Puppy Store Demonstration
The Reno community came out to the tune of 75 people in April 2014 at the corner of Neil Rd and S. Virginia to support a ban on the sale of dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets in Reno, Sparks, Washoe County, Carson City and Douglas County.

Inspired by San Diego's puppy sales ban, activist Billy Howard founded Puppy Mill Free Reno on 7/11/2013. Howard immediately reached out to Dawn Armstrong who had just retired as Executive Director of South Lake Tahoe Humane Society. It was Dawn's unflagging determination and ingenuity to get the notorious Broc's Pups store closed in S. Lake Tahoe that sparked an international movement.

PMFR was sponsored by UNR's Graduate Student Assoc, Joe Crowley Student Union and the Behavior Outreach Program

Albuquerque passed a broad-based ban in 2006 to curb an animal overpopulation issue and a few municipalities in Florida passed "no dogs can be sold for any purpose" from 1952-2002. Ms. Armstrong spear-headed the first activist ban targeting a store. The language developed for South Lake Tahoe's ban is still in use in contemporary ordinances.

The community reacted strongly in favor of a ban with the largest puppy/kitten store demonstration at the time, in April 2014, with 75 people standing on the corner near the puppy store playing drums, blowing horns and chanting: "What do we want? Puppy Mill Free Reno! When do we want it? NOW!"

Chicago later had a demonstration with 125 people. But as that city's population is 10x that of the greater Reno area, we still hold the per-capita largest demonstration known.

Puppy Store Petition Booth
Puppy Mill Free Reno booth at Sparks Marina.

Mr. Howard initiated a local hard copy signature campaign with every animal rescue and shelter in Northern Nevada lending support. Howard asked if certain businesses would host the petition and many pet supply stores, restaurants, art supply stores, grooming businesses and local specialty shops asked if they could be a part of it. Volunteers for PMFR were invited to nearly every faire in the area with no charge for 1½ years, including Earth Day.

Puppy Store Demonstration
March on the Mall demonstration at McCarran & S. Virginia

Many supporters downloaded the blank sheets supporting a retail sales ban on dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets and got their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to pass the petition around and mail it back in.

By early 2015, Howard had amassed 20,000 hard copy signatures (not an online petition), nearly all from Nevada residents in favor of closing puppy and kitten stores.

In late 2013, Council Member Sharon Zadra, an animal lover, agreed to champion our cause and in Nov/Dec of that year got a 6th month moratorium on new licensing while charging staff to come up with an ordinance to end the sale of dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets in retail stores.

Puppy Store Petition Booth
Puppy Mill Free Reno petition at TMCC. One of 2 locations getting dozens of signatures every day

In early 2014, KOLO TV ran a series of exposés on a store in the mall, bought from the owner of Broc's pups who had been arrested on the same day the ordinance passed in South Lake Tahoe and taken out of the store in handcuffs. Franks spent 6 years in prison for trafficking drugs to minors out of the store. The current of owner of Puppies Plus was the manager of the mall store under new ownership, but left after 6 months to form his own business, the now disgraced Puppies Plus in Reno.

In December 2015, Sparks Council member Charlene Bybee declared to the Washoe County Commission, "Sparks welcomes the store with open arms." Certain that Reno was about to pass a ban on puppy stores, Mr. Schneider opened a new store in Sparks, Puppy Love.

Howard and a host of volunteers attended nearly every festival and fair in the 2014-2015 season including all the rescue and shelter organization fund-raising events and the major faires by invitation, including Paws on the Plaza and the NHS walk around the Marina, the NHS Duck Race and many other events, CRCS open house and a week-long festival created by Howard and hosted by the psychology department, Puppy Mill Awareness Week at UNR saw a petition booth where we got over 600 signatures in a day, a workshop on the puppy mill paradigm a talk on Creating Social Change: Using the Science of Human Behavior, a dog(gy) parade through campus with a Human/Dog bonding workshop by a local trainer concluding with a festival on the green with 8 local speakers addressing Activism & Advocacy: Compassion and the Flourishing Community.

Puppy Store Demonstration
Petition at Cafe Deluxe

Despite a strong will of the community and enough votes on the Reno City Council, Washoe County indicated it would enforce a strict interpretation of 2003's "Interlocal Agreement" § (c) which declares that Reno forthwith gives up writing any new ordinances concerning animals. Though PMFR continued to push for the ban under business licensing, Reno City staff hesitated and the ordinance never came to the Council despite PMFR attending each Council meeting during General Public Comment—with a parade of community members, business owners and non-profit executive directors—as well as the county brainstorming session mandated by the state where puppy store bans garnered overwhelming support (90%), though was often mischaracterized by then county staff as 50/50. We were told new regulations would give County AS more power over stores, but those regulations have only just now been put into place, in August 2019, 5 years later! We join with Mayor Schieve who implied in a statement from the dais on 9/23/19, too little, too late!

