With one month to go before public comment closes on a federal rule that would curb some of the worst practices at puppy mills, some prominent voices are making the case for why the U.S. government needs to finalize this proposal and go even further to protect dogs from problem breeders who exploit and mistreat the animals in their care.

In a Washington Examiner op-ed today, Lara Trump, an adviser to President Trump, U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast, both Florida Republicans, and former Florida Attorney-General Pam Bondi, urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to finalize the rule with its “commonsense measures” that would prevent dog dealers and other licensees with terrible animal care violations from obtaining new licenses. The proposal would also require commercial breeders and other facilities regulated by the USDA to obtain annual hands-on veterinary examinations and life-saving vaccinations for dogs, and provide them with a continual source of fresh water.

The rule is a good first step, but, as the authors argue, it does not go far enough to ensure a decent quality of life for dogs in federally licensed commercial breeding operations. The USDA’s rules still allow commercial breeders to keep hundreds of dogs in small, stacked wire cages for their entire lives. “Dogs in commercial breeding operations deserve a decent quality of life, not just a clean bowl of water and an annual vet exam. They also deserve room to run, fresh air, and spacious, comfortable housing,” the op-ed states.

Recently, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called for reform on another puppy-mill-related issue of major concern to us here at the Humane Society of the United States: the USDA sliding back on its job of going after some of the worst Animal Welfare Act violators.

In his letter to the USDA sent last week, Sen. Durbin cites a case in Georgia where a breeder was arrested after he had amassed more than 700 dogs and had been keeping them in filthy and uninhabitable conditions. The USDA had failed to require the breeder to get a license, even though he was openly selling online and had been identified in the HSUS’s Horrible Hundred report on problem puppy mills. The USDA, the Senator wrote, “must ensure breeders… are adhering to animal welfare rules and are being regularly inspected. I ask USDA to review the use of its resources and focus more attention on large, problematic dealers.”

As we have been reporting, over the past year, the USDA has also backpedaled on issuing citations to puppy mills, zoos and other licensed facilities that are mistreating animals. In fact, our own research has found that certain dog dealers cited for very severe animal welfare violations on their state inspection reports, including violations for filthy conditions, injured animals and emaciated dogs, somehow managed to receive a clean report from the USDA during the same month that state inspectors documented severe violations.

It is clear that we cannot allow this state of affairs to continue. Comments on the USDA rule close May 21, and we need your help. Please tell the USDA you support the improvements, but that they will mean nothing without strong enforcement and better standards. You can add your comment here (please personalize it) and we will deliver it to the USDA, along with the comments of other concerned citizens who want to wipe out the scourge of puppy mills for good.