March 6, 2009
Leg Work For Leg-islation
by Julie Hauserman
After spending the day helping to move 300 traumatized dogs out of a filthy puppy mill in Wayne County, N.C., Humane Society of the United States state director Amanda Arrington stepped outside the busy temporary shelter and made a call.
She first dialed State Senator Don Davis and left a message asking him to come down and witness the cruelty happening in his district. He needed to see it, she insisted, to believe it.
Then Arrington called State Representative Efton Sager, whose district includes Wayne County, and left the same message.
Both lawmakers came out that very evening. And the calls Arrington made from the scene on February 5th may turn out to be one key to improving the lives of thousands of dogs still suffering in North Carolina’s mass breeding operations known as puppy mills.
Sen. Davis is now introducing a bill in the North Carolina Legislature that will require anyone in the state who has more than 15 adult breeding dogs to be licensed, inspected, and held to humane standards.
“We talked and walked around for an hour or two,” Arrington said. “He met the individual dogs. He was amazed at what he saw—the condition the dogs were in and the magnitude of the problem.
“That night, he committed and said: ‘I want to work on this problem.’”
Davis also was able to see the tremendous dedication of rescuers from The HSUS, Wayne County Animal Control, and the United Animal Nations group.
The 20 rescuers were tending to emaciated dogs with untreated lacerations, severely matted fur and serious skin and eye infections. The dogs had been living in unheated cages inside unventilated barns and outhouses.
Arrington believes the first-hand look that Davis got of each dog’s plight made a huge difference. The dogs—mainly Lhasa Apsos, Shih-Tzus and Chihuahuas—were suffering from serious medical ailments and housed in filthy conditions.
It was obvious that many of these animals had never known life outside their wire cages.
A week later at the already scheduled Humane Lobby Day in Raleigh, 200 animal advocates gathered with Arrington to push for humane legislation at the statehouse.
Arrington asked Davis to speak to the group, and he agreed. He got a standing ovation when he promised to sponsor a bill to clamp down on puppy mills. Afterward, a television reporter who was covering Humane Lobby Day asked Davis what he thought about North Carolina’s puppy mills.
“Whether you are an animal lover or not,” Davis told the reporter, “at some point I believe this begins to be a reflection of who we are as a people in society.”
Lives on the Mend
The nearly 300 dogs rescued in the Wayne County puppy mill bust are now adjusting to new, kinder lives.
So are another 50 dogs rescued on Feb. 27 from a filthy breeding operation in Lenoir County. In that case, the property owner had voluntarily shut down his facility and relinquished the animals in light of what happened in Wayne County.
The animals were taken to various partner shelters where they would receive additional veterinary care and socialization before being evaluated and adopted into a home of their own.
These operations stemmed from months of careful investigative work. The fact that they happened when the state legislature was in session and animal advocates were trying to pass a law to clamp down on puppy mills helped shine a bright light on hidden cruelty.
“It is very easy to ignore or be in denial on animal cruelty issues when you are just hearing verbally what’s going on,” Arrington said. “When Senator Davis saw it with his own eyes, it made all the difference.”
What You Can Do
You can help stop puppy mills. Click here to learn more»