In early 2014, newly elected Council member Hillary Schieve lead code enforcement action against the pathetic and disgusting store in Midtown, also owned by the same person as the mall store, Pets R Us. It was then Mr. Howard impressed upon Ms's. Zadra and Schieve to pass the ban sweeping the country to get all stores closed once-and-for-all.

With the advent of more disturbing stories about puppy stores, which we knew would happen, and a change in leadership at Animal Services in Washoe County, the roadblocks to a strict interpretation of County governance has been diminished and the path paved for victory, finally after 6 years.

Billy Howard has also secured an agreement in early September 2019 from Senator Julia Ratti, a former champion for PMFR on the Sparks City Council, to propose a draft bill for a statewide end to puppy store sales in the next legislative session in 2021.

On July 29th, 2020, the Reno City Council voted unanimously to end the sale of dogs and cats in retail stores, citing they would be open to hear arguments on additional animals to be added to the list, including rabbits and ferrets, in a future ordinance update. The Council agreed to our request for the ban amortization period to be reduced from 6 months to effective immediately.

On August 12, 2020, the completed ordinance was read into law and our request that the law be referred to as Grady's Law, in honor of the mayor's older sister who died within hours of the first reading, was agreed to by the Council and Mayor. A very moving and tearful time for so many who have asked for this ordinance for 7 years, nearly to the day.

Grady's Law

The ordinance took effect and was enforceable upon publication in the RGJ classifieds on 8/14/2020.

Meetings with Sparks City Council Members have ensued. We are answering all their questions and engaging professionals for support. It will come down to whether members are more interested in supporting someone making a profit over ending animal suffering. In the meantime, we have endorsed candidates running in opposition who have pledged to bring an ordinance to the Council if the first three months if elected.

PMFR activists (closest table: Julie Langman Muhilly and George Feriend (Photo: Billy Howard)) are joined by executive directors of NHS and SPCA and state animal rights lobbyists at the Washoe County workshop on Animal Code, 8/2014.
PMFR's first petition booth. NHS put us at the very front of an open house event, 2/2014.
PMFR petition booth hosted by SPCA at their event Paws on the Plaza, 7/2014
PMFR petition booth hosted by Natural Paws at their event Hike For Hounds, 6/2014
PMFR's petition at Java Jungle got more than 1000 signatures over 6 months.
PMFR petition at Pawsitively Pets. Brittney Fortin gathered hundreds of signatures and spoke to the Council as Manager of a successful pet supply store.
Organizers said they were proud to host us at Earth Day Reno, 4/2014
All the dog training and day care centers hosted our petition, including Charley's Place. (Signatures blurred for privacy.)
PMFR petition at the Melting Pot for 6 months.
TMCC hosted our petitions in two locations including the Textbook Brokers who got tons of sigs.
Puppy Mill Awareness Week broke the record for a one day take: 512 signatures. The advent of texting: "Get over here and sign this!"
PAW|UNR events and sponsorship poster
Billy personally attended almost all booths from sun up to sundown posting many a time, "Another Sunburn for the Pups!"
Change to Humane
Activists testify in open comment at Washoe County Commission, 12/2015.

PMFR was there to tell the Commission: the vast majority of the public does not want more regulations over the store, through which loopholes they can continue to slip, we want the end of the sales of dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets in retail stores. Period.

75 people turned out against puppy stores in Reno in April 2014

Meet The Team - Puppy Mill Free Reno/Sparks Volunteer Staff

Marika Moore

Marika Moore

Lead Organizer: Public Actions, Social Media, PR
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Marika has her Master's degree in Political Science: International Relations from the University of Nevada, Reno. She grew up in Reno but has traveled around the world working for US Embassies and schools. She has made Reno her permanent home as a business owner, wife and mom.

Marika's focus in this cycle is public awareness and actions.

Her business site is Reno Notary and Moore Than Locks: Locksmith/Handyman


Brenda (Chappelow) Hill

Political Action - Sparks
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Brenda (Chappelow) Hill has worked with the City of Sparks as an activist on two projects involving traffic and safety. Brenda has made a complaint to the Washoe County DA concerning the illnesses of her store-bought dog, Patrick, that were so severe she had to give him up to a Vet Tech who can provide the therapy Patrick needs at least three times a week.

Brenda's focus in this cycle is political action in Sparks.


Rachel Story

Community Organizer
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Rachel Story joined the PMFR organizing team when she heard about the store owners' indictments. She has been attending and organizing protests since 8/2019.

Rachel's focus in this cycle is community organizing.

