You can’t go one block in New York City without seeing at least three furry friends strolling along with their owners. Some of those cuties could be from a shelter upstate, some from a pet store on 5th Avenue, and some could be from an illegal pet mill.
There are two to four million dogs bred in puppy mills sold to consumers every year, according to the Humane Society. While there’s an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 USDA-licensed breeders in the U.S., this number does not consider the amount of illegal dog breeders, which the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA estimates to be in the tens of thousands across the country.
This growing trend of illegal and unsanitary breeding conditions is in proportion to the growing demand for purebred and designer dogs. City residents, in particular, want to have the perfect apartment dogs and will often turn a blind eye to where they came from.
Thankfully, more and more states are implementing legislation to tackle this problem. Senate Bill No. 437 in the West Virginia legislature, which states that commercial breeders must “[set] forth the requirements for maintaining adequate housing facilities and primary enclosures” and “[provide] for inspections by animal control officers or law-enforcement officers” took effect in July. Effective this week in San Diego, California, it is now illegal for pet shops and other retail businesses to display, sell or even give away live dogs, cats or rabbits unless the animals are obtained by an animal shelter.
Protections for our pooches began in 1966 when Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act, outlining the minimum standard of care for dogs, cats and other kinds of animals commonly sold as household pets. But the law itself does not extend to puppy mills that sell dogs directly to the public. It is more commonly used for larger scale companies because they are considered “wholesale operations.”
Only slightly more than 30 out of the 50 states have laws protecting these animals. Missouri, which is considered to have the most puppy mills of any state, tried enacting legislation to cater to the needs of the animals a few years ago and was instead overshadowed by the financial concerns of the dog breeders. Three provisions in particular were quickly eliminated from the legislation, including “restricting to 50 the number of female dogs a person can own for breeding purposes; limiting breeding to no more than twice every 18 months; and requiring that the cages be tall enough so all dogs can stand up straight.”
Therefore, it’s important to educate yourself about what your state is doing to eliminate animal cruelty and prevent the ill treatment of dogs in breeding centers. Here is a recent list of puppy mill laws by state. We should also take a lesson from San Diego and encourage more people to go to their local animal shelters to get their new four-legged family members.
It's good to be an animal lover, but it's even better to be a smart one.