Puppy mills, by definition, come up short on animal welfare, taking moral and practical shortcuts in order to churn out dogs for the pet trade – by confining animals indefinitely, breeding them every heat cycle, and denying them proper veterinary care. But the conditions our rescue team witnessed at a raid in Mississippi on Monday were nothing short of appalling. It was, in a word, a nightmare for the animals.
Chuck Cook/The HSUS
When our staff arrived on the scene with the Walthall County Sheriff’s Office, they found live dogs sharing cages with the bodies of dead ones. Surviving dogs suffered from terrible injuries, including one dog with a severed leg. Blankets of feces covered the bottoms of the cages, and scattered throughout the property were the skeletal remains of many dogs for whom help arrived too late.
We were able to pull 104 dogs out of that hellhole. They have been safely transported to the Humane Society of South Mississippi where they are being treated by a team of veterinarians and other animal care professionals. Those nursed back to health will be screened for adoption so they can enjoy new, better lives.
Over the past five years, we’ve partnered with law enforcement to help close down dozens of mills. Nearly all of them were selling puppies online. This sales strategy requires no federal license, and in Mississippi and other states with no rules governing mills, commercial breeders who sell puppies online are subject to no oversight whatsoever.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture only inspects dog breeders that sell to pet stores, but it is currently in the process of making final a rule change that would require large-scale breeding facilities that sell puppies online to be federally licensed and inspected as well. If the USDA could inspect all large-scale commercial breeders, regardless of their means of commerce, it would be in a position to prevent a house of horrors like the one we witnessed in Mississippi.
Additionally, 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 Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act, S. 395/ H.R. 847, which would require 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.
This Mississippi case reminds us of what’s at stake, and why it’s so critical that we adopt this policy.