Pennsylvania is known for many things: The Liberty Bell. Kevin Bacon. Hershey’s chocolate. Punxsutawney Phil. “Rocky.” The Amish. Will Smith. Governor Ed Rendell.
But before 2008, when the Commonwealth’s [now former] Governor signed off on an overhaul of the laws around commercial breeding, Pennsylvania was also known as a breeding ground for puppy mills.
Puppy mills — or puppy farms, as they are sometimes called — is the term given to large-scale breeding operations where profit is given priority over the well being of the dogs. Unsanitary and inhumane, dogs are forced to live inside cramped wire cages, which are often stacked on top of each other, and are given little access to veterinary care, exercise or essential grooming.
Under Gov. Rendell’s leadership, the Commonwealth’s most notorious puppy mills were shut down. And many of the unscrupulous “breeders” closed voluntarily rather than comply with the new laws. And while some wished the new regulations passed were even more stringent, the new direction, set by Gov. Rendell, is recognized by most as a powerful step in the right direction. Remarkably, at the start of 2009, there were a reported 303 commercial kennels in Pennsylvania. By last summer, there were around 60.
Ed Rendell isn't the only one barking mad about the presence of puppy mills in this country. Tucker has seen the horrors from a first-paw perspective. Learn how he has become a vision of perseverance to his new forever family, thanks to Petplan.
While it may be surprising that “puppy farming” was ever able to get to such a crisis state in Pennsylvania, it’s much less surprising that Ed Rendell was the leader with the vision to see that large-scale reform was needed. As pet parent to two Golden Retrievers
, 10-year-old Ginger and 5-year-old Maggie (both adopted), Gov. Rendell understands the terrific power of a bond between people and pets.
As anyone who has ever shared their home with pets can attest, “antics” are part of the bargain, regardless of whether you’re far from the public eye, or constantly in the spotlight. And according to Gov. Rendell, “[My pets’] antics make me laugh, no matter how bad the day was!”
For instance, “In 1983,” he remembers, “I made a speech in Lebanon, Pa., and got a package of Lebanon bologna as a gift. When I came home, I took it out of the box. I intended to cut it up for a sandwich and left it on the kitchen counter. It was wrapped tightly in cellophane with two metal
fasteners on the end. I went upstairs to change, but fell asleep. When I went downstairs in the morning, I couldn’t find it anywhere. It wasn’t on the counter. It wasn’t in the fridge. I asked my wife about it; she knew nothing.”
“Later in the day,” he continued, “I was on the floor playing with Woofie, our first Golden. I got a whiff of her breath, and voila! She had eaten the whole thing — cellophane, fasteners and all!”
And while his pets’ (universally familiar) fun-loving nature and good-natured banditry never fails to make him laugh, he says his truly favorite part of sharing his home with pets is “the unconditional love [they] give me.”
It’s perhaps just this — his love for their love — that has led him to continue to elevate awareness around the transformative power of pets, even after leaving political office. Most recently, he has been working to help bring Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan’s acclaimed book Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him to the attention of the general public, and perhaps, by proxy, garner greater support — financial or otherwise — for organizations that seek to pair returning veterans with second-chance dogs.
As a veteran himself, Gov. Rendell said the book struck a particularly strong nerve for him. “[Captain Montalvan’s book] is an amazing story of how a great dog saved his life.” It also highlighted an issue that he, because of his passion, charisma and connections, can help bring into focus, perhaps more powerfully than most.
He concludes, “I don’t believe there is any limit to what a deep bond with a dog can do for a human being.” And neither do we. Neither do we.
What’s in your wallet? Photos of Gov. Rendell’s dogs go everywhere he goes.
Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him will be released in paperback on April 10, 2012. For more information, visit www.until-tuesday.com