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This paper explores the existence and legislation of puppy mills in the United States at both the state and federal levels. The extent of the problem is discussed, along with a brief history of the Animal Welfare Act and animal advocacy efforts in effect today. Causes and consequences of the commercial dog breeding industry are presented and examined, leading up to a proposed solution to regulating the commercial dog breeding industry. The author reveals ways in which the proposed solution should be carried out.
Puppy Mills in America: The Need for Stricter Federal Laws The last time you saw a cute puppy in a pet store window did you happen to think about where exactly that puppy came from, what kind of life it had before, or where its mother is? According to the National Mill Dog Rescue, 99% of puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills, and almost every puppy sold in a pet store has a mother who will spend her entire life in a tiny cage, never being petted, never being walked, never being treated like a dog.
Based on those facts alone, it is not difficult to imagine the vast number of innocent, voiceless dogs forced to suffer their entire lives for the sole purpose of profit. The ASPCA states that A puppy mill is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation that places profit over the well-being of its dogs—who are often severely neglected—and acts without regard to responsible breeding practices. Regardless of the intense suffering of these dogs, puppy mills are operating all over the U. S. (ASPCA).
Despite any public attention to the issue and animal activists struggling to push for stricter regulation of commercial dog dealers, the federal agency in charge of the industry has failed to curtail the extensive abuse through the inadequate regulations that are currently in force. Causes and Background While one might hold the consumers who continue to shop at pet stores (for their pets and supplies) responsible for contributing to the puppy mill industry, scholars and animal welfare organizations tell us there are several other reasons why puppy mills are still in existence, churning out millions of puppies a year.
While customers who object to this treatment of puppies unknowingly allow the industry to thrive, it is most likely due to their lack of education on puppy mills, and although this issue does contribute to the existence of puppy mills, it is important to determine all possible causes that allow such extreme measures of animal cruelty to thrive. It all began back in 1966, when Congress passed the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act (P. L. 89-54) to prevent pets from being stolen for sale to research laboratories, and to regulate the humane care and handling of dogs, cats, and other laboratory animals.
The law was amended in 1970 (P. L. 91-579), changing the name to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA is administered by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Congress periodically has amended the act to strengthen enforcement, expand coverage to more animals and activities, or curtail practices viewed as cruel, among other things. (Cowan) The AWA also requires that certain commercial breeders be licensed and routinely inspected by the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA).
However, the standards are far from what most people would consider to be humane. They are merely survival standards for dogs (ASPCA). Due to these loopholes in the federal regulation laws, inadequate inspections are performed and kennel supervision is minimal, which allows the puppy mill brokers to continue maximizing profit without being properly monitored. Furthermore, the ASPCA explains the loophole in which only animal-breeding businesses considered “wholesale” operations—those that sell animals to brokers or pet stores for resale—are subject to oversight by the USDA.
The AWA does not apply to facilities that sell directly to the public, including the thousands that now do so via the Internet. Since no one regulates these facilities, there are no inspections, no standards that they are required to meet and no consequences for providing inadequate care. (Kenny, 2011) Additionally, due to the booming advancement of Internet retail, puppy mills have germinated all over the world to provide poorly bred puppies of every imaginable breed and “designer mixed breed” directly to the consumer.
As a result, the U. S. market began to see an increase in imported dogs in bad health and/or possibly carrying diseases that could harm people as well as other animals. Because foreign puppy mills are not subject to U. S. regulations—such as the standards set forth in the Animal Welfare Act—it is likely that many of these dogs are bred and raised in extremely inhumane conditions. (Kenny, 2011) Lastly, according to Henry Cohen, “The Animal Welfare Act”, large-scale dog breeders exist because there is a marketplace for these puppies.
The law of supply and demand has ultimately created this problem, and without an informed public, it will be extremely difficult to bring about the change these puppies deserve”. (Cohen, 2006) Consequences When a living, breathing, intuitive being’s habitat is covered in feces, disease, and despair, it is obviously unpleasant, and can be assumed that the outcome will not be a positive one. In 2011, a large-scale study was conducted by Best Friends Animal Society and the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School of Medicine, where more than 1,100 dogs that had been formerly used for breeding in puppy mills were studied.
Chi-square statistical analysis tests were used to compare categorical values between the following two samples: Canine commercial breeding establishment ex-breeding dogs (CBEs), and pet dogs. The findings revealed “health and behavioral concerns were reported at significantly higher rates among owners of former CBE breeding dogs than for matched controls, with 23. 5% of CBE ex-breeding dog owners reporting health problems, compared to 16. 6% of matched pet owners”.
Additional results concluded that “in general, CBE ex-breeding dogs exhibited more fear/nervousness, compulsive behaviors, house soiling when left alone, and sensitivity to touch compared to matched controls, and less aggression, excitability, energy, chasing small animals, and escaping/roaming. Most notably, CBE ex-breeding dogs showed markedly higher levels of fear”. Dr. Frank McMillan, who was the lead researcher of the study (2011) concluded the findings best by stating, “We always suspected the dogs in these facilities suffer emotionally because of the bnormal behaviors they show when they get out, but we can now scientifically confirm how truly destructive these places are for the dogs kept in them. ”
The dogs themselves are not the only ones who suffer. Clearly, the pet owners are faced with the potentially unpleasant predisposition when purchasing a dog from a pet store/commercial breeder. In addition to those unfortunate consequences, many individuals, cities, counties, and states end up with heavy financial burdens. According to Andrew N. Rowan PhD (2009), “Overpopulation of dogs and cats places stress on local governments and raises health and public safety concerns among the general population. The HSUS reports that in 1972 shelters across the United States expended approximately $800 million on caring for animals; in 2007 that number had escalated to approximately $2. 4 billion. ”
For example, as of January 1, 2012, California taxpayers alone spent over $352,444,598. 00 housing and euthanizing stray cats and dogs (“Pet overpopulation crisis,”) According to Kenny 2011: In addition to burdens placed on all communities by overpopulation problems caused by puppy mills, those communities that actually have puppy mills within their jurisdiction are enormously burdened when those puppy mills fail. For example, in 2007 Carroll County, Virginia declared a local disaster when a puppy mill was raided for suspected violations. County officials had to transport animals off the property, feed, house, clean, and socialize the animals, as well as arrange for medical care, foster homes, and permanent homes for the dogs that did not need to be euthanized.
