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March 10, 2009

Tennessee Animal Advocates Urge Lawmakers to Combat Animal Fighting, Puppy Mills

The Humane Society of the United States

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — More than 140 citizens from across Tennessee will gather at the state Capitol today to meet with their lawmakers and urge them to pass legislation to stop puppy mills and to increase the penalties for spectators at animal fights. The citizen lobbyists will be participating in Humane Lobby Day, organized by The Humane Society of the United States.

"Having more than 140 people from all over Tennessee lobby in person on behalf of animals demonstrates the special bond that humans share with our fellow creatures," says Leighann McCollum, Tennessee state director for The Humane Society of the United States.

Puppy Mills

Puppy mills are commercial breeding facilities that mass-produce puppies for sale in pet stores, over the Internet and directly to the public. Puppy mills keep animals in cages or kennels, often in squalid conditions with no exercise, socialization or human interaction. The goal behind passing new legislation is to protect consumers from purchasing unhealthy companion animals by regulating commercial breeders.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture licenses and inspects wholesale dog breeders under the federal Animal Welfare Act. However, puppy mills that sell directly to the public are not regulated at all. The inspections that do take place seldom deter cruelty and abuse, due to lax enforcement of animal welfare standards and only minor fines as penalties, and dogs continue to be treated like a cash crop.

Animal Fighting Spectators

Spectators at animal fights are there primarily to bet on the outcomes. They are knowing participants who often pay admission fees to attend, making animal fights lucrative for the organizers.

Animal fighting spectator legislation to be discussed during Humane Lobby Day aims to increase the penalties for spectators at animal fight to Class A misdemeanor. While being a dogfighting spectator is currently a Class B misdemeanor, being a spectator at animal fights that do not include dogs is a Class C misdemeanor.

The Sumner County Sheriff's Office raided a cockfight on March 7 in which 48 were arrested. According to the sheriff's office, men, women and children — one as young as 8 months old — were in attendance.

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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.

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