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By Bernard Unti
For a dog, a puppy mill is like doing hard time in solitary confinement. It's a hard knock life.
No walks. No affection. No chance to relieve themselves outside of their cages, generally for years. They're fed and they're bred. And that's all.
The puppies will be sold to a pet store, sold directly or auctioned off. And their behavioral and physical health problems are part of the package.
That's why puppy mills are the focus of so much attention and ire on the part of animal protectionists. They are the root of a tremendous injustice committed against a beloved species, and they create an emotional and economic burden that affects the entire animal care and control community—as well as our nation's great network of animal rescue groups.
Changing the System
The elimination of that emotional and economic burden on our movement is the goal of The HSUS, which uses a wide array of resources to expose the puppy mill crisis in America. Public education, investigation, litigation, legislation, and emergency services are the tools in this arsenal.
Public education is the cornerstone of our effort. We work to inspire Americans to view the local animal shelter as the best source for an animal companion.
On any day, in any community throughout the country, there are wonderful dogs and cats, including many purebreds, waiting for a chance at a forever home. There's no need for anyone to patronize a pet store or a breeder. And adoption directly advances the work of local animal care and control organizations.
We investigate and expose the industry's dark underbelly.
In less than one year, The HSUS has conducted three undercover investigations into the puppy mill industry—focusing on puppy mill auctions, non-compliance by puppy mills with state and federal laws (with a focus on Virginia), and the role of pet stores in the puppy mill trade (with a focus on a major retail enterprise in Los Angeles).
In the Courts, Congress
Where we can and where we must, we litigate. Last summer, we filed suit against the Wizard of Claws, alleging that this Florida enterprise has defrauded customers by misrepresenting the origin of puppies and selling puppy mill dogs who suffer from severe health problems and genetic defects, in violation of Florida law.
We also promote legislation. Several years ago, we worked with the U.S. Senate on a bill that would have closed a gaping loophole that exempted large-scale breeders from regulation on the basic points of animal care at their facility.
While we'll continue to work to close that loophole, we're also working with House and Senate conferees on the Farm Bill to secure a measure that bans the import of dogs from foreign puppy mills. The country has enough trouble with the mills within our own borders, and there's no reason to allow puppy breeders from other countries to exacerbate the problems here.
On the Front Lines
We get directly involved, too.
The Virginia investigation resulted in the rescue of nearly 1,000 dogs from a single puppy mill—the largest rescue ever at a mill. At second-rate breeders in Maine and Texas, HSUS Emergency Services has assisted with the care, rescue and homing of hundreds of puppy mill animals, helping local authorities cope with the massive practical burden of these breeder-made disaster scenarios.
Unfortunately, in almost all of the contexts I've described, we find animal breeders who cast themselves as responsible parties working against us. To hear them tell it—that the puppy mills we've investigated and documented, the medical records we've entered into court proceedings, and the rogue breeders we've exposed—don't really exist! And, they insist, there's no need for regulation.
While there's no room for those who aren't ready to confront puppy mills and right the manifest wrongs rife in the world of breeding today, there is room in these debates for responsible breeders. And there is room for solutions to finally end the suffering these mills have caused for far too long. Please stand with us in our work to shut down puppy mills for good.
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