Hi friends – Tuki here from my perch at the Potter League. I hope you’re enjoying this spring weather as much as I am! I was sitting in my favorite spot in the sun the other day when I heard some people who had come in to the Potter league ask whether our puppies came from a puppy mill. Being a bird, I wasn’t sure what they meant by puppy mill so I hopped over to listen.
A puppy mill typically means a commercial dog breeding facility where conditions are not optimal for the dogs. You may think, as I did, ‘Isn’t this illegal?’ In 1966 Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) which describes the minimum standards of care needed for animals bred for commercial resale. However, only large-scale breeders that breed or broker animals for resale (e.g. to pet stores or over the Internet) are required to be licensed and inspected. Breeders that sell directly to the public are not required to be licensed or adhere to the standards in the AWA. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for inspecting these facilities and enforcing the AWA. In addition, most states have additional laws and regulations for animal breeders. However, these laws vary in what they cover and whether or not they address the specific conditions such as food, water, and housing that must be maintained.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) are both working hard to improve the standard of care for dogs in commercial breeding facilities. The HSUS Puppy Mills Campaign has supported and facilitated the passage of legislation to improve the standards of care for dogs in 35 states. They have encouraged the finalization of a rule addressing the age and health of puppies from foreign breeders. Since 2006, they have also rescued more than 10,000 dogs from puppy mills and placed them in homes.
The ASPCA’s Barred from Love program supports legislation to address breeding conditions, promotes adoption of dogs from shelters and rescues, and provides expert legal help for prosecution of animal cruelty.
You may be thinking, ‘There must be responsible dog breeders out there. How can I tell the difference between a responsible breeder and a puppy mill?’ If you want to find a breeder who loves and cares for their dogs, there are a few tips from the ASPCA:
Visit the breeder. Go to the breeding facility and see it for yourself. A responsible breeder has nothing to hide. You should be able to see the puppies, where they live and meet the puppy’s mom (and dad, if possible).
Be willing to wait. A good breeder may have a waiting list for puppies. Caring for and finding the right homes for a litter of puppies is a lot of work and a mom dog should be able to rest between litters, so finding your furever friend may take some time and patience.
Trust your own judgement. When you visit a breeder, look at the living conditions and how the dgs are treated. Ask yourself, would you want your dog living here? If you don’t feel right about what you see, walk away.
You may also be asking yourself, ‘How can I help stop inhumane breeding conditions?’ The first step is to educate yourself. Learn about the federal laws – how they work and what needs to be changed. Also, learn about the laws in your state. Maybe we can talk about local laws in another column, after I do more research!
The HSUS also recommends things that you can do in your own community to help improve breeding and living conditions.
- Help make your local pet store puppy friendly – talk with your local pet stores about implementing puppy-friendly policies by refusing to sell puppies from puppy mills and supporting homeless pet adoption
- Be an advocate – educate others and work to pass local legislation that will improve the lives of dogs in puppy mills.
- Contact your legislators – let them know you’re concerned about the treatment of dogs in breeding facilities and ask them sponsor and support local and federal legislation to address breeding conditions.
- Write letters – to the editors of your local paper to educate others about puppy mills as well as in support of any pending legislation affecting animal welfare.
- Create displays and distribute flyers – create displays in your community (library, community center, etc.) to educate people about puppy mills. Both the ASPCA and HSUS have information that can be downloaded.
And the most importantly, in my humble bird opinion, is to support local rescues and shelters like the Potter League by adopting a homeless animal instead of purchasing from a pet store. Can’t have an animal friend? You can also support local organizations by volunteering or donating. Most shelters and rescue groups have a variety of volunteer activities – not all volunteering involves caring for animals if that’s not for you – and additional supplies are always needed to care for the animals.
Until next time,
Your friend, Tuki