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Local Opinion: Seedy puppy mill operators find a haven in Arizona
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Local Opinion: Seedy puppy mill operators find a haven in Arizona

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When you operate a pet store that is shut down in another state for deceiving customers about the origin of those puppies, what is your strategy? You reopen in the haven of Arizona and with mall ownership ally Simon Property Group.

The owner of Puppy World Rescue (“New Pet Store at Marana Mall Under Investigation,” Arizona Daily Star) is a defendant in a California lawsuit alleging that “Defendants are operating an illegal puppy mill operation, fraudulently labeling mass produced puppies from commercial breeders in Missouri as ‘rescues,’ taking them from their mothers at 8 weeks of age or younger, and shipping them across the country by the truckload to be sold in pet stores in California, in order to evade a 2019 law…. Defendants are well-known puppy mill dealers and con artists who, through their shell corporations, have set up various schemes to continue profiting from the illegal sale of puppy mill puppies in California after enactment of a 2019 law banning this despicable practice.”

From the Humane Society of the United States:

  • Puppy mills are inhumane commercial dog breeding facilities that may sell puppies in pet stores, online or directly to the public (in flea markets or via classified ads).
  • Puppy mills disregard the dogs’ health — both physical and emotional — in order to maximize profits.

It is estimated that there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, fewer than 3,000 of which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  • Almost all pet store puppies come from puppy mills.

According to the Arizona Daily Star story, the pet store owner refused to answer most of the emailed questions asked by the paper including the source of the puppies sold at his Tucson Premium Outlets store for an “adoption” fee up to $3,500.

In fast-and-loose Arizona, and through look-the-other-way Simon Property Group, this duplicitous pet store owner with his gamy past saw easy pickings. Gov.or Doug Ducey and his legislature in 2016 overturned commercial pet store bans, and Simon Property Group already leases to Animal Kingdom at Tempe’s Arizona Mills. A self-described current employee of that store posted a 2019 review of Animal Kingdom to a well-known online job board: “Horrible management. This place was a mess. I’m not surprised they had a distemper outbreak from the beginning. Would’ve been okay if the owner and management knew what to do form (sic) the start.”

A former employee also posted in 2019, just a few months prior: “Terrible. Management & employees have no actual medical knowledge. Employment turnover is HIGH (red flag). Puppies aren’t cared for properly. So sad. Nothing about this is OK. It should be shut down.”

Because animals have no voice, they are defenseless without human intervention. Because puppies are so cute, smitten consumers purchase, finance or even lease puppies, which plays right into the hands of those who get rich off weeks-old puppies and their exploited parents who are often thousands of miles away, hidden away in deplorable conditions.

It took perceptive and tenacious good Samaritans who intervened in the case of Puppy World Rescue to trigger the current investigation of this store and expose the sordid past of the pet store owner and the illegalities for which he is charged.

Arizonans must be vigilant where politicians have failed. We must speak up when others cannot. Do not support the three Arizona malls owned by Simon Property Group, or the 12 Arizona malls owned by Macerich including the three that continue selling puppy mill puppies. These mall owners lease to cruelty, and they do not deserve to be financially compensated by us until that ends.

Don Scott is a corporate communications professional. He is an environmental activist and animal welfare advocate who serves on the State Council for the Humane Society of the United States in Arizona.

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