A recent picture found on social media has pointed out a greater need for protection for our furry and feathered friends. Surely, you have seen or heard stories about “puppy mills.” If not, here’s what a puppy mill is: “A puppy mill is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs.” (Source: ASPCA )
The picture I’m referring to wasn’t the product of a puppy mill, but a similar operation for birds. The picture showed approximately 30 parakeets crammed into a cage about the size of a small microwave, and this cage was in a pet store. Put yourself in their situation for a moment…you and 29 other people are crammed into an 8-foot by 10-foot room with one drinking fountain and one plate of food.
Similar operations also exist for cats and other common pets. Another picture I saw recently showed a room in a house stacked with about 50 cages roughly the size of the parakeet cage mentioned earlier, each containing 3 to 6 kittens. The kittens in the top row of cages had it better than the rest as the cages didn’t have trays on the bottom or litter pans…the floor of the room was covered in feces and each row of kittens was progressively dirtier than the row above. And approximately 90% of the animals sold in pet stores are brought into the world in these conditions.
While researching for this, I could only find information about puppy mills, but I think that it’s a fair assumption that these facts are similar for other animal mills as well:
- Most puppy mills have no veterinary care, climate control, or protection for the animals from weather (hot, cold, rain, or snow).
- With limited or no regulations or enforcement, puppy mills have no cleanup control. This means that dogs can be living in urine and feces for indefinite periods of time.
- In most states, puppy mills are legal. It is important that future pet owners seek rescue dogs from their local shelter or buy pets from a trusted breeder in order to put mills out of business.
- Only 26 states in the U.S. have laws to regulate commercial kennels to prevent animal abuse and cruelty.
HOW CAN WE END THIS?
We can do this at the state level by urging our representatives/assemblymen to propose legislation allowing state Departments of Agriculture to oversee pet store and breeder operations, including yearly and random inspections of breeding facilities. The funding for this could come from the annual or biannual licensing of stores and breeders, and fees generated from fines for violations.
Find your state legislators here.
WHAT WOULD THIS NEW LAW DO?
Stores and breeders would be required to pay a fee for a license and allow an inspector to come see the facility. The inspector would have access to exercise areas, housing areas, feeding facilities, sales records, and for dogs and cats, veterinary/immunization records for all breeding animals and offspring older than 10 weeks. If the store/breeder passes the inspection, the department may issue a license. A store license would specify how many of what animals the store may sell, and specify the penalties for exceeding the licensed limits. A breeder’s license would set the number of breeding pairs and number of total offspring that can be kept on site, as well as how often they can be bred.
WHAT WOULD THE INSPECTORS BE REQUIRED TO DO?
Inspect all areas of the facilities that are used in the operation, ensure that breeders are staying within the limits of their license and are treating all animals humanely. Inspect veterinary/shot records for dogs and cats. Issue citations and issue/enforce cease-operation orders for violations or evidence of inhumane treatment or conditions. Inspect private kennel and shelter facilities.
WOULD THERE BE NEW CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR OPERATING WITHOUT A LICENSE?
You bet there would be. And they would be in addition to any animal cruelty charges brought in connection with the abuse/neglect/mistreatment of animals that typically occurs at these mills. Such penalties would be stiff… including jail time. Second and subsequent offenses would have even stiffer penalties. While the law typically considers pets to be property, we all know that they are living, breathing creatures, just as we are, and they have certain rights, just as we do.
HOW WILL THIS CHANGE THINGS FOR OUR FURRY/FEATHERED FRIENDS?
Fewer animals will be bred and sold in inhumane conditions. Fewer people would be taking fewer pets to the pound, resulting in less overcrowding and pets being euthanized. Pets could have longer, happier lives with their new families, as they will be exposed to fewer diseases and poor conditions in their first weeks of life. And perhaps, pet stores will be maintained in a better condition for pets and humans alike.
Let’s all get on board and take a few minutes to urge our respective state leaders to move on a bill that can accomplish this!