Progress on Ag-Gag and Puppy Mill Fronts

By on August 5, 2015 with 3 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

With public opinion continuing to turn sharply against the safari hunting escapades of American trophy hunters and a cascade of major airlines announcing they won’t transport trophies from the African Big Five, there was other big news on other fronts – in particular, on factory farming and puppy mills. At the top of the list is a federal court ruling earlier this week striking down Idaho’s ag-gag law, which criminalized whistleblowers who record animal cruelty or other abuses in factory farms. It’s the first judicial ruling on the merits of a series of statutes manufactured by the agribusiness lobby to stop undercover investigators from exposing harsh and sometimes illegal practices toward animals. Credit goes to our friends at the Animal Legal Defense Fund who led the coalition that challenged and argued the case.

Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill put it well in dismissing Idaho’s defense of its ag-gag law. “The State’s logic is perverse,” he wrote, “in essence the State says that (1) powerful industries deserve more government protection than smaller industries, and (2) the more attention and criticism an industry draws, the more the government should protect that industry from negative publicity or other harms. Protecting the private interests of a powerful industry, which produces the public’s food supply, against public scrutiny is not a legitimate government interest.”

The HSUS has been at the heart of the battle to defeat ag-gag laws, which seek to stop the public from seeing the cruelty that goes on inside factory farms and puppy mills. We’ve been working in state legislatures to block these ag-gag measures, helping defeat two dozen ag-gag bills in the states in the last two years. But seven ag-gag laws remain on the books, and agribusiness is still pushing these measures in other states. This court’s powerful ruling should dramatically influence the trajectory of the ag-gag debate, as we continue to lead the effort to block additional measures from being enshrined in law.

HSUS has also helped secure a series of important, precedent-setting wins on upholding local anti-puppy mill ordinances. Last week, a federal court in Phoenix, in a case where The HSUS intervened in support of the city’s defense efforts, rejected a pet store’s challenge to that city’s ordinance banning the sale of commercially-bred dogs (the ordinance requires pet stores to only sell dogs from shelters and rescue groups). The Court held that the ban is constitutional and affirmed the city’s right to enact a local law restricting the sale of animals or animal products that are the product of animal abuse. This decision comes on the heels of three other similar rulings also upholding local ordinances that restrict retail sales of commercially bred dogs.

Animal Welfare Act regulations applying to dogs at large-scale dog breeding operations impose only extremely minimal standards of care. USDA inspection reports describe extreme suffering and serious animal welfare violations at licensed facilities, including unsafe and unsanitary living conditions and dogs in desperate need of veterinary care. The deficiency in the federal framework to protect dogs is one major reason why more than 70 local governments across the country now stop the selling of dogs from puppy mills.

Although we will continue to support increased standards of care for breeding facilities – and we’re pleased to work with the USDA to close a loophole that had allowed Internet sellers to bypass any federal inspections – the best way to stop puppy mill cruelty is to cut off the market for the puppies produced in these facilities.  We need only look to all of the licensed breeders on our Horrible Hundred list to demonstrate that institutionalized cruelty in puppy mills is alive and well.

Our public-policy specialists and our attorneys will continue to work with local governments to defend local retail standards, and to fight off ag-gag measures in state legislatures and in the courts. These are both critical arenas of activity for us, and these recent rulings demonstrate we’ve got the momentum.

Companion Animals, Humane Economy, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Pamela Beck says:

    Many blessings to all who work to make animals’ lives better. We are their only voice! So I am using my voice to post this repeatedly, until it somehow falls into the hands of someone who has the authority and the courage to help us put an end to puppy and kitten mills forever.


