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March 12, 2012

The HSUS Ranks State Puppy Mill Laws

The Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal protection organization, has ranked state laws protecting dogs at commercial dog breeding facilities and found that Virginia has the best anti-puppy mill laws, while six states fell at the bottom of the list. The HSUS reviewed laws regulating commercial dog breeding facilities and protecting consumers who purchase sick puppies to determine the best and worst state laws.

Virginia earned the top spot with the strongest protections for puppy mill dogs and for consumers who purchase dogs from pet stores. Pennsylvania, Oregon, New Hampshire and Washington round out the top five states. Earning the lowest scores are Mississippi, Kentucky, North Dakota, Idaho, South Dakota and Alabama.

“Several states have made great strides in recent years, protecting dogs and consumers from the abuse and cruelty that is prevalent among large-scale commercial breeding operations,” says Melanie Kahn, senior director of the Puppy Mills Campaign for The HSUS. “Too many states still allow these puppy factories to operate with minimal or no oversight, resulting in suffering for the dogs and families that purchase these often sick puppies.”

Virginia, Pennsylvania, Oregon, New Hampshire and Washington all made the top five because of their strong standards of care, regulation of both small and large commercial breeding facilities, and consumer protections. Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire all require unannounced inspections of commercial dog breeding facilities two times per year. Oregon, Washington and Virginia all prohibit anyone from owning more than 50 breeding dogs.

The laws in states earning the lowest ratings - Mississippi, Kentucky, North Dakota, Idaho and South Dakota - all lack oversight of commercial dog breeding operations, don’t require any basic standard of care, and do not provide any protection for consumers purchasing a dog from a pet store. In North Dakota, Idaho and South Dakota, animal cruelty is only a misdemeanor charge, not a felony crime as it is in 47 other states. Felony cruelty provisions in other states can help provide some protection for dogs at commercial dog breeding facilities if law enforcement agencies have the resources to investigate and enforce the anti-cruelty laws.

In 2011 HSUS experts and supporters helped to pass seven new state laws and regulations to crack down on puppy mills. Lawmakers in several states are considering passage of new laws protecting dogs and consumers in 2012.

In 2010 voters in Missouri approved Proposition B, also known as The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, only to have their state legislature controversially supersede Proposition B by enacting legislation that stopped short of providing dogs with all of the protections the voters intended them to receive. The new law was strong enough to earn Missouri a sixth place ranking – an improvement over the old law, but weaker than the second place ranking that Proposition B would have provided had the legislature not interfered.

The HSUS is working with lawmakers to strengthen laws in states that need improvement while simultaneously reaching out to state agencies across the country to provide guidance or on-site assistance for dogs removed from substandard facilities.

States were assigned points based on key elements either addressed or not addressed in their laws, including: mandatory licensure, criteria for coverage, frequency of inspections, caps on the number of dogs an operator can keep, the standards of care mandated for each dog, consumer protection provisions, and the severity of penalties for violations.

FACTS:

•    Seven states enacted laws to crack down on puppy mills in 2011; California, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. Hawaii legislators passed a resolution urging further study, and a new law is now pending.
•    Since 2008, 26 new laws have been enacted in 21 states.
•    The HSUS recommends never purchasing a puppy from a pet store or Internet site, or from any breeder you have not carefully screened in person.
•    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-floored cages for life. There is little regard for the dogs' health or any existing genetic conditions that may be passed on to the puppies.
•    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.
•    The HSUS estimates that 2 million to 4 million puppy mill puppies are sold each year in the United States.
•    The HSUS recommends never purchasing a puppy from a pet store because puppies sold in pet stores typically come from puppy mills, including facilities where sanitation problems and disease outbreaks are common.
•    The HSUS encourages consumers who are ready to add a puppy to their family to visit an animal shelter or breed rescue group, or purchase only from a responsible breeder they have screened in person. For more information please see humanesociety.org/puppy.

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Media Contact: Jordan Crump: 301-548-7793, jcrump@humanesociety.org

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