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Animal welfare groups launch landmark ballot initiative to stop puppy mill cruelty in the Buckeye State

The Humane Society of the United States, along with a coalition of local and national animal welfare organizations and nearly 2,500 Ohio residents, yesterday filed a ballot initiative petition with the Ohio Attorney General to stop systemic suffering of dogs in puppy mills, defined as inhumane commercial breeding facilities that disregard the health and well-being of dogs.  Ohio is the second largest puppy mill state in the nation, trailing only Missouri in the number of federally-licensed commercial dog breeding operations.

If qualified and approved by Ohio voters in 2018, the measure will make commercial dog breeding more humane and end the era of treating puppy mill mothers like breeding machines and puppies like a cash crop. The initiative will:

  1. Upgrade the current commercial dog breeder law, requiring larger enclosures that have solid flooring and are not stacked
  2. Require that commercial breeders provide basic care, including constant access to exercise areas, nutritious food and potable water, socialization with humans and other dogs, regular and proper veterinary care, and more
  3. Require those selling 15 or more dogs in Ohio each year, regardless of where they are located, to also adhere to Ohio’s humane standards

Hobby breeders (defined as breeders with fewer than 8 female breeding dogs) as well as animal shelters and rescue groups are exempt from coverage. 

In addition to protecting dogs, the initiative will protect Ohio families by ensuring that commercial breeders properly care for puppies and their mothers, whether bred in or out of state. Pet stores, Internet sites, flea markets, and others selling dogs commercially to consumers in Ohio will be required to source dogs from breeders who meet the new humane standards of care.

After receiving a legally valid petition, with more than 1,000 signatures of registered voters, the Ohio Attorney General is charged with certifying the summary of the amendment and forwarding it to the Ohio Ballot Board. Then, the Stop Puppy Mills Ohio coalition will launch the main petition drive – seeking 400,000 signatures of registered voters required for qualification for the November 2018 ballot.

Campaign kick-off events will take place in cities across the state beginning the second week in October.

WHAT ANIMAL PROTECTION LEADERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE MEASURE:

“Dogs are our friends and family members. Locking them in cages, exposing them to extremes of heat and cold, denying them veterinary care, and even mutilating them for cosmetic purposes is a betrayal of our bond with these creatures,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.

"Dogs trust us humans and depend on us for care and companionship. Current animal husbandry practices in puppy mills violate this trust. Strict reforms and vigorous enforcement are the only ways to protect these precious beings," said Harold Dates, president and CEO of SPCA Cincinnati.

“Having worked in the animal protection field for more than 25 years, it’s hard to believe that in 2017, dogs in commercial breeding facilities are still being treated this way. It’s time we protect man’s best friend,” said Stephen Heaven, president and CEO of the Toledo Area Humane Society.

“Licking County Humane Society is compelled to support this vital campaign, having seen, first hand, the anguish of puppy mill dogs. Licking County and all Ohioans have been eagerly waiting for this humane action to occur. It is time to end the suffering of these innocent animals,” said Lori Carlson, M.P.A., executive director of Licking County Humane Society.

“Best Friends Animal Society is proud to support this lifesaving measure to help put an end to the cruelty of puppy mills,” said Gregory Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society. 

“Everyone suffers as puppy mill owners single-mindedly pursue profit over the well-being of the dogs. The people who purchase these dogs for exorbitant amounts of money are often brokenhearted to discover that their dogs are sick or have severe behavioral problems. The Fayette Humane Society strongly supports the campaign to stop puppy mills, and to end the suffering of these dogs and the people who care about them,” said Lee Schrader, DVM, executive director of Fayette Humane Society.

“The Friendship Animal Protective League supports this measure because we have first-hand experience caring for mother dogs discarded by the puppy mill industry after they could no longer produce litters. All dogs deserve better than a life a life in a small, stacked, wire cage,” said Greg Willey, executive director of the Elyria-based Friendship Animal Protective League.

 “Columbus Dog Connection is eager to continue the effort to improve conditions for dogs living in commercial kennels.  As one of the largest puppy producing states, we can and must do better. Ohio should be leading the country in care standards instead of being the black eye of an industry,” said Kellie DiFrischia, director of Columbus Dog Connection.    

“SAVE Ohio Pets strongly supports this necessary and long overdue campaign. Through our work, we experience first-hand the life long suffering and endless health issues experienced by puppy mill dogs and their offspring. Ohio has the opportunity to become a national leader by ending these inhumane practices and demanding humane and compassionate care for animals.” said Susan Geier, vice president and treasurer of SAVE Ohio Pets.

“As an Ohio veterinarian with 15 years in the animal welfare field, I can attest to the horrible physical conditions breeding animals are kept in, as well as the mental stress and lack of socialization that often cannot be overcome after a lifetime of living that way. Consumers often end up with a puppy with expensive or irreparable medical conditions as a result of poor breeding practices,” said Deb Johnson, DVM, of Waterville. 

For more information on the ballot initiative, visit stoppuppymillsohio.com 

Media contact: John Goodwin: 301-258-3121; jgoodwin@humanesociety.org