HSVMA Members Push for Puppy Mill Regulations

April 8, 2009

With spring legislative sessions in full force across the country, HSVMA veterinary members have sprung into action to push for stronger state regulation of puppy mills.

There are more than 4,000 of these breeding operations nationwide and in most instances, dogs are living in substandard conditions with little or no veterinary care.

Dogs in stacked cages
Puppy mill dogs are kept in cramped cages and forced to breed continuously for profit.

Slipping Through the Cracks

Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture licenses and inspects some of these breeding operations, loopholes exist in the federal law and enforcement of these laws is often poor. Additionally, many states have little to no regulation of their own to provide backup protection for these animals.

However, veterinarians can play a powerful role in turning this trend around. Veterinary testimony is particularly valuable on the issue of puppy mill oversight, as veterinarians have the expertise to provide insight into the diseases that affect animals in these mass breeding operations. Many have even had the unfortunate experience of treating puppy mill dogs suffering from life-threatening illnesses, congenital disorders and temperament problems.

HSVMA Veterinarians Speak Out

A panel of three HSVMA members—Dr. Larry Peetz, an HSVMA Leadership Council member, and Drs. Kristin Sulis and Jeanette Ingrid Kessler—were on hand at a February hearing to testify in support of the Oregon bill, HB 2470, and Drs. Peetz and Sulis returned to speak at a rally in support of the bill in late March. This legislation would prohibit breeders from owning or possessing more than 25 reproductively intact dogs at a time. The bill also addresses housing and exercise requirements for the dogs and provides solutions for people who purchase a puppy mill dog with a disease or congenital defect. HB 2470 is now pending a vote.

Veterinarian examining puppy mill dog
Most dogs seized from a puppy mill require extensive veterinary attention.

In Washington State, HSVMA Leadership Council member Dr. Brad Evergreen testified in support of SB 5651 at a February hearing in the Senate, and Dr. Jennifer Kissinger testified at a subsequent hearing on the same legislation in the House of Representatives in March. The bill has passed through the Senate and is now pending a House vote.

In Texas, Dr. Lisa Daniel attended a March hearing on HB 3180, a bill that would require licensing and regulation of commercial dog and cat breeders in the state. The bill is pending a vote in the Texas Legislature.

Finally, Dr. Debra Teachout testified in support of two Illinois bills, HB 198/SB 53, that would limit to 20 the number of unaltered dogs over the age of one year that a breeder can maintain. The bill would also require annual veterinary examinations and establish stricter standards for housing and care. Both bills are pending a vote.

What Can You Do?

HSVMA veterinary members can volunteer their time and expertise to help move these critical reforms forward. Bills to regulate puppy mills have been introduced in 28 states this legislative session, and HSVMA is seeking veterinary volunteers to assist with these efforts.

We encourage you to find pending legislation in your state on this and other animal welfare issues. If you are interested in getting involved, please email Pam Runquist, HSVMA Director of Veterinary Advocacy, or call (530) 759-8106.

HSVMA also offers a presentation, which reviews the medical issues affecting puppy mill dogs and offers case studies of individual dogs rescued from puppy mills, as part of its speakers bureau at veterinary schools. If you are interested in hosting this talk at your veterinary school, please contact us.