Local SPCA president speaks at UB

Gary Willoughby talks about dangers, cruelty of puppy mills


Law school students discussed their concerns with puppy mills in O’Brian Hall on Monday.

The discussion, hosted by the law school’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, featured Gary Willoughby. Willoughby is the CEO and president of Erie County’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.” - could be one sentence - “The discussion, hosted by the law school’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, featured Gary Willoughby, CEO and president of Erie County’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Puppy mills are large breeding sites for dogs where thousands are conceived annually. There are over 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

As a result of mass breeding, puppy mill dogs can have a number of diseases and conditions such as heart disease, epilepsy and musculoskeletal disorders.

After explaining the effects of breeding at puppy mills, Willoughby showed a video from a puppy mill raid in Edgefield County, South Carolina. The mill had over 200 dogs in cages, according to AnimalSheltering.org.

Remains of deceased dogs were scattered on the grass of the mill’s property and caged dogs were rescued, some not able to walk and others covered in excrement.

Willoughby adopted a furless dog –– frightened by sights and sounds –– from the raid.

Willoughby, who has been president of the organization since 2016, said places like pet stores and Internet advertising sites can hide the origin of breeders, deflecting future pet owners from responsible breeders.

“I really encourage the public to do their homework, even if you adopt from a rescue. At ours, people walk in every day and you can see the facility to learn how the animals are treated,” Willoughby said. “If you’re dealing with a rescue group, ask questions too. Not everyone is going to adopt from a shelter, … but just doing your homework before you adopt is the best advice I can give someone.”

Willoughby said prospective owners should be skeptical about where they meet pet sellers and if the seller is being transparent about an animal’s origin.

New York State Senator Michael Gianaris introduced a bill in February that would require stores to get pets from licensed dealers, according to NBC New York. The bill calls for organizations to keep animals that aren’t adopted.

Similar legislation passed in California last fall, making the state the first in the U.S. to ban pet stores from selling puppy mill dogs. Willoughby said it’s hard to judge the impact of California’s legislation given its newness.

“We’re focused on other things right now, but I love the concept,” Willoughby said. “But we just want to make sure people are responsible and aware when they acquire a new pet.”

At the end of his address, Willoughby, along with Aaron Kandefer, SPCA’s director of animal cruelty and animal rescue, answered students’ questions about search warrants and how SCPA deals with offenders.

Breanna Reilly, a law student, is the president of the UB’s SALDF chapter. Since being chartered last year, Reilly said SALDF follows and offers their opinions on state legislation.

Reilly said her fund is opposed to puppy mills and would do anything to enforce their shutdown as well as regulation.

“I don’t think people know what it entails, so I think [Willoughby] speaking today will give people more of a perspective when they’re going to buy puppies at a pet store, or Craigslist,” Reilly said. “If you see something happening, there’s always the option of putting in a complaint and reporting the matter, even if you do it anonymously. People that turn a blind eye toward the issue are just as bad as the people with [puppy mills.]”

Derek Hafner, another law student, said he attended the address because he thinks the SPCA is out to make the world better.

“The things they do in the community are overlooked, so based on the speech today, I think that putting down puppy mills helps increase the number of no kill shelters and helps remove the need for euthanasia,” Hafner said.

SALDF will host a Vegan Outreach table on March 13 in the law school lobby.

Benjamin Blanchet is the senior features editor and can be reached at benjamin.blanchet@ubpsectrum.com and @BenjaminUBSpec on Twitter.


Benjamin Blanchet is a graduate student and student journalist based in Buffalo, New York. Aside from The Spectrum, Blanchet has appeared in Brooklyn’s ARTSY Magazine and New York’s RESPECT. Magazine.