Billy Howard

Billy Howard

Founder/Political Action, Retired
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Billy is a graduate of the Reno Citizen's Institute and was appointed to the Neighborhood Advisory Board, Ward 2 South, by the Reno City Council where he was elected Chair. Billy is also certified By Washoe County in Open Meeting Law and the Washoe County Engaged Leadership Academy.

Billy's Awards

A near-lifelong vegan, Billy has been an activist for human and animal justice from a young age, following in the footsteps of his mother, 100 year old WWII Veteran Doris Howard, 2019 Reno Veterans Day Parade Grand Marshal.

Billy was honored by the Nevada Caregivers Coalition in 2019 and again in 2020 by the Sierra Nevada VA Medical Center's Caregiver Support Group as one of five exceptional caregivers for a Veteran with a total of 10 Congressional and Gubernatorial certificates of special commendation.

Billy holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University.

Billy led bicycling groups around the full perimeter of Lake Tahoe—77 miles and thousands of feet in elevation—to bring awareness to the Vegan 1 Day project for several years running.

Billy raised over $2000 for Farm Sanctuary by running in the 2013 LA Marathon—with only 15 weeks training—and created the unique Climbing For Kitties fundraiser that taught people how to use a climbing wall for three months, culminating in a competition that raised $4000 for a local cat rescue.

Billy brought a one-night showing of the climate change/vegan activism film Cowspiracy to Reno that sold out 3 weeks before the showing, a national record, and moderated a discussion panel afterward. County Commissioner Kitty Jung announced to the crowd that the Tesla manufacturing plant deal had been officially secured a day before the news broke.

Billy's indefatigable work for PMFR from 2013-2020 resulted in 20,000 local signatures for the ban across Northern Nevada, the support of over 70 local businesses, testifying at dozens of public meetings and workshops, organizing a dozen on-site protests—including the week-and-a-half long Puppy Mill Awareness Week at UNR [PAW-UNR],— brokered the deal that got the Meadowood Mall puppy store to close, shepherded the Reno City Council's ban on puppy stores in 2020 and got a letter from the Washoe County Regional Animal Services Advisory Board in a near-unanimous vote in early 2020 recommending all local jurisdictions pass a ban on puppy mill stores.

In all, PMFR has seen the closing of 3 puppy mill stores and a permanent ban in Reno.

Billy created the international ending puppy mills support mega-site, Puppy Mill Free.US in parallel with Puppy Mill Free Reno, including social media sites with over 6500 followers, ongoing since 2013.

Billy received the national Humane Society of the US Activists We Love award on Valentines Day, 2015, and was profiled as an "Activist Force of Nature" in the Reno News & Review.

Billy called for the Reno ban to be named Grady's Law in honor of Mayor Schieve's sister who passed away from breast cancer at a young age just hours after the unanimous first reading vote on the puppy mill store ban.

In early 2021, Billy retired from activism after a fourth melanoma removal in 2 years: to focus on care for his health, his centenarian mother who lives with him and his arthritic 13½ year old dog, Brooks, the PMFR inspiration and mascot.

Brooks Howard

Brooks, 2007 - 2022


Brooks was adopted by Billy and his Mom, Doris Howard, on 8/10/2008, as a 1 year old from the Nevada Humane Society.

Many people had told Billy that shelter dogs seemed to be the best dogs, they were so grateful to get out of jail and the misery of not being able to bond with an adult or family.

As this was the first canine family member in Billy and Doris' life, they didn't know, but soon had to concur that Mr. B. was just about the best dog ever. He very early on earned the moniker, the happiest dog in the world.

Brooks' kind nature, quick mind, patience with his humans and healing ways with all ages of humans and fellow canines alike, made for a very happy life of daily adventure and travel for Brooks.

On February 9th, 2022, the day before his 14½ birthday/anniversary day, Brooks succumbed to liver cancer, passing away in the arms of Billy and Doris. Doris, nearly 102 and an RN in the post-surgical ward of the USS Comfort, a hospital ship in convoy with 16 battles in the Pacific on D-Days and was injured when the Comfort was struck by a kamikaze in the Battle of Okinawa in WW2, said, "I have seen the moment of death many, many times. I have never seen it so peaceful."

Doris and Billy are so grateful to Dr. Bandolin (who had been Brooks' Veterinarian in 2008 and took the iconic photo of Brooks used in the Puppy Mill Free Reno/Sparks and Puppy Mill Free US logos), now of Forever Companion, for her and Vet Tech Crystal's compassionate presence when Brooks needed them most.

Doris and Billy are sad to see their long-time family member and dear friend pass. They are so grateful for the wonderful life of adventure Brooks got to lead, the many people and other dogs he touched the lives of, and his wise and healing nature. Their sadness now is mostly in the profound gratitude of having gotten to share their lives with such a remarkable and graceful being.

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