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July 10, 2009

Tennessee Governor Signs Bill to Combat Abuse in Puppy Mills

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States applauds Gov. Phil Bredesen for signing legislation that requires basic humane care standards for dogs kept at 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) passed both chambers by the wide margins of 93 to 3 in the House and 26 to 2 in the Senate.

"We are grateful to Governor Bredesen, Deputy Governor John Morgan, our lawmakers, and bill sponsors Representative Janis Sontany and Senator Doug Jackson, for working to protect our state's pets," said Leighann McCollum, The HSUS' Tennessee state director. "The anti-cruelty laws of a state are a reflection of our basic values and attitudes toward animals, and this bill to crack down on puppy mills is a measurable step forward for the state of Tennessee."

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, establish inspections as a prerequisite for licensure and implement humane care standards for dogs and cats. The bill also calls for commercial breeding operations to comply with state sales tax requirements, and it holds mass dog producers 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 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 puppy mill 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.

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