A bill introduced in the Senate yesterday would prohibit some of the cruelest practices in puppy mills that are licensed to sell to pet stores and online, like stacking cages of dogs on top of each other, using wire flooring in cages, and leaving dogs unprotected in extreme weather.

The Puppy Protection Act, S. 4757, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is a companion to H.R. 2442, which was introduced in the House last year and is now supported by 170 members. This is the first time that a bill strengthening baseline standards for U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed commercial dog dealers has been introduced in the Senate, and it signifies a huge leap forward in our ongoing work to protect dogs trapped in the misery of puppy mills.

It’s extremely important that this bill becomes law because existing federal regulations to protect dogs in puppy mills continue to be inadequate and are often not properly enforced. As we’ve reported so frequently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is tasked with ensuring that breeders who sell to middleman dealers, pet stores and online are following Animal Welfare Act regulations, has been particularly lax in issuing citations to violators. The agency did finalize a rule last year to tighten licensing requirements, among other dog care reforms, but those changes are not enough to address the conditions that now exist in puppy mills.

The Puppy Protection Act would build upon the USDA rule and require many more positive changes, including:

  • Prohibiting breeders from stacking cages or using wire flooring and instead requiring them to give dogs solid flooring and spacious living areas with room to run.
  • Prohibiting breeders from keeping dogs in freezing or blistering hot conditions.
  • Requiring breeders to have injured and sick dogs promptly examined by a veterinarian.
  • Setting specific limits on breeding age and frequency to allow mother dogs to rest between litters of puppies.
  • Requiring breeders to feed dogs at least twice per day.
  • Requiring breeders to attempt to rehome unwanted dogs instead of destroying them.

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund have been fighting for years to wipe out the scourge of puppy mills. We are working with state lawmakers to pass laws against puppy mills, including cutting off the puppy-mill-pet-store pipeline, and with the USDA to tighten enforcement against AWA violators. We step in to assist with rescues from puppy mills, offering our expertise, assistance and resources to local shelters overwhelmed with an influx of animals. And we raise awareness about the puppy mill problem through our investigations and our annual Horrible Hundred report which has led to many millers being convicted or closed.

We have long championed a federal law addressing some of the worst problems in puppy mills and we applaud Sen. Durbin for introducing this important bill. But as always, we will need your help in getting this job done. Please contact your U.S. Senators today. Ask them to cosponsor the Puppy Protection Act and make it law, ending the suffering of tens of thousands of animals now languishing in puppy mills.