Facts About Puppy Mills: Problems & Solutions

Puppy Breeding Facilities: Get the Facts!

Breeding facilities that produce large numbers of purebred puppies are commonly referred to as “puppy mills.” Either the puppies are sold directly to members of the general public through advertisements in local newspapers or on the internet, or they are sold to brokers and pet shops located all over the country. The Humane Society of the United States has been concerned about puppy mills for a long time.

Overbreeding, inbreeding, minimal veterinary care, poor quality food and shelter, lack of socialization with humans, overcrowded cages, and the killing of unwanted animals are some of the problems that have been linked to puppy mills. There are also documented cases of puppy mills killing unwanted animals. When a consumer purchases a puppy from a breeder in this manner, they run the risk of the animal having a number of immediate veterinary problems or harboring genetically borne diseases that do not manifest for several years after the initial purchase. According to an estimate that was published in Time magazine in 1994, somewhere between 25 and 50 percent of all purebred dogs suffered from significant genetic disorders.

It’s a sad reality, but some dogs spend their entire lives imprisoned in facilities designated as “puppy mills.” They are only housed there for one purpose, which is to give birth to more puppies. After having their reproductive capacity artificially maintained through repeated breeding, many of these “brood bitches” are eventually put to death.

There are currently thousands of breeding operations operating in the United States, many of which continue to operate despite having committed multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is tasked with the responsibility of enforcing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Despite this responsibility, the USDA only employs 96 inspectors across the country to monitor not only the thousands of puppy mills but also zoos, circuses, laboratories, and animals that are transported via commercial airlines.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), along with other animal protection organizations, has successfully lobbied for increased funding for the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act. Even though each of the fifty states has anti-cruelty legislation that, in theory, should prevent the abuse and neglect of dogs in puppy mills, in practice, such laws are rarely enforced.

The Pet Store Link

The Humane Society of the United States has a strong aversion to the practice of mass-breeding establishments selling puppies and adult dogs to pet stores and other similar businesses. The “inventory” of these retail operations consists of dogs bred in puppy mills. According to research conducted by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), somewhere between 3,500 and 3,700 of the 11,500 to 12,000 pet stores in the United States sell canines and felines. The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council also estimates that pet stores sell between 300,000 and 400,000 puppies each and every year. The Humane Society of the United States has put the number at 500,000.

The only information that is included on purebred registration papers is a dog’s recorded ancestry. There is no way to verify or guarantee the veracity of the reported lineage. The American Kennel Club (AKC), which operates the most well-known registry for purebred dogs, makes it clear that it “is not itself involved in the sale of dogs and cannot, as a result, guarantee the health and quality of dogs in its registry.” “Buyer beware” is absolutely appropriate here.

The “Retail Pet Store” Exemption Problem

Regardless of the size of their businesses, the USDA has never mandated that animal dealers who sell their animals directly to consumers obtain licenses in order to conduct business. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), these businesses fall under the definition of “retail pet stores,” which are exempt from the minimum humane care and handling requirements of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). However, many people believe that a person who breeds animals on his own property and then sells those animals to customers directly does not qualify as a “retail pet store.”

Every year, consumers in the United States buy dogs from unregulated dealers who operate out of their own premises and sell animals. The fact that many of the animals are sold through advertisements in newspapers and on the internet means that the buyer is unable to verify the living conditions of the animals before making a purchase. Despite this, a number of investigations and reports have shown that the conditions in these facilities can be appalling. In the year 1985, Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in order to ensure, in part, that breeders provide a humane environment for the animals under their care. The requirements of the AWA are as follows: sufficient ventilation, adequate housing, sufficient food and water, reasonable handling, fundamental disease prevention, decent sanitation, and adequate housing.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was accused in a lawsuit that was filed on May 11, 2000, of failing to put an end to cruel and inhumane practices that were being carried out in breeding facilities. The lawsuit was filed by a coalition of animal protection organizations and individuals. The plaintiffs outlined the USDA’s illegal actions in exempting pet dealers who were not retail stores from compliance with the humane treatment standards that were mandated by the AWA. The USDA did this so that pet dealers could sell animals without having to comply with the humane treatment standards. The complaint also detailed how the USDA’s improper application of the AWA can result in the injury, illness, and death of an uncountable number of animals. This was described as a potential problem.

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on July 31, 2001, that the language and history of the AWA make it abundantly clear that a person who sells dogs and cats from his or her own premises is not a “retail pet store.” This decision was handed down by the court on July 31, 2001. Accordingly, the court reached the conclusion that the USDA’s exclusion of all commercial dealers who sell dogs and cats directly to members of the public constitutes a violation of the express intent of Congress in regard to the AWA.

The decision was reversed after an appeal was submitted by the USDA. The effort to protect all dogs in large-scale breeding facilities is dealt a significant setback as a result of this development. As a result of the appeal made by the USDA, the Animal Welfare Act does not provide any protection to dogs that are utilized in such breeding operations and whose puppies are sold directly to members of the general public. There has been a petition submitted to the Supreme Court by animal rights organizations requesting that this case be heard.

The HSUS’s Role

Since the early 1980s, the Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (HSUS) has been conducting a relentless campaign against puppy mills. This campaign includes monitoring the performance of the USDA in this area and advocating for improved AWA enforcement.

Within the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations pertaining to puppy mills, the United States General Accounting Office (GAO), which is the investigative arm of the United States Congress, discovered significant loopholes in the year 1984. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), despite making improvements to its inspection process, does not have the resources necessary to effectively enforce these regulations.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) initiated a nationwide boycott of puppies from the seven worst states for puppy mills in 1990. These states were Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. The HSUS was frustrated by the indifference of federal and state officials. The boycott received a lot of attention from the national media, including a lot of coverage in newspapers and a lot of coverage on television shows like 20/20, Good Morning, America, and The Today Show.

In the wake of the subsequent raids on puppy mills in Kansas, the state legislature passed a law making it a criminal offense to photograph a facility housing puppies for sale. This law was enacted in an effort to protect stubborn puppy mill owners by making the work of investigators more difficult.

Lemon Laws

As more people became aware of the horrors of puppy mills, some states passed legislation known as “lemon laws” to protect individuals who purchase puppies. As of August 2001, seventeen states had passed legislation or issued regulations that permit customers to receive refunds or the reimbursement of veterinary bills in the event that they purchase a sick puppy. These laws and regulations are designed to protect consumers. Although these laws place a limited onus on pet stores and puppy mills to sell healthy puppies and should, in theory, improve conditions at the breeding facilities, the Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (HSPCA) believes that they do not adequately protect the animals that are mistreated in these establishments.

Latest Developments and HSUS Action

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) continues to direct its anti-puppy-mill messaging toward individual consumers despite the unreliability of the regulatory environment and the unwillingness of legislatures to pass laws that directly combat the problem of mass breeders and their nationwide network of dealers. Demand from customers for puppies of a specific breed is the driving force behind the existence of puppy mills more so than any other factor.

Unhappily, the average lifespan of a dog is typically longer than the desire that a customer has to keep up with this “product.” Because of this, each year millions of dogs are taken to animal shelters, where approximately half of them will end up being put to death. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that one out of every four dogs that end up in animal shelters in the United States is purebred.

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