Alexis C. Fox, Comment, Using Special Masters to Advance the Goals of Animal Protection Laws, 15 ANIMAL a. 87, 89–90 (2008). Overall, the USDA needs to finalize a rule to require all large-scale commercial puppy sellers to be uniformly licensed and inspected, including those that sell directly to consumers over the Internet. Additionally, the USDA needs to streamline its procedures for reporting problem operators to law enforcement and preventing operators from re-starting under a new name or license number. (Kenny, 2011) What is being done?
The constant overwhelming cruelty and abuse that is native to puppy mills has stimulated countless advocacy groups across the nation. Many of the local advocacy groups have even organized protests and petitions to reinforce stricter laws. Currently, there are some laws and ordinances in effect that vary at the state levels. According to Kenny 2011, The supply of puppy mill dogs may be regulated from two different directions: the puppy mills themselves, an approach which the federal government has not been effective in enforcing, or through the distributors, the pet stores that act as middle-men between the wholesalers and the public.
Local governments have the authority to issue care and handling standards and to directly regulate puppy mills. Congress expressly stated in the AWA that the federal authority granted to the Secretary of Agriculture to issue standards to manage the humane care and treatment of animals by dealers does not preempt state and local authorities from promulgating their own additional standards. As stated on the Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan’s website, current legislations in effect are the following: The Puppy Protection Act (SB 117-118) is legislation to protect dogs in large-scale breeding facilities.
This legislation would establish long-overdue guidelines for housing, sanitary conditions, enclosure space, exercise, and veterinary care of dogs used by large-scale breeders in Michigan. It would also place an upper limit on the number of intact breeding dogs that may be housed in breeding facilities, to prevent our state from becoming a haven for inhumane puppy mills. The Puppy Protection Act was launched by Michigan Humane Society and is supported by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association, and the Michigan Association of Animal Control Officers.
The Pet Lemon Law (SB 574) (also known as the Pet Warranty Law or the Pet Consumer Protection Act) will offer consumer protections for purchasers of dogs and cats. People who purchase sick or diseased animals from pet shops, breeders or dealers would have specific recourse, including the option to return the animal for a full refund or replacement, or recover some veterinary expenses. SB 285/286 Tougher Penalties for Pet Stores and Breeders
This bill would strengthen current animal cruelty laws to facilitate prosecution of animal crimes involving large numbers of animals. Defines “breeder” and “pet store”. Requested by Wayne County Prosecutor’s office. Introduced 3/21/13 by Senator Steven Bieda (D-Warren) HB 4535 “Logan’s Law” This bill would establish an Animal Abuse Registry requiring people convicted of animal abuse to submit their address, photograph, and social security number to local law enforcement and prescribes penalties.
As it currently stands, according to Kenny (2011), Federal regulation of puppy mills is ineffective in guaranteeing humane care of dogs bred by and born in puppy mills. Municipalities throughout the country may take action on this issue by enacting local ordinances that prohibit the sale of dogs in retail pet stores and limit the market for puppy mill dogs, thereby decreasing the ability of puppy mill dealers to sell their products.
Although these ordinances do not directly regulate or correct the conditions in which many dogs suffer in puppy mills, the ordinances provide a means for communities to express their views of the puppy mill trade and make sure that they are not participating and exacerbating the exploitation. These ordinances influence public perception of the issue and play a role in a paradigm shift towards society’s valuing humane breeding practices over profit made at the animal’s expense. Solving the problem
The following solution is one in which Kenny (2011) came up with, that we as compassionate, kind loving Americans need to stand behind: Over the next few years local municipalities across the country should look to the ordinances and advocacy groups as a means of safeguarding the morals, ethics, and finances of their communities. Whether or not the different types of ordinance can succeed in reducing the population of unwanted dogs remains to be seen; therefore, shelters in the cities that have passed these ordinances should focus on data collection, which will hopefully show a decrease in euthanization and an increase in adoption numbers.
Adequate reporting of the effects of these ordinances is crucial for several reasons. If the ordinances have a demonstrated beneficial impact, other municipalities are more likely to consider using them. Concrete evidence of the financial and public health benefits to local municipalities will make these ordinances attractive to those that are less interested in the ethical and moral issues associated with pet stores and puppy mills.
If municipalities can prove a correlation between a prohibition on the retail sales of dogs and increased adoption, decreased euthanization, and a reduction in the prevalence of stray dogs, it will strengthen the argument that this type of regulation is a legitimate exercise of police power through a reasonable and necessary means, and challenges to the validity of such ordinances will be a tougher sell to the courts, pushing towards stricter animal cruelty regulations at the federal level.
Additionally, the continuation of spreading the word revealing the truth about pet store puppies needs to be in full force. You wouldn’t stand for your child or loved one to be living among filth, death, and pain; so why would you stand for an innocent, voiceless animal to be living in such conditions?