This week over at Be the Change for Animals, the featured cause revolves around the bill introduced in Congress by my own state’s Senator Dick Durbin and Louisiana’s Senator David Vitter – the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act (PUPS Act). I consider this a pivotal moment, when perhaps we could begin as a nation to address the atrocities enacted upon innocent dogs in the name of making a buck. State and local legislation of puppy mills has been inconsistent, heavily influenced by local interests, and has failed to curtail these monsters’ horrendous treatment of animals in their care.
What initially provoked Senator Durbin and Senator Vitter to write this bill was the report issued after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). I urge you to look at this report, to fully understand the motivations of the proposed bill. This scathing report detailed severe deficiencies in the performance of the very agency entrusted with ensuring the health and welfare of animals.
In addition to the department deciding to take administrative steps to correct these deficiencies and improve their performance, the senators felt there was a need for clarification of some requirements and designations, as well as national regulation over commercial breeding businesses that have found a loophole to avoid the very regulations meant to restrict what can only be considered their devious, unscrupulous and inhumane behaviors. This loophole is a glaring one. While a breeder might be subject to inspections and subsequent penalties should they not manage their business in proper ways, that same breeder is under no scrutiny or restrictions if they sell their “product” (puppies) over the internet. Thus, the senators sought to close this loophole through national legislation.
Why is national legislation necessary? Sales via the internet represent a multitude of locations, and are therefore governed by interstate regulation; states alone cannot legislate or regulate general online activity, as it falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government, Congress, per the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Sales of puppies over the internet have not been under the scrutiny of inspections or enforcement of regulations – large-scale breeding operations have been able to get around oversight and licensing by selling online. Given the current propensity unscrupulous breeders have for internet selling, legislation is needed in order to close this loophole. The PUPS Act was thus born.
An overview of the problems associated with regulating puppy mills shed light on a few issues that APHIS has been inefficient or unable to enforce, and led to additional specifications in the bill. These are meant to strengthen and clarify the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act. The bill was created to offer guidelines for managing safe, sanitary breeding enterprises, with humane treatment of the dogs.
- In summary:
In short, if this bill is passed, anyone selling 50 or more dogs which are offspring of breeding dogs they own or co-own would be required to be licensed, subject to inspection, and required to offer reasonable exercise in a clean environment. Puppy mills would fall into this category; they would be required to provide space for the dogs to get exercise, excluding their usual “tricks” of considering forced-movement or repetitive-motion tactics as “exercise”, and in a clean area. Puppy mills are infamous for allowing filthy, rodent and roach-infested surroundings for their dogs, and for not providing any opportunity for the dogs to stand on solid ground, let alone for running and playing free in a fenced or otherwise safely confined area.
|Photo Courtesy of Purr Photography
The reason for considering a high-volume breeder a dealer? Simple. With the current provisions of the Animal Welfare Act, retail pet stores are exempt from regulation, on the basis and assumption that stores are supplied by licensed and regulated breeders. Wholesale breeders selling to stores are required to be licensed and regulated. With breeders now utilizing the internet to sell instead, a gap has become clear whereby breeders are enabled to sell without being licensed or regulated. Large, commercial breeders with no regard to the health and welfare of the dogs they sell and a single-minded purpose of cashing in on those dogs, have taken advantage of this gap, circumventing legal licensing, regulation and inspection oversight, by selling directly online through attractive websites. These breeders of course being what we refer to as puppy mills.
So. Through enactment of this bill, breeders of 50 or more dogs per year would be required to be licensed, obligated to abide by the stipulated AWA regulations, and subject to inspection – regardless of whether they sell their dogs to stores, via the internet or classified ads, or in person. Through the inclusion of all heavy-volume breeders, APHIS will have the authority and means to regulate these breeders, and thus enforce humane treatment of the dogs being bred and sold. With this authority, APHIS will have the ability to perform the functions the department is intended to do. Dogs will have a better chance of being protected by law. Puppy mills will not have the internet to hide in.
Sounds good, no? Then one might have to ask, why is there such a loud, angry backlash on this proposed bill? There are breeders who have not had to be licensed in the past, but will now fall into the category of required licensing. These breeders are mostly responsible, respectable, humane dog enthusiasts, and this bill would place them under scrutiny they have not had to deal with in the past. Understandably, some are worried that they will be restricted in what they believe to be the best way to breed and raise their dogs. Any threat of governmental oversight and regulations can cause that. Some simply do not understand how the bill would translate to their breeding business, and fear the unknown.
Then there are the breeders who have followed their own set of rules, perhaps contrary to what experts and professionals advise, and now feel they will no longer have free rein in how they handle their dogs. This group is suspect; although some may just have novel ideas, many of these are haphazard, playing-around-with-breeding-to-bring-in-some-cash, “backyard breeders”. Do we want them to be licensed and regulated? You betcha. A lot of damage can happen to dogs with this type of breeder, it’s not only the puppy mills that wreak havoc on their dogs for the sake of profit.
Lastly, there are those who, knowingly or unwittingly, follow the piped-out messages promulgated by the infamous organization, HumaneWatch.org. Although it purports to represent the interests of animals, and animal rescues and shelters, it is in fact a political front for corporations and businesses that consider animal welfare issues as impediments to their profit-making potential. Quite craftily created, it pits animal-lovers against themselves, driving a divide between groups of people all working for the betterment of animals. This is a proven political tactic; divide and conquer. To understand the source and true intent of this organizational facade, please listen to Rachel Maddow as she explains:
You can read more information at HumaneWatch.info.
Whenever someone starts spouting about the HSUS, PETA, ASPCA, and throwing “facts” around about how these groups extort money for personal gain, you can pretty much be assured the person has at least fallen unwittingly under the influence of HumaneWatch. Not to mention, there are those who are working for the organization, paid to continue the spread of lies and deceit. Whenever an issue arises that involves animal welfare, particularly when it may impact how much someone or some business can profit, you can bet on these HumaneWatch spouters to appear. Their arguments have absolutely very little-to-nothing to do with the specifications of this bill, but they reared their ugly heads in the comment section of Be the Change for Animals. The crazy, rambling arguments against this bill don’t even make sense.
That’s okay. Because at the end of the day, what matters is doing what’s right. And I trust that our country will not cave to these special-interests, not to mention the preferences of the sick people who run puppy mills. And Senator Durbin’s bill is a sound one, one that will help eliminate much of the suffering way too many dogs now endure at the hands of evil people. Dogs are man’s best friend, and finally man is stepping up to behave like one.
Please join us in the fight against puppy mills; go to Close Internet Loopholes for Puppy Mill Sales and lend your voice to your representatives in Congress on behalf of the voiceless dogs.
Post to Facebook, Twitter, emails:
Stop puppy mills from hiding behind the internet! http://www.aspca.org/fight-cruelty/advocacy-center #BTC4A
And spread the word, about the horrors of puppy mills, the sales of puppy mill dogs in pet stores like Petland, and the need for federal oversight on large dog breeding operations’ sales via the internet. Above all, don’t buy a puppy online, from a pet store or classified ad. Educate yourself and those you know.
Dogs are depending on you.