Starting today, commercial breeders in Ohio can no longer cram dogs into cages that are stacked on top of each other and deprive animals of basic necessities, like space to move, exercise and access to veterinary care. A pathbreaking new law that goes into effect today upgrades standards of care for dogs kept in breeding kennels that churn out large numbers of puppies, also called puppy mills.
Under the new law, each dog must be given daily exercise that allows the animal to extend to full stride, play and engage in other types of mentally stimulating and social behaviors, receive an annual veterinary exam, and be housed with other dogs in temperature-regulated kennels, among other reforms. The law also mandates that only healthy dogs can be bred, and limits the number of times a female dog can be bred. It requires retailers selling puppies in Ohio to acquire animals solely from breeders who meet these standards, regardless of what state they are in.
After 2021, the law will ban wire flooring and will require an increase in the size of the kennels.
Today is the culmination of years of work to improve the lives of dogs in Ohio and advocates all across the country have reason to celebrate. This is one of the strongest puppy mill laws on the books anywhere in the United States, and I want to commend our colleagues in the Humane Society of the United States puppy mills campaign, our Ohio State Director Corey Roscoe and the many volunteers in the state who worked long and hard for this outcome. We also thank Gov. John Kasich for signing this bill into law. This is a major victory for companion animals and their welfare, and we hope it will set the trend for more states to pass similar legislation to stop some of the most abusive practices in puppy mills.
As if we needed more evidence of the harm puppy mills cause to both animals and humans, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals what we have long suspected: that commercial dog breeders, transporters and pet stores are routinely giving puppies strong antibiotics to prevent disease, rather than to treat it. Using antibiotics widely and recklessly in this way renders them ineffective in fighting human and animal diseases and conditions by contributing to drug-resistant strains. Already, we know of one zoonotic disaster caused by such antibiotic use: the study revealed that a number of puppy-selling pet stores, including Petland, were linked to a disease outbreak caused by an antibiotic resistant strain of campylobacter, a disease-causing bacterium. The outbreak is known to have infected at least 118 people, with some ending up in the hospital.
Read next: USDA moves to permanently hide animal welfare records on puppy mills, walking horse shows and other regulated businesses
The CDC has called for the commercial dog breeding industry to be more judicious in its use of antibiotics, but those of us who fight this problem daily know that much more work is needed before these problems can be erased.
We also need to work to keep new, exploitative practices from taking hold. For instance, a practice called “pet leasing” has been growing in popularity and has come under the spotlight in recent years. Predatory marketers lease out pets to people for a period of time and then allow them to make a final balloon payment to keep these pets. There have been well-publicized cases of consumers who had no idea they were leasing their new four-legged family member and were terrified their pet would be taken away from them because they missed a payment.
California and Nevada have already passed laws against pet leasing, and this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had earlier committed to “create a stronger, more humane New York,” signed a law banning this practice in his state. Kudos to our New York staff and volunteers who pushed for the passage of this bill.
Our work to fight puppy mills is one of our most important priorities at the Humane Society of the United States. Our federal and state legislative teams, attorneys, puppy mills campaign staff, investigative team and our Animal Rescue Team attack this problem from every angle, whether it’s reaching consumers through education, working with pet supply stores, taking unscrupulous online puppy sellers to court, collaborating with responsible breeders and other stakeholders, helping pass state and federal laws, saving animals from terrible situations in puppy mills, conducting undercover investigations, and raising awareness about puppy mills through our annual Horrible Hundred report. Every victory we achieve takes us closer to the day we can end this scourge once and for all.
You can do your part too, by making the right choice when you acquire your next companion animal: from a shelter, a rescue group, or a responsible breeder, and not from an internet seller or a pet store or a puppy mill. America needs a fundamental change in how dogs are raised and sold here, and as the victory in Ohio shows, we can work together to make that change happen.
P.S. You can also help fight puppy mills by coming to our Puppy Mill Action Boot Camp in Malvern, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. The boot camp, which will run from Oct. 20-21, will help anti-puppy-mill advocates learn how to work with lawmakers, speak to the media, and organize grassroots efforts. It includes eight workshops, four meals, many dynamic expert speakers and even some fun surprises, all for only a $25 registration fee. Hotel discounts are available for those who register by Sept. 29, so sign up now.