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ARTICLE: Michigan legislation protects pets and consumers

From: Pam
Sent on: Thursday, March 15, 2012 9:57 AM


Michigan legislation protects pets and consumers

Deb Monroe

Detroit Dogs Examiner


Consumers who make a major purchase are often bolstered by the offer of a lifetime guarantee, a warranty or other such promise that the product will not be defective or at the very least there will be a replacement clause. Consumers become unfortunate victims when they rely on warrantees. The sad state begins with the common misconception that a “bought dog” is somehow superior to a “rescued dog”. The labels placed on an animal being “adoptable” or a “rescue” or “mixed” implies that they are somehow damaged goods, recycled or impure. This label could be unattractive to consumers with young family members or to a person that has never benefited from the ownership of a canine. They believe the pet store lie. In some way they feel they would be starting off this new pet connection with something that is damaged or dangerous.

How much is that puppy in the window? 

In truth, 99% of puppies and dogs available through a pet store are produced in a puppy mill - a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority. Mill puppies are typically sold to pet shops—usually through a broker, or middleman—and marketed as young as eight weeks of age. Illness, disease and lack of socialization with humans and other animals are common characteristics of dogs from mills and because operators fail to apply proper husbandry practices that would remove sick dogs from their breeding pools as well puppies from mills are prone to congenital and hereditary conditions.

The true cost of a ‘purchased’ dog is much greater than what is listed on the bill of sale. It most often includes extensive veterinary care, efforts to treat genetic defects, and behavior modification to compensate for the symptoms they develop from being born into a filthy, cramped space which breaks their natural inhibitions for cleanliness. The essential developmental time with its mother and litter are also lost. One cannot ignore the price a family pays when they “save” a dog confined by a backyard breeder or purchase one from a polished pet shop only to then endure the emotional and financial burdens that are sure to come. No one can truly be protected against heartache, but there is some hope on the horizon to protect consumers who invest in a pet.

S.B. 574 “Pet Lemon Law”

A "Pet Lemon Law" was introduced in Michigan by Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren) to offer consumer protections for purchasers of dogs, cats and ferrets. Under S.B. 574, people who purchase sick or diseased animals from pet shops, breeders or dealers would have specific recourse against the sellers. S.B. 574 would offer options for the purchaser, including returning the animal for a full refund and replacement or recovery of veterinary expenses. The bill includes specific time frames for reporting illnesses, maximum amounts a buyer can recover, and provisions for congenital defects in the purchased animals. The full text of S.B. 574 is available here.

Not worth the paper it’s written on

Last year Liz Frates purchased 16 week old Yorkshire Terrier from a Michigan breeder for $1,200 cash. She was told the puppy was healthy. The full written pet guarantee against anything congenital or hereditary did not help Liz in court, after the yorkie was diagnosed with grade 2 luxating patellas in both legs - congenital defect requiring surgery close to $3,200. Liz had already spent $900 in veterinary costs addressing the puppy’s breathing and diarrhea problems. “Without laws in place irresponsible breeders have free reign to find loop holes and continue with their unethical practices.” said Frates. “Pet insurance will not cover hereditary, genetic or congenital defects and most people cannot afford the thousands of dollars in vet bills and surgeries to correct such health problems.”

“We must act now to prevent these puppy mills from bringing their business in other states to Michigan, and protect animals in the facilities already operating here.” - Cal Morgan, President and CEO, Michigan Humane Society

House Bills 5230, 5231, Senate Bills 891, 892 “Puppy Protection Act”

The need for the Puppy Protection Act springs from breeders who house large numbers of dogs in close confinement for years, often without human interaction, exercise or adequate veterinary care. These animals are often forced to produce litter after litter of puppies until old age, when they may be sold, given up or killed.

The Puppy Protection Act calls for a crackdown on large-scale commercial dog breeders in Michigan and ensure that dogs in their facilities are treated humanely. House Bills 5230 and 5231(and Senate Bills 891 and 892) would establish strict guidelines for such critical issues as housing, sanitary conditions, enclosure space, exercise, and veterinary care of dogs used for breeding, many of whom live out their entire lives in these breeding facilities. The Puppy Protection Act also places an upper limit on the number of dogs that may be housed in such facilities. Importantly, the legislation exempts small-scale or “hobby” breeders from regulation.

This legislation, launched as a statewide collaboration by the Michigan Humane Society, is sponsored by state lawmakers Rep. Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills), Rep. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City), Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren) and Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge). It is also supported by the Michigan Association of Animal Control Officers, Puppy Mill Awareness, a Michigan-based advocacy group, and the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association.

You can see a video of the February 16, 2012 Puppy Protection Act press conference here.

Michigan’s legislation is in good company with seven other states that have passed puppy mill laws within the past two year.

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