Bill in Congress would require better veterinary care, other reforms for dogs in puppy mills

By on May 1, 2019 with 14 Comments

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

A quartet of bipartisan U.S. Representatives today introduced a bill that would strengthen baseline standards for commercial dog dealers regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Animal Welfare Act.

The Puppy Protection Act was introduced by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Charlie Crist, D-Fla., Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., and it builds on previous efforts by these lawmakers to crack down on puppy mills, like the WOOF Act introduced in February that would make it harder for USDA-licensed breeders and exhibitors with severe and multiple Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations to get new licenses.

The Puppy Protection Act is necessary because current AWA regulations are vague and inadequate when it comes to the animals’ veterinary care and even their most basic needs, like food, water and socialization. Under current regulations, federally licensed breeders can be compliant with the AWA even while keeping dogs in small, cramped wire cages without sufficient preventive care, exercise or socialization. This often leads to sick, behaviorally-challenged puppies and heartbreak for the families who bring them home and love them.

Among other improvements, the Puppy Protection Act would:

  • Require annual hands-on veterinary examinations, core vaccinations, prompt treatment of illness or injury and preventive medications. Such protections now tend to be especially inadequate for mother and father dogs and their offspring at large-scale breeding operations. Current standards simply call for breeders to employ an attending veterinarian and maintain vaguely defined “adequate veterinary care.”
  • Set specific limits on breeding age and frequency, requiring breeders to screen for inheritable diseases, and prohibiting a dog from being bred unless they are free from such conditions. There are no rules on breeding practices now, so breeders can breed dogs relentlessly starting at a young age, including dogs with crippling congenital conditions that can be passed on to the puppies, like degenerative myelopathy, a disease of the spinal cord. And when a mother dog is too old to breed, the bill would compel the breeder to seek humane placement, rather than selling or destroying her.
  • Improve housing conditions for the dogs, which can be miserable and overcrowded and can cause sanitation problems, stress and disease in the animals. Many puppy mills stack dogs in tiny cages on top of one another, with wire flooring underfoot. Dogs’ and puppies’ legs or feet can become trapped in the wires, causing injury or keeping the animals from being able to reach food and water. The bill seeks to expand cage and exercise spaces and would require at least 30 minutes of socialization for the dogs each day, which would improve the animals’ health and behavioral development.
  • Require food be provided at least twice per day and access to water be provided continuously. The bill would prevent breeders from housing dogs without protections in freezing or sweltering temperatures.

Our staff witnesses the horrors that puppy mills wreak on innocent animals every day, through the hands-on rescue work we do and through the work of our Puppy Mills Campaign, including our research for the annual Horrible Hundred report, which identifies problem puppy mills in the United States. We come across many shocking examples of how current federal standards are failing to protect the animals adequately. For instance, during a June 2018 inspection of an Indiana breeder, a USDA inspector, after coming upon an extremely thin female breeding dog, simply allowed the licensee to obtain veterinary guidance over the phone, which is allowed under current regulations, instead of requiring a hands-on examination. Not only did this place the mother dog and her puppies at risk of an inaccurate diagnosis, but the issue wasn’t cited in a manner to prompt a follow-up inspection. In the end, the welfare of the dog and her puppies was left entirely to the discretion of the breeder who had failed to take adequate care of them in the first place.

This simply cannot go on. We applaud Reps. Fitzpatrick, Crist, McGovern and Reschenthaler for introducing the Puppy Protection Act, and we need your help to ensure it passes into law. Please contact your U.S. Representative today and ask them to cosponsor this important bill. This is commonsense legislation, and it is not too much to ask that dogs should never have to endure the bleak horror of spending their entire lives inside stacked wire cages with no companionship, no protection from harsh weather, and without adequate food and water.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. michele Obrien says:

    This needs to pass. my little girl is a puppy mill survivor. she has needed surgery for luxated patellas which although a common problem in small dogs is often seen in puppy mill babies.

  2. Pamela says:

    Please pass this. Those dogs deserve a good life

  3. Janice Kiewiet says:

    You need to have better laws concerning puppy mills and breeders for better vet care and housing.

  4. Barbara Cade says:

    Let’s be humane!

  5. NotStupid says:

    Ban puppy mills altogether. Requiriing them to follow laws and guidelines are not enough. Their love of money is insatiable.

  6. Claire says:

    Puppy mills should be completely banned.

  7. lucia fabbo says:

    I have two rescue puppy mill studer dogs. I cannot tell you the evil that these devils do to these poor animals.
    Educate yourself and look at Oprah’s undercover video and that is all I have to say!

  8. Lance Brown says:

    This would be great but the article did not include the bills number. I looked it up & the number is H.R.4693. However, this appears to be an old bill introduced in 2017 so I’m not sure if this is a current bill or defeated or what.

  9. Cat Fortier says:

    Please make this happen. We are better than this. The practice is despicable and just pure cruel. They have no voice other than ours. Thank you.

  10. DM says:

    This blog states, “We come across many shocking examples of how current federal standards are failing to protect the animals adequately.” No!, you think!?

    The puppy mill issue is such a disturbing evil, from all sides: The inadequate laws; the constant clammier for stronger laws that go nowhere; the deaf ears of the profiteers who know they have no worries; the length of time such businesses have been allowed to exist; the worthless United States Department of Assholes (USDA); and the public, who continues to support the evil with their dollars.

    When it comes to animal mills, money is the root of the evil!! And, it is infuriating that psychopaths are allowed to run their own show of horrors while tax-supported watch dogs see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

    “In fact, if one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people.”–Ruth Harrison, Animal Machines

    Thank you HSUS, for your diligent efforts to make a difference for all the victims.

  11. Debbie Reynolds says:

    You can judge a nation by how they treat their animals. Our country needs to be a nation of compassion and protection over all animals. If you hurt or abuse an animal it should be a felony. We need to require all puupy mills to be regularly inspected to ensure high quality and compassionate breeders. We need to call our individual representatives and ask them to support “The Puppy Protection Act” and any and all legislation that would ensure compassionate care of animals.

  12. Stephanie Sekellic says:

    Not strong enough ! Dogs are not to be stacked in cages, as chickens are in factory farming.
    Close puppy Mills and focus on small individuals akc bog breeders. Put strong regulations on both the number and the frequency of breeding a pair . It’s should be rotated among five or less parent pairs.
    The term, Puppy Mill and what constitutes such a mill must be abolished, and shelters animals must be given longer periods of time to be adopted.
    If breeders are limited, shelter Pet’s chances of being adopted by families becomes unlimited.

  13. Sue S Deiter says:

    Forget the regulations. Just shut them all down–NOW! When there are so many dogs dying in shelters now, there is no need for more puppies being born. Promote adoption, not new births.

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