Content advisory: This story contains some grisly details from kitten mill raids. Ordinarily I don’t share information like this, but it was really important in the context of this piece.
Three years ago, the city of Los Angeles instituted a temporary ban on the sale of commercially bred cats, dogs, and rabbits at pet stores. The original ordinance included a “sunset clause” ending the ban on June 30 of this year if it proved to be too disruptive to pet stores’ business. The good news is that it wasn’t disruptive enough to justify the sunset, so a couple of weeks ago the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to make the ban permanent.
This is great news, not just because the ban proved successful — it increased the number of pet stores holding adoption events to help area shelters find homes for dogs and cats in need — but because it sets a huge precedent for other cities to take action to prevent the sale of “milled” cats, dogs, and rabbits.
Many people know about the horrors of puppy mills, but a lot fewer people know that kitten mills are an equally awful reality.
Kitten mill operators are just as clever as puppy mill operators at skirting the law and setting up shop in places where regulation is really lax and inspections are rare. Take the case of one Michigan kitten mill operator who advertised his purebred kittens as having been raised underfoot and his ad appeared with a pretty picture of a perfect-looking Maine Coon.
But when his facility was raided, officials found 42 cats in an ammonia-reeking trailer where the temperatures were recorded at 110 degrees. Most of the cats were sick and infested with parasites.
It took two years to file charges, and by that time he was breeding cats again.
In another case, an Idaho woman breeding Ragdolls was busted for operating a kitten mill. Officials seized 323 cats, 177 of whom had to be euthanized for poor health.
“During the raid, officials found a locked room they called a ‘dead room’ that housed sick animals living among the decomposing remains of dead cats. Cats and kittens that were too sick to be sold were thrown into this room to die among the dead,” reads an article about kitten mills on Petful.
That’s the kind of business you’re supporting when you buy a purebred cat from a pet store. If the kittens don’t come from a mill, they come from backyard breeders who aren’t well informed about how to breed cats for health and how to take the best care of them.
There will always be a demand for purebred cats. I know that. But you won’t find a healthy purebred cat at a pet store because no legitimate breeder would sell their cats through pet stores.
I’d like to see every pet store in the United States stop selling dogs, cats, and rabbits. The cruel and inhumane conditions in which those animals are raised before they get to be that cute kitty in the window do nothing to justify the relatively cheap prices for them. Pet stores can do fine business by offering good customer service and high-quality products that pet guardians need for their cats’ care. Certainly adoption events bring in lots of business — and I can’t think of a better place to adopt because you can get all the supplies you need before you even leave the store.
To pet store owners: Leave customers with a good impression by helping local shelters find homes for their charges and providing excellent and knowledgeable customer service, and that’s what will keep you in business — not constant shipments of cats from kitten mills where they and their mothers suffer horribly for the sake of cheap “purebred” cats.
Los Angeles has led the way, and we hope more cities, counties, and states across the country will take action on the precedent the L.A. City Council has set: Let’s end the cruelty of kitten mills and keep animals from being killed in shelters because there’s no room for them.