As the legislators left the Capitol for lunch Tuesday, they were greeted by an unexpected surprise — a parade of puppies and dog enthusiasts circling the building for Michigan Puppy Mill Awareness Day.
Linda Reider, the director of animal welfare for Michigan Humane Society, said puppy mills strike a chord in the hearts of many pet owners.
“It’s important to show (legislators) just how big of an issue this is,” she said.. “A lot of people have pets in the United States, so this resonates with a lot of people.”
The event, which lasted from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Capitol, helped raise awareness of puppy mills, a form of mass breeding where dogs are raised under inhumane conditions. The issue gained significance this April when about 350 small dogs were confiscated in Allegan County after being found stacked in wire cages.
“I love dogs,” said Crystal Yarlott, who made the trip from Traverse City, Mich., with her two Norwich terriers, Dutch and Reese, to lend her support. “When I found out about puppy mills and the way in which they’re treated, I was shocked. You have to help.”
Guests were encouraged to bring their dogs who had survived milling conditions. The day included guest speakers, including state Reps. Vicki Barnett and Joan Bauer, who publicly urged Lansing to pass the Pet Lemon Law and Puppy Protection Act.
The pieces of legislation work to eliminate puppy mills and safeguard pet owners who purchase such puppies.
“We need to put the laws in place to limit Michigan from becoming the black hole for breeders to come to,” Reider said.
Pam Sordyl, founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan, said although mills currently are not a major problem in Michigan, passing the proposed legislation is a necessary step.
“Legislation will deter shops from starting in Michigan,” said Sordyl, who hosted the first Puppy Mill Awareness Day in 2008. “What we’re trying to do is give the tools to animal control.”
She also stressed what people can learn from their four-legged friends.
“I haven’t always been as good to dogs as I should, so I know that people can learn,” Yarlott said. “They don’t have a voice, so we have to be the voice for them and let them teach us to love the unlovable.”