As I mentioned in Part 1, the Animal Welfare Act, passed in 1966, gives minimum protections to dogs in breeding kennels. This protection may not be enough. The basis is that any kennel with 3 or more breeding females that sells to stores or brokers be licensed and inspected by the USDA. This law still has a huge loophole because it does not cover breeders who sell over the internet or to the general public through newspapers or online advertising only.
The good news is that there is federal legislation pending, called the PUPS act: Puppy Uniform Protection & Safety Statute. This is bi-partisan legislation aimed at bringing all commercial dog breeders under federal oversight. It would require all breeders who sell 50 or more dogs directly to the public to be licensed and inspected by the USDA. It would also require that dogs be provided with an hour of exercise each day. The people’s voices helped this along; in May 2011 32,000 people signed a petition on the official White House website, urging the Obama administration to move this along. Now they need to be urged to finalize this rule. You may help by sending a letter to the President. You can do this by visiting this HSUS website link.
This is a start, but just a start! More needs to be done as the AWA only provides for survival standards for dogs. It only requires cages to be 6” wider on each side than the dog. At least the exercise provision would get the dogs out of these cages for a time, but it is still not enough.
However, there are things being done at the state level also. 17 states require licensing and inspection (I am happy to say that my home state of NH is one of them). The state of Michigan has the Puppy Protection Act pending – it would set guidelines for housing and sanitary conditions; as well as for exercise and veterinary care of dogs used for breeding. It would also limit the number of dogs that could be kept in these facilities. Ohio’s general assembly has been working on various bills over the last 6 years. They have more work to do to get something passed, but at least some effort is being made. You can see what your state is doing via this map.
On September 1st of this year the state of Texas passed a law requiring breeders with 11 or more animals to be inspected and then licensed (if they passed inspection). In early October in Denton County over 90 dogs were found on the side of the road. 50 Maltese and 40 King Charles Cavaliers were rounded up and brought to humane societies and rescues. These were all adult dogs and believed to have been dumped by one or more puppy mills who knew they would not pass these inspections. The dogs were filthy and matted, and obviously suffering from long term neglect. Some were injured, many had rotten teeth, and some even had tumors. These dogs had never felt the grass under their feet, and adoptions were questionable initially since it could not be known how much human interaction they had had. I don’t like to post graphic photos; not everyone wants to see dogs in bad condition, it can be heartbreaking. If you would like to see photos and read more about this, there is a great blog with photos by DFW Animal Rescue. The good news on this is that all of the Maltese that went to the Humane Society of Flower Mound are now in foster care. People were lining up in hopes of adopting the King Charles Cavaliers. Hundreds of people were calling the shelters to volunteer their help and fill out adoption forms.
Thanks to the new law passed by the state of Texas, at least these dogs are on their way to a better life. However, more still needs to be done to put these puppy mills out of business completely. Technically, according to the HSUS’ Puppy Mills Campaign, puppy mills are legal in all 50 states. They are regulated in some, but they are still legal. I already mentioned in Part 1 that the USDA may be short on inspectors compared to the number of facilities that need inspection. Let’s be happy for these baby steps being made, while never forgetting how much further we need to go.