In January, an inspector from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found a four-week-old shih tzu puppy lying dead — frozen solid — in the outdoor portion of an enclosure of a puppy mill in Stover, Missouri – the state with the notorious distinction of being the hub of the puppy mill industry. On the night the dog apparently succumbed, temperatures overnight had dropped as low as 2 degrees Fahrenheit and there were imprints from the wire flooring across the puppy’s body. The inspector noted there were no footprints in the snow to indicate someone might have checked on the outdoor portion of the enclosures that night. A dog not built for a frigid night in the depths of a Missouri winter became yet another casualty of an industry that treats adult females like breeding machines and puppies like a cash crop.
This is just one of the 101 horrific cases highlighted in our annual report, “101 Puppy Mills,” that we release today for the start of The HSUS’ eighth annual Puppy Mill Action Week—where we spotlight harsh truths about puppy mills and the abuses of dogs occurring on a widespread scale within the pet industry.
In this year’s report, Missouri dominates the list, with 22 Missouri dealers making the list of the 101 mills identified in the report. Kansas is second, followed by Nebraska, Arkansas and Iowa. At least three dealers in this report have supplied dogs to the Hunte Corporation, believed to be the largest national broker selling puppies to pet stores. You can read the full report here, but be forewarned that it’s chock-full of unpleasant details. That’s the consequence of the industry’s general callousness toward animals, along with its commitment to fighting meaningful government and industry humane standards at every turn.
Here at The HSUS, eliminating puppy mills is a job we take very seriously all year round: our legislative and regulatory staff works with lawmakers to regulate puppy mills, we conduct investigations and litigation, and we promote public awareness and education. Our Puppy Mill Campaign staff and Animal Rescue team assist local law enforcement to help shut down the most abusive puppy mills. In recent years, we have assisted in rescuing more than 10,000 dogs from approximately 60 puppy mills across the country, including the rescue of 180 animals recently from a mill in Jefferson County, Ark.
But we still have our work cut out for us. Although Prop B in Missouri has helped to shutter more than 600 mills in Missouri alone in the last three years, there are still thousands of mills operating across the United States.
In addition to state laws like Prop B, there are other fronts of action and signs of progress. Last year, the USDA finalized a rule to require dealers who sell large numbers of puppies online to be federally licensed and inspected. When fully implemented, the rule will potentially double the number of puppy mills nationwide that will be federally regulated. And, in a tremendously exciting development, nearly 50 local governments in the United States have recently restricted the retail sale of puppy mill dogs, with more added every month. This past week, the governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, worked with his allies in the state legislature to introduce a bill to forbid the sale of dogs and cats from pet stores and to make homeless animals available from shelters and rescues – the first state-level bill of its kind.
The HSUS' report from last year, “A Horrible Hundred” appeared to have an impact as well, with 15 of the named facilities having shut down or having dropped their licenses. We are seeing better reporting in the media on unethical dog breeding, like a recent segment on CNN’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, which focused on continuing obstructionist efforts by the American Kennel Club to improve dog breeding throughout the country.
We’ll ultimately succeed in eradicating puppy mills, but only when masses of people stop buying dogs from pet stores or over the Internet, and instead deal only with animal shelters, breed rescues or small, responsible breeders. We have a long way to go before no dog will die, unloved after spending a lifetime in a crate, because some irresponsible breeder did not care enough to feed or water her, or bring him inside in sub-zero temperatures. But step by step, we are gaining ground. The vast majority of citizens agree that these mills are unacceptable, and the task before us is to organize their voices and to have them speak collectively to drive the reform that is long overdue and that will stop the suffering of countless dogs who deserve much better than this.