    We will euthanize thousands of pets today at our animal shelters and city Animal Care & Control facilities. We will euthanize thousands of pets tomorrow too, and most every day. Unless our lawmakers put an end to the mass production in puppy and kitten mills, this pet overpopulation crisis is doomed to increase. We will never be able to “rehome.” adopt, spay/neuter or even euthanize our way out of this crisis as long as these mills are churning out pets like they were food animals. This is costing our government millions of tax dollars, which are OUR TAX DOLLARS! And they are being spent to kill pets that the mills are producing. Some even sell the dead, sick and drugged (from euthanasia and illness) animals to “rendering plants” to make pet food, making our unsuspecting pets into cannibals. This is a vicious circle that never ends and has become a wasteful sinkhole of our tax revenues, leading many shelters to fail for lack of funding. This revenue could certainly be better spent elsewhere. The USDA has neglected to regulate this mill production, to the point that we are glutting our own tax system. Our government must know that this can not continue. We The People must demand that our lawmakers vote with us, and not with the Ag Industries, to STOP THIS INSANITY!
    I will never understand how the USDA has any business having pets under the same regulations, (or lack thereof), as poultry, slaughter hogs and beef cattle….WE DO NOT EAT DOGS AND CATS IN THIS COUNTRY! They are our pets and to some, our babies! Our government must stop allowing them to be mass produced like they were food animals! And the conditions that we accept as “USDA approved” for these animals to live in, consist of a lifetime of horrific neglect and deprivation! These pets don’t even get to go to slaughter when they are old enough and fattened up. They live their entire lives in a cage, often left out in all kinds of weather, with little or no veterinary care. The female’s’ life is spent carrying, nursing, or grieving her lost babies, until she is bred yet again. Then about twice a year, the male shares her cage until mating is complete. Then he is returned to languish in his own filthy cage until it is time to breed again.
    This only ends for them when they die, or become “no longer good for breeding”. Then they auction them off or kill them or just let them loose in the woods to starve or be killed by a wild animal, or eventually get picked up as a stray, which floods our shelters. What happens to the others is unknown. I don’t know what, if any regulations exist for their “disposal,” but dead animal carcasses have been found on the property of some of these mills.
    Unfortunately, the financial influence of the Agriculture business has managed to supersede the horrific conditions of the animals, the pet overpopulation crisis, even the glutting of our own system! IF YOU SHOP AT A PET STORE THAT SELLS PETS, YOU ARE SUPPORTING THIS HORRIFIC CRUELTY!
    Can you imagine if the beef producers were churning out millions of pounds of beef in a year, and we only ate a portion of it, and the rest had to be “disposed of” at great expense to the government? You can bet the USDA would be slapping some major restrictions on beef production. So why don’t they see that we are euthanizing millions of pets every year, and the puppy and kitten mills are “producing” a majority of them?



  2. Patricia Dee Hammons says:

    This animal abuse NEEDS TO STOP! That includes puppy mills. Any harsh conditions where animals are confined where their needs arent being met. They can’t control their lives but WE CAN! As a group we can help!

  3. Pamela Beck says:

    It seems to me that our lawmakers should be enacting a bill to require cameras to monitor every inch of every facility that is involved in the production of our food, instead of a law that seeks to hide the abuse and/or unsanitary conditions. So, if in fact, facilities are abiding by anti-cruelty laws and sanitary food production, there would be no need for humane people to want to photograph the abuse to expose it. Keeping animals in these horrific conditions is not the healthy practice of sanitary food production, so they have to feed them antibiotics to keep them from getting infections from these filthy conditions. Then the overuse of antibiotics results in the creation of “super bugs” that have become antibiotic resistant. If this continues, many will die in the name of “making it easier” on the farmers and CAFOs to disregard the clean practices of food production WE THE PEOPLE, HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW HOW OUR FOOD IS PRODUCED AND WHERE IT COMES FROM. Farmers do not have the right to hide the cruel, inhumane treatment of those we force to become our food. And our government does not have the right to disallow freedom of the press to expose the horrors of these CAFOs or farms. To make criminals of those who seek the truth, is an abomination of our constitution and the rights it guarantees to all of us.
    NO AG GAG!

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