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March 04, 2013

Past Due to Deal with Puppy Mills Selling Over Internet

I’ve published a number of moving rescue stories on this blog, including last week’s account of our North Carolina puppy mill rescue of 58 dogs, who were in terrible shape. But I want to leaven the images of suffering dogs by featuring a few dogs on the mend and in a much better place. Take the case of Isabelle, a black Labrador we rescued from a Vermont puppy mill a few years ago, along with 60 of her friends. The older nursing mom was skin and bones, yet she was patiently nursing 11 small puppies. The “post-rescue” photo of a robust and smiling Isabelle, that her adopter sent us just months after her rescue, shows that her poor condition had been due not to her age, but to neglect. It shows how our work can be life-changing.

Isabellebeforeafter
Kathleen Summers/The HSUS and Pamela Krausz
Before and after photo of Isabelle from when she was
rescued and then just months after being adopted.

These incidents of animal cruelty recur because of a gap in the law. Isabelle’s breeder, and the breeder raided last week in North Carolina, were selling puppies via Internet and newspaper classified ads. Since the breeders weren’t selling puppies to middlemen or pet stores, they were able to take advantage of a “retail sales” loophole in the federal Animal Welfare Act, evading the basic oversight required in the regulations.

Last week, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. and David Vitter, R-La., along with Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Bill Young, R-Fla., and Lois Capps, D-Calif., reintroduced the PUPS Act, S. 395 and H.R. 847, to close that loophole, requiring direct sellers of 50 or more puppies to be federally licensed and inspected for basic humane standards of care. The PUPS Act would also require that licensed facilities let dogs out of their cages for at least an hour a day – a bare minimum requirement if dogs are to be healthy and happy.

We’ve been keeping track of puppy mills licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, watching their numbers decline almost 40 percent since 2007. While some of that decline can be attributed to operators who were shut down due to stronger enforcement, we fear that many others are simply dropping their federal licenses in order to convert to online sales and avoid regulation altogether. The PUPS Act will keep bad breeders from slipping under the radar – and help thousands of mother dogs like Isabelle.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has an administrative rule pending to close this loophole and bring these sellers under the authority of the USDA. We need them to finalize that rule now – it got tremendous public support, with nearly 350,000 signatures and comments, and has been under consideration for plenty of time. We must deliver oversight and bring these dogs relief. It cannot happen soon enough. Please urge congress to pass the PUPS Act, and close this loophole once and for all.

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