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Tenn. Legislators Vote to Combat Abuse in Puppy Mills

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States applauds Tennessee legislators for passing legislation that requires basic humane care standards for dogs kept at abusive puppy mills, and requires that these mass dog producing facilities operate as legitimate businesses, subject to licensure and inspection. The Tennessee Commercial Breeder Act (H.B. 386/S.B.258) passed both chambers by wide margins of 93 to 3 in the House and 26 to 2 in the Senate.  

"We are grateful to our lawmakers, and especially bill sponsors Representative Janis Sontany and Senator Doug Jackson, for working to protect man's best friend," said Leighann McCollum, The HSUS' Tennessee state director. "Deputy Governor John Morgan was also instrumental in shepherding this bill through the legislature, and we eagerly and gratefully anticipate Governor Bredesen's signature on this common-sense measure to protect our state's dogs and consumers."

The Tennessee Commercial Breeder Act requires large scale commercial breeding operations with more than 20 unsterilized female dogs maintained for breeding purposes to acquire a license from the Department of Health; establishes inspections as a prerequisite for licensure; and requires humane care standards for dogs and cats. The bill also requires commercial breeding operations to comply with state sales tax requirements, and holds commercial breeders accountable to consumers by forcing adherence to the Consumer Protection Act.

Tennessee currently has no statewide law to regulate puppy mills. Last June, The HSUS was the lead animal welfare agency in the largest-ever puppy mill bust in Tennessee history. More than 700 animals were rescued from deplorable conditions and put up for adoption at humane organizations across the country.  The owner of the puppy mill, Patricia Adkisson, was charged with 24 counts of felony aggravated cruelty and nine counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.

The new legislation will crack down on the worst abuses at large-scale puppy mills, and will not affect responsible breeders who already raise dogs humanely.

 Puppy Mill Facts

  • Dogs at puppy mills typically receive little to no medical care, live in squalid conditions with no exercise, socialization or human interaction and are confined inside cramped wire cages for life.
  • Breeding dogs at puppy mills must endure constant breeding cycles and are typically confined for years on end, without ever becoming part of a family.
  • There is little regard for the breeding dog's health or any existing genetic conditions that may be passed on to the puppies.
  • Dogs from puppy mills are sold in pet stores, online and directly to consumers with little to no regard for the dog's health, genetic history or future welfare. Consumers should never buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site; instead visit an animal shelter or screen a breeder's facility in person.
  • Tennessee joins a growing list of states that are regulating puppy mills. Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Virginia passed laws in 2008, and Indiana, Oregon and Washington state have passed laws this year to crack down on abusive puppy mills.

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.