Tethering, Puppy Mills, Pet Stores: How You Can Bring Long-Lasting Help to Animals

What would you do if your neighbor was chaining his dog outside for 24 hours a day? What would you do if a friend unknowingly purchased a puppy from a pet store and later found that puppy came from a puppy mill or became sick and died and the pet store refused to address it? Sadly, in Arlington County as well as most communities across the country, there is not much you can do. There are currently not adequate laws in place to protect animals and people from such issues.

We in rescue are doing great work. We are saving lives every day, spaying and neutering animals to help the overpopulation problem and ideally, educating the larger public on the importance of adopting vs. buying pets. But still, rescue is only a band aid on the larger, root problem of why so many millions of animals end up in our shelters, needlessly euthanized or suffer from neglect and abuse at the hands of owners who face few or no repercussions for mistreating their pets.


Tethering is the act of chaining a dog outside to a fixed object like a tree, a dog house, or an appliance. It is quite possibly one of the most cruel ways a dog can live his life. Dogs who are tethered not only suffer from a lack of physical and mental exercise, they also receive little human interaction. Most also suffer from heartworm and flea infestations, fly bites, allergies and in severe cases – collars that become embedded in their necks causing infection, pain and sometimes death.

Right now in Virginia there are only 13 jurisdictions that have limits on how many hours a dog can be tethered by a chain. And to date Arlington and Fairfax Counties are not included in this list. That means that in your own communities and across the state, thousands of dogs can (and do) legally spend their days, months and years chained to trees and dog houses no matter the weather. After months of HT and local animal advocates working with the Arlington County Board on this issue, we hope that in October the Board will pass a measure restricting the number of hours that dogs can be tethered in Arlington County. That will not only bring relief to dogs currently being tethered, but will prevent others from facing dismal life on a chain.

Kudos to Montgomery County, MD and Alexandria, VA for their anti-tethering laws!

Pet Stores and Puppy Mills

Thousands of puppies across the country and many right here in the DC area are being sold to the public by pet stores for thousands of dollars, having come from cruel puppy mills and disreputable breeders. Uninformed consumers flock to these pet stores, lured by the adorable pint-sized puppies being advertised and purchase one, unintentionally contributing to the massive puppy mill operation in the United States. Sadly, many of these puppies end up in our shelters when they are found to have health and/or behavioral issues and consumers find themselves without recourse when they cannot return the puppy to the store, receive a refund or financial help when their puppy requires expensive medical care. In fact, most of these pet stores offer shady financing deals for people who cannot afford to pay for their  puppy outright!

There is currently nothing stopping a pet store that gets it puppies from puppy mills (or other disreputable sources) from opening in Arlington County, Alexandria, Fairfax and most other jurisdictions in our area. In fact, two such pet stores currently operate in Fairfax and despite numerous investigations, complaints and efforts from local animal advocates to have them shut down, they continue to sell puppies and defraud their customers.

Petland in Fairfax has been known to purchase puppies from puppy mills and has been investigated many times. Most recently Petland was in the news when a family purchased a puppy that quickly became sick and died of Parvo.  And yet this large national chain continues to do business in dozens of communities across the country, reaping millions of dollars on the backs of animals.

The Dreamy Puppy Pet Store, also in Fairfax, refuses to disclose the origin of their puppies, which retail from $700-$1,000. When asked to share the breeder information, the staff refused to do so until after the puppy was purchased. That means a customer who purchases a puppy, researches the breeder and discovers the puppy came from a puppy mill or backyard breeder, has no recourse. Dreamy Puppy has a no-refund and no-return policy.  Dreamy puppy purposely does not disclose the breeder’s info to its customers, successfully banking on selling its puppies to consumers who have not done adequate research and may be completely unaware of what puppy mills are or that their new puppy came from one.

No amount of rescue efforts can address the two issues outlined above. Only stronger laws protecting animals and consumers can make a difference.  In our local area, many laws protecting animals can be enacted at the County level in a short time with a moderate amount of public participation and influence to make this happen. Permitting restrictions and zoning are two simple approaches to preventing a pet store like Petland or Dreamy Puppy from opening. And our County governments can pass ordinances restricting tethering and have many examples to emulate from jurisdictions that have taken such measures already.

How can you help? There are so many ways! Here are a few things you can do!

– Learn who your local and state elected officials are. This is key! You can more easily reach out to them when an animal issue arises that needs quick action.

-Contact your local County representatives and animal shelter to ask what current laws/ordinances exist that restrict tethering and what restrictions/requirements apply to pet stores that sell animals.

-Gather a handful of fellow animal advocates and set a meeting with your elected County official to discuss these issues and what can be done to improve the laws for animals

– Make your vote and your dollar count! Did you know that both Maryland and Virginia have Political Action Committees devoted to getting animal-friendly legislators elected to office and working on pro-animal legislation? At the state level where so many laws can effectively help animals, an election can often be made by a few hundred votes and a few hundred dollars!  Your efforts and money can go a great distance in supporting pro-animal legislators and legislation! Check out the PACS in MD and VA and get educated and involved! By liking these groups on Facebook, you will get regular updates on legislation, events, and elections that you can influence!

-Attend the upcoming Advocacy Training by Homeward Trails, Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Welfare League of Arlington to learn specific steps you can take to become an active, effective animal advocate (Monday, October 21, 2013, 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM, Arlington County Parks Recreation Center, 2700 S Taylor Street, Arlington, VA 22206) and similar training in MD.

– Learn what the larger national organizations like Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Protection of Animals (ASPCA) are doing nationally as well as state-wide to enact pro-animal legislation.

– Spread the word!! Educate everyone you know about tethering and puppy mills. You will be shocked to learn that so many people do not know about either.

Contact Sue Bell at Homeward Trails  if you would like more information or advice on ways you can get involved!


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