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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Federal Puppy Mill Bill Introduced!!

Legislation Seeks to Close Loophole in Animal Welfare Act that Allows Internet Breeders to Sell Puppies without Federal Oversight

WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund commend federal lawmakers for introducing bills that will crack down on abusive "puppy mills" in the United States — where breeding dogs are often stacked in wire cages for years to produce litter after litter. The legislation will close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act that currently allows large, commercial breeders who sell puppies online and directly to the public to escape licensing and regulation.

The legislation — known as the "Puppy Uniform Protection Statute" (PUPS), or "Baby's Bill" in honor of rescued puppy mill survivor Baby who is the subject of Jana Kohl's new book A Rare Breed of Love — was introduced in the House of Representatives yesterday as H.R. 6949 by Reps. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Terry Everett (R-Ala.). A companion bill, S. 3519, was also introduced in the Senate by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).

The bills also require that dogs used for breeding be removed from their cages for exercise every day. Female breeding dogs in puppy mills are typically forced to live their entire lives in small cages with no opportunity for exercise, no socialization, and little human interaction.

"Dogs are not livestock, and they shouldn't be treated like a cash crop," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Humane Society of the United States and president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. "We are grateful to federal lawmakers for introducing this legislation to curb the worst abuses in the puppy mill industry. It's a much-needed upgrade to our nation's laws that protect man's best friend from cruelty and harm."

Facilities that breed dogs for commercial resale through pet stores are required to be licensed and inspected under the federal Animal Welfare Act. But thanks to a gaping exception in the law, puppy mills that sell directly to the public are exempt from any federal oversight whatsoever. Unregulated Internet sellers and other direct sales facilities sell thousands of puppies a year to unsuspecting consumers. Due to improper care, their puppies are often sick, leaving outraged consumers with frail, sometimes dying puppies and high vet bills. Meanwhile, the breeding dogs at these facilities often spend their entire lives in constant confinement and deprivation.

"Sadly, finding your puppy online may well increase the chance that you'll be buying from a puppy mill," said Sen. Durbin. "Our bill simply requires that breeders obtain a license from the USDA if they raise more than 50 dogs in a 12-month period and sell directly to the public and sets forth reasonable standards of care for commercial breeders. Responsible dog breeders are not the target of this legislation, but hopefully it will put the puppy mills out of business."

"My work supporting puppy mill regulation goes back to my time in the California Assembly where I championed California's puppy mill law," Rep. Farr said. "I think it's very important that Congress take the time to address issues like animal welfare. These are the kinds of issues that really demonstrate who we are as a society."

"I'm proud to join with Congressman Farr and representatives of The Humane Society of the United States today as we continue our efforts to ensure that commercial dog breeders are appropriately regulated," added Rep. Gerlach. "Our bill, the PUPS Act, will close a loophole in current law that allows large breeding operations avoid any and all oversight. I am confident that this bill will not hinder the operation of reputable and responsible breeders. Instead, it is aimed at protecting dogs and making individuals who are motivated by profit over the fair and humane treatment of dogs accountable for their actions."

The legislation will close the loophole in the AWA that allows thousands of commercial breeders to go unregulated. It will require the following changes to the AWA:

* All dog breeders who sell more than 50 puppies per year directly to the public will be federally licensed and inspected; and
* Dogs at commercial breeding facilities must be given the opportunity to exercise for 60 minutes a day.
* The bill will not affect small breeders and hobby breeders who sell fewer than 50 dogs per year directly to the public, but is crafted to cover only the largest commercial breeding facilities.

Public concern about the inhumane conditions typical in puppy mills is at an all-time high, due to coverage on national television and several large-scale cruelty investigations and rescues from puppy mills this summer that The HSUS and local shelters spearheaded. Earlier this year, the Farm Bill passed by Congress included a new provision to ban the importation of puppies under six months old from puppy mills in China, Russia, Mexico and other foreign countries

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