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Court Upholds 2008 Pa. Law Cracking Down on Puppy Mills

Ruling Means Puppy Producers Must Meet Basic Humane Standards

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) are hailing a finding by United States District Court for the Middle District Court of Pennsylvania ruling that a 2008 Pennsylvania puppy mill law is constitutionally sound. The new law increases the standards of care required for dogs kept in commercial breeding facilities in the Commonwealth. The court excised only a small provision of the law that requires out of state breeders to pay a fee to sell their puppies in Pennsylvania. 

The ruling is viewed as a major victory for animal protection advocates and for Gov. Edward Rendell, who signed the legislation in October after a long campaign that generated national media attention. Act 119 of 2008 was enacted to address the deplorable conditions present in Pennsylvania's numerous commercial dog-breeding operations, including filthy stacked wire cages where breeding dogs spent their entire lives, total lack of exercise, and inadequate or no veterinary care.

A coalition of humane organizations filed a "friend of the court" brief in the lawsuit, brought by the Professional Dog Breeders Advisory Council ("PDBAC") who opposed Pennsylvania's Act 119. The coalition of proponents included The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, The Humane League of Lancaster County, Main Line Animal Rescue, Pennsylvania Legislative Animal Network, The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and New Jersey Consumers Against Pet Shop Abuse.

The PDBAC claimed that Act 119 infringed on its members' constitutional rights, and that commercial breeders should be immune from inspection of their facilities.  In its ruling, the court sided with the animal protection groups determining that the constitution unquestionably permits the state to regulate this industry for the benefit of the dogs, and to inspect the facilities to ensure they are in compliance with the minimum requirements of the law.

The Act addresses the typical problems found in mass commercial dog-producing operations including creating new standards for cage size, eliminating wire flooring, mandating unfettered access to the outdoors and requiring regular veterinary care. Puppy mill raids in the state last year — including one that was reputedly the largest in state history — had shown the critical need for stronger regulation of substandard kennels. Pennsylvania has been tarnished with the reputation of being one of the worst puppy mill states in the nation.

Statements from the organizations filing the brief:

"This is a tremendous victory for the thousands of dogs kept in deplorable conditions in Pennsylvania's puppy mills," said Sarah Speed, Pennsylvania state director for The Humane Society of the United States. "No dog should ever have to live her entire life in a filthy wire cage, without exercise, veterinary care, or even the most basic elements of humane care."

"The puppy millers' ultimate goal is to make a profit at the detriment of their 'product' — the purebred or designer mixed-breed dog," said Cori A. Menkin, senior director of legislative initiatives for the ASPCA. "The dogs are bred over and over again, and are quickly discarded when they are no longer of use. The ASPCA applauds the decision by the District Court to protect the silent victims of Pennsylvania's commercial dog breeding industry." 

"This lawsuit brought by the Professional Dog Breeders Advisory Council to avoid complying with the new Dog Law is not a Constitutional argument, but a pathetic attempt to keep the status quo in commercial kennels," said Mary Jo McClain of the Pennsylvania Legislative Animal Network.

"We are pleased to be part of this coalition supporting the enforcement of Act 119, a long overdue step towards eliminating cruel and inhumane breeding practices in Pennsylvania," said Joan E. Brown, president of Humane League of Lancaster County.

"MLAR is committed to upholding Act 119 against any and all actions by the commercial dog breeders in their attempts to weaken our new laws and allow the dogs in Pennsylvania's commercial breeding kennels to continue to suffer," said Bill Smith of Main Line Animal Rescue.

"Since its inception in 2002, NJCAPSA has tracked Pennsylvania's breeders due to almost half of New Jersey's pet shops purchase their puppy inventory from Pennsylvania," explains Libby Williams of New Jersey Consumers Against Pet Shop Abuse. "Sick puppies bred in Pennsylvania puppy mills adversely affect consumers in the tri-state area and beyond."

"The PSPCA investigates and prosecutes animal cruelty across the Commonwealth," says Beth Anne Smith-White, PSPCA's acting CEO. "We have, and will continue to, stand behind Act 119 as a reasonable and effective means of preventing animal cruelty in the large-scale breeding operations that flourish in our state."

Copies of the ruling, the brief, and PDBAC's complaint, are available upon request.

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


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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.

Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is the first humane organization established in the Americas and serves as the nation's leading voice for animal welfare. One million supporters strong, the ASPCA's mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. As a 501 [c] [3] not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA is a national leader in the areas of anti-cruelty, community outreach and animal health services. The ASPCA, which is headquartered in New York City, offers a wide range of programs, including a mobile clinic outreach initiative, its own humane law enforcement team, and a groundbreaking veterinary forensics team and mobile animal CSI unit. For more information, please visit aspca.org.

Pennsylvania Legislative Animal Network plan4animals.com

The Humane League of Lancaster County humaneleague.co

Main Line Animal Rescue mainlinerescue.com

New Jersey Consumers Against Pet Shop Abuse njcapsa.org

PSPCA (Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) pspca.org 

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