Cari Meyers is committed to putting an end to puppy mills. As the founder of The Puppy Mill Project she’s worked tirelessly to meet this goal. Most recently, TPMP convinced Collar and Leash, Chicago’s oldest pet store to stop working with puppy mills. Our Town spoke with Meyers about peaceful protest, the foundation’s youth outreach efforts and her future goals.
Our Town What inspired you to found The Puppy Mill Project?
Cari Meyers My inspiration for founding TPMP was learning about the mills and realizing no one in Illinois was even talking about them. None of the shelters or rescues were even concerning themselves with the core problem of overpopulation of dogs, it all starts with the mills. Also the fact that every state bordering ours was a puppy mill state and thousands of dogs were passing through, and being delivered here, every week. As I dug further I found about the magnitude of this animal cruelty problem and knew this was what I had to do.
OT What sort of assistance does TPMP provide?
CM We provide education to the uninformed consumer as well as to the schools and communities that are becoming more involved. We also direct people to shelters and rescues instead of stores and try to help them find the particular dog they want if there is one.
OT Most pet stores still use puppy mill puppies.Why?
CM Stores HAVE to use puppy mills for several reasons. First of all no responsible breeder would EVER sell to a pet store. Secondly the stores need a variety of dogs and too many dogs for a breeder to provide so they have to go to the mills.
OT Is this changing at all?
CM In so far as consumers are becoming educated and not buying as many dogs, so stores are closing. However, the pet stores will never change where they source their dogs no matter what they tell you.
OT You recently convinced Collar and Leash to stop working with puppy mills. How did that happen?
CM Collar and Leash was a store we protested on and off for several years. We received many complaints about them and so I made them my primary target in terms of transitioning to a humane model. We called the owners to set up a meeting and they said yes. A half hour after we met they agreed to go forward with this with our support. A big, bold move for them and we will do everything to make sure everyone knows about it and that they succeed.
OT TPMP can be seen protesting outside of pets store sin the Chicago area. Do you think peaceful protest has an effect?
CM I believe peaceful protesting has had a huge impact. About 78% of the population does not even now what a puppy mill is so this is a great way to tell them. We have made some huge changes by protesting and will continue to do so.
OT Talk a little about the youth outreach aspect of TPMP.
CM We firmly believe in the idea of "teach your children well.” That's where it all starts. We recently launched our "It's Not Cool To Be Cruel Campaign" to teach children about not only animal cruelty but any kind of cruelty. It covers a lot of ground. We have age appropriate presentations for pre school through college age students. We love going into the schools and answering all of the questions these kids have. It's a great honor for us.
OT Recently The Illinois Senate has approved a measure that would protect consumers who buy a dog or cat at a pet store and then find out that the animal is seriously ill. Why is this important?
CM I think the Lemon Law is certainly way past due across the country. I deal with consumers all the time who have purchased sick dogs and spent literally thousands of dollars to save them and they have no recourse. Sometimes they are so sick they cannot even be saved. Why should the store owner not be responsible for what he is selling as healthy? On the other hand it is hard for me because I don't think of animals as products or merchandise and do not believe they should be sold in stores or on the internet.
OT You have a benefit coming up on May 11th. What will that entail?
CM Our benefit is going to be amazing! Every year we have our big event to honor all of the mothers still in the mills so no one will ever forget them. This year we will be honoring the owners of Collar and Leash for becoming the first (and oldest ) pet store in Chicago to become humane. This is a very big step for them and also for the city of Chicago. It will be a celebration of the accomplishments of the last year, and there were many! We have a live band, great food and drink, and fantastic auction items. something for everyone.
OT What keeps you committed to the project?
CM I will always be committed to TPMP, it is a part of my soul. Having seen the dogs from a puppy mill rescue and having seen the condition of these dogs I will never stop fighting to close down the mills. The sheer magnitude of the cruelty that man has put these innocent dogs through for money, is truly beyond comprehension and I cannot let them down.
Resister for The Mothers in Mills Fundraiser here.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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