The HSUS and partner groups are supporting a ballot initiative in Ohio to improve conditions for tens of thousands of dogs held in commercial breeding facilities in the state. A recent puppy mill rescue in the state highlighted, once again, the great need for such protections.
On January 3, the Wyandot County Sheriff’s Office pulled out 23 dogs, most of them beagles, including five puppies, from a mill in Kirby, Ohio. The rescue happened amidst freezing temperatures and a “bomb cyclone” that had blanketed Ohio and other parts of the country. It was already too late for one dog – a necropsy revealed he had starved to death because he had zero percent body fat and no food in his stomach.
The beagles were living in rabbit hutches with wire flooring, and the only thing protecting the dogs’ feet was frozen solid waste that was as thick as two inches in some spots. One lone pit bull on the premises was chained. The dogs’ water bowls were frozen.
It looked like many of the females were pregnant, but a complete health check determined that these animals were too malnourished to produce babies, and their tummies were swollen because of worms. All animals had scars and wounds on their faces, possibly from sparring over their limited food supply, and many suffered from kennel cough. One dog had a limp from a leg break that had never been treated by a vet.
It is difficult for those of us who love animals to imagine such cruelty, but unfortunately this is something that happens each day in thousands of facilities across the country that breed puppies indiscriminately for sale. And Ohio is one of the hotspots for such mistreatment. These dogs have now been moved to the Wyandot County Humane Society, which is taking care of them, returning them to good health, and adopting them out as they recover.
The need for a comprehensive law in Ohio is great, because it is second only to Missouri in the number of federally licensed commercial breeding facilities, and is a major importer of puppy mill dogs from other states for sale in retail stores. Twelve breeders from Ohio with egregious animal welfare violations were listed in The HSUS’s 2017 Horrible Hundred report concerning problem mills in the United States – more than any other state, except Missouri.
But the state’s current law falls way short of protecting animals and is severely in need of an upgrade. It includes standards of care that do not adequately protect dogs and uses a threshold that is difficult for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, charged with enforcing the law, to verify. This allows some breeders to completely escape oversight and regulations.
The amendment we are backing would ensure that breeding facilities like this one, that have more than eight breeding female dogs, be subject to greater oversight. The measure also includes other common-sense standards for breeding dogs. It would require basic, humane standards, like consistent access to water, access to nutritious food at least twice a day, protections from extreme temperatures, and regular veterinary care and socialization.
The dogs would also have unfettered daytime access to outdoor exercise areas and all enclosures would have solid flooring, would be cleaned at least once per day, and would not be stacked on top of each other.
Finally, the measure would exempt hobby breeders (those with fewer than eight breeding females), allowing the state to focus its resources on the larger and most problematic breeding operations. It would protect Ohio families who unknowingly support cruel puppy mills and end up with sick puppies, because commercial breeders, regardless of where they are located, would have to adhere to these humane standards when they sell dogs to Ohio consumers.
The Stop Puppy Mills Ohio campaign is a grassroots effort to improve conditions for tens of thousands of dogs trapped in puppy mills. An army of more than 3,000 volunteers has been working to collect 500,000 signatures to get the amendment on the November ballot this year. We also have nearly 370 endorsements for the campaign, with Ohio dog rescues and shelters, local businesses, veterinarians, public figures, and national animal welfare organizations all joining in to fight the scourge of puppy mills.
The dogs rescued from the puppy mill in Kirby now have a chance to regain their health and find forever homes where they will be loved and cherished for the rest of their lives. Many of the dogs have already been adopted. Our puppy mills policy coordinator, Meredith Blanchard, visited the dogs at the rescue in Ohio recently and reported that the dogs she met are looking healthier already, with some jumping up for attention.
But thousands of animals still suffering in puppy mills in Ohio need our help. If you live in Ohio, please sign up to gather signatures to put the Ohio Puppy Mill Prevention Amendment on the ballot this November. You can also follow the campaign on their Facebook page. Those who are not residents of Ohio but would like to contribute to the effort can still help by donating to this cause.