COLUMN:New California laws set the standard for eliminating puppy mills


A 10-week-old husky sits in a playpen while another 10-week-old husky drinks from a water bowl. The state of California started 2019 by passing a law that requires pet stores to sell only rescue dogs and bans them from selling dogs that come from breeding operations.  Mallory Smith Buy Photos

California started 2019 by implementing a new law requiring pet stores sell only dogs from shelters or rescue groups. The legislation, signed in 2017, seeks to address the inhumane conditions dogs endure at puppy mills.

Under this new law you can still get your fancy Portuguese water dog or purebred King Charles spaniel, but only directly from a breeder. Looking for a mutt or a formerly neglected pitbull? Look no further than your local pet store.

This law should set the standard for dog welfare in the United States. Indiana should follow suit to protect our dog counterparts. According to a 2017 news article by IDS, Indiana consistently ranked as one of the worst states in terms of the number of puppy mills.

Indiana does not require puppy mill inspections and requires only the minimum standard for cage space, exercise and veterinary care. The state has no rules regulating the stacking of cages or humane euthanasia methods. Indiana either requires the minimum standard or no standard at all for breeding operations

The larger issue, in my opinion, is that because the federal government has "extremely minimal standards" regarding things like cage size and sanitary conditions, state governments are forced to take dog welfare upon themselves.

The Animal Welfare Act, passed in 1966, does not limit the number of dogs a breeding operation can own house, has no exercise requirements — meaning dogs can theoretically be caged for their entire life — and has no requirements for sanitary conditions, among other things.

Moreover, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has either failed to enforce or ignored recent Animal Welfare Act violations committed by mass dog-breeding operations, according to the Animal Welfare Institute.

The federal government should update the Animal Welfare Act to implement dog welfare reform and institute more stringent oversight on breeders and pet stores. 

That’s obviously wishful, if not unrealistic, thinking given the current administration's master plan of de-regulation. The Trump administration's U.S. Department of Agriculture has already rolled back rules improving the conditions of animals on factory farms.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture removed ten years' worth of reports that identified dog breeders in violation of AWA puppy mill laws — significantly hampering efforts by animal rights groups trying to identify negligent breeders. After backlash, the United States Department of Agriculture re-uploaded a small number of reports.

So it’s clear that for the near future there’s no chance of federal leadership in dog welfare or the elimination of puppy mills. That’s why California and several other states have had to take the task of puppy mill oversight upon themselves.

Opponents of the new California law say it limits the number of breeds pet stores have available for purchase, does not do enough to enforce federal requirements and ultimately hurts small pet stores.

If you want a Yorkshire Terrier, but don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on a dog from a breeder, look to rescue one. Don’t buy from a pet store selling dogs that aren’t rescued. 

Pet stores in Indiana should sell rescue dogs. There’s too many dogs without homes and too much money perpetuating inhumane mass-breeding at puppy mills.

Rescue your dog from a shelter or rescue group. I rescued my Chesapeake Bay Retriever using Petfinder. Go to a pet store that sells rescued dogs. Buy direct from a responsible breeder. At the very least, check here to see what the certification standards are for mass-breeding operations wherever you get your dog.

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