and died in the House Calendars Committee.View the SB 870 Fact Sheet
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WE NEED YOU!
The bottom line is that these puppies are only being used for profit. Please contact us at [email protected] if you want to get more involved in passing this bill and making Texas the eighth state to end the sale of puppy mill puppies in Texas pet stores and help us shut down the puppy mill pipeline!