Over-population of companion animals is a huge problem, and puppy mills are the big bad boys contributing to this over-population dilemma. Puppy mills are not an issue due to just sheer numbers. Puppy mills’ focus on profit rather than health and welfare of the animals lead to abuse and neglect, unethical breeding practices, poor socialization, disease and health, behavior and genetic problems.
It’s difficult to say which way the political wind is blowing when it comes to puppy mills and commercial breeders. Over the last several years, many states have made major progress in passing puppy mill statutes – including in the puppy mill capital, Missouri, which passed Proposition B in 2010. Virginia passed its puppy mill law in 2008. Just last month, Texas became the next state to pass a puppy mill law.
Puppy mill statutes are designed to identify large scale breeders and impose reporting requirements, minimum standards of care, and other requirements. While it’s great news that more and more states are passing puppy mill laws, these laws tend to be fairly weak. For instance, Virginia’s puppy mill law doesn’t even kick in unless the breeder has 30 or more adult breeding females. And Virginia allows commercial dog breeders to have up to 50 breeding dogs at a time, or more if allowed by local ordinance and after a public hearing.
To make matters worse, states are backsliding on their puppy mill laws. Missouri has already started “tweaking” (i.e., decimating) Proposition B. The proposed changes would take away crucial parts of Proposition B, including:
- the requirement to have a veterinarian visit and examine each dog at least one time a year;
- explicit requirements to have continuous water and outdoor access;
- prohibitions against stacked cages; and
- limits on the number of intact dogs and breeding cycles
Just when things start looking miserable, other jurisdictions have come along to attack puppy mills on the demand side. South Lake Tahoe and West Hollywood in California and Lake Worth in Florida have outlawed the sale of dogs and cats in pet shops. San Francisco has long been planning to do the same. Not to be outdone, San Francisco proposed outlawing pet shops from selling not just cats and dogs, but all mammals and birds. But wait, the new version of San Francisco’s bill goes even further – to ban the sale of any kind of pet – mammal, bird, reptile, fish, you name it.
To really strike a blow against puppy mills and over-population, states and localities need to attack aggressively from the supply side and the demand side. I applaud San Francisco’s efforts. In a time when some seem to be weakening their laws designed to combat puppy mills from the supply side, it is refreshing to see San Francisco be so aggressive on the demand side. One way to make San Francisco’s proposed bill even better would be to include the internet in the definition of a “pet shop,” in order to eliminate the practice of online puppy scams.