Aren't There Laws That Regulate Puppy Mills?

Courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States

There is minimal supervision of puppy mills by the United States Department of Agriculture, whose investigators look for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Commercial breeders are supposed to be licensed and meet minimal standards of care. Certain states have similar laws. However, if a breeder operates without a license or fails to meet minimum standards, it is often not until he is reported that he gets inspected or cited. Penalties are substantially less than what would be required to encourage improvements. 

The best way to stop puppy mills is to refuse to buy from them. If we take away their profits, they have no reason to continue.

The Humane Society of the United States has a website on puppy mills and devotes an entire page to Stop Puppy Mills. Here are a few of the things the USDA has found at puppy mills that are still licensed: 

"The owner had told USDA that he performs surgical procedures…on animals. Owner has no analgesic or anesthetic agents and no sterilization apparatus present at the facility and is not licensed to practice veterinary medicine…"

"The temperatures…were 34 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit…No bedding was present to offset this temperature drop. There are two functional gas wall heaters present at this time but only the pilots were burning."

"There was a lab female with 7 puppies that was very thin. Her ribs were visible. There was no fresh food in the pen…and the dog was digging in the gravel trying to get to old food that had spilled and was wet."

"Currently, the owner's wife says that the kennel has not been cleaned in probably over a month."

"There are two enclosures, each containing four adults, which has bloody stool on the ground surface."

"The Record of Acquisition of Dogs & Cats on Hand lists approximately 169 breeding adults. The total number of adults accounted for during inspection is 447 adults and 116 puppies."

"Some animals are observed to not have sufficient space to lie in a comfortable position all at once."

If this makes you want to cry, keep reading.

Inadequate Inspections by the USDA

The USDA (United States Department of AGRICULTURE) is supposed to monitor and inspect puppy mills to ensure that they are not violating the standards of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), The AWA is a federal law that does not specify the standards for animal care and its minimal standards reads basically is as follows: 

* For indoor housing of dogs, regulations specify minimum and maximum temperatures, lighting, and ventilation.

* Dogs kept outdoors must be sheltered from the elements.

* Dogs must be offered food and clean water regularly. 

From an animal welfare perspective, the AWA does little to protect these dogs because the use and care of the them is not challenged. As long as they have adequate food, water and shelter and despite these requirements being woefully insufficient, the AWA allows these dogs to suffer and die in puppy mills.  

In the U.S., kennel inspections are a VERY low priority. There are more than 1,000 research facilities, more than 2,800 exhibitors, and 4,500 dealers that are supposed to be inspected each year. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there may be as many as 10,000 puppy mills (legal and illegal) operating in the United States

There are three USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) sector offices with a total of approximately 70 veterinary inspectors who are supposed to inspect, unannounced, the various types of facilities covered by the AWA. This means that 70 inspectors have to monitor thousands upon thousands of facilities nationwide. 

Puppy mills are rarely monitored by state governments and existing regulations vary from state to state. In Missouri, for instance, the state known for having the country's largest share of puppy mills, each of the approximately 3,000 puppy mills are supposed to be inspected once a year, but there are currently only 12 inspectors employed to handle this gigantic task. Last November, a bill known as Proposition B was passed by the voters that would limit the number of breeding dogs to 50 and make conditions considerably better for them. However, despite the fact that stricter laws are so severely needed, it is being challenged in the State Senate to halt its enforcement in November of 2011. Sadly, even if it comes to fruition, Missouri is planning on adding only 7 more inspectors to undertake what is already an enormously unmanageable task.