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Indiana Taxpayers Pay for Puppy Mills

The Humane Society of the United States

Puppy mills not only affect innocent dogs, but innocent taxpayers as well. Last week, an Indiana puppy mill operator was charged with allegedly failing to collect and pay $193,000 in sales tax associated with the puppies she sold. The failure to remit sales taxes is a class D felony in Indiana. Assisting the Attorney General's Office, The Humane Society of the United States raided this same puppy mill in December, and many more of these puppy mill breeders are operating behind the state's back.

Puppy mills are mass dog breeding facilities that keep animals in cages or kennels, often in squalid conditions with no exercise, socialization or human interaction. Dogs from puppy mills are usually sold in pet stores, online and directly to consumers with little to no regard for the dog's health or genetic history.

Indiana has an estimated 84 USDA-licensed breeders, 29 class B dealers (middle men known as brokers) and an untold number of unlicensed direct sellers and mass breeding facilities. Many of these mass breeding facilities are unlicensed, underground operations that have been able to avoid paying sales taxes on the puppies they sell. 

"Without a state-level central registry, it's impossible to know whether or not the puppy mill breeders are paying sales taxes," said Anne Sterling, Indiana state director for The Humane Society of the United States. "If a small puppy mill breeder owed $193,000, imagine what the big mass breeders could owe."

Indiana could be losing millions of dollars in tax revenue each year, not to mention the current financial burden placed on taxpayers for the cost of caring for these unwanted puppy mill dogs that are placed in local taxpayer-funded shelters.

Animal shelters and rescue groups bear the brunt of the pet overpopulation crisis caused in part by puppy mills. Shelters often take in puppy mill dogs after they are confiscated by authorities or when they are discarded by the puppy mill operator when they can no longer turn a profit. Still more puppy mill dogs end up in shelters when they are surrendered by impulse buyers who can no longer care for them. These dogs can require extensive veterinary care and socialization and can create a tremendous financial burden on shelters. In addition, every dog purchased from a puppy mill takes a home that could otherwise have gone to a shelter dog.  

New state legislation (H.B. 1468), which recently passed the Indiana House by a bipartisan vote of 81-14 and now moves to the state Senate, addresses puppy mills. The bill would cap the number of breeding dogs in mass facilities and require humane care standards including provisions that dogs be allowed out of their cages daily and be kept in clean, well-ventilated facilities. The State Board of Animal Health will house an electronic registry of commercial breeders, which will provide a much-needed central registry. A "lemon law" will require sellers to provide refunds or reimbursement of vet bills to consumers who have purchased sick dogs or dogs with congenital problems.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture licenses and inspects wholesale dog breeders under the federal Animal Welfare Act. However, most puppy mills that sell directly to the public are not regulated at all in Indiana. The inspections that do take place seldom deter cruelty and abuse, due to lax enforcement of meager animal welfare standards and only occasional minor fines.  

To learn more about puppy mills, visit humanesociety.org/puppymills.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.