Published April 23, 2008 on www.hsus.org
Virginia First in Nation to Limit the Number of Dogs Held in Abusive Puppy Mills
RICHMOND, Va. — In the aftermath of an investigation by The Humane Society of the United States into the Commonwealth's puppy mill industry, Virginia became the first state in the nation to limit the size of puppy mills by making it illegal to maintain more than 50 dogs over the age of one year.
The bill — H.B. 538, introduced by Del. Bobby Orrock (R-54th) — passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 91 to 6 and the Senate by 37 to 3. Gov. Tim Kaine made recommendations to the bill which was then approved by the General Assembly during its veto session. This effort, led by Teresa Dockery of Bristol and Kathy Strouse of the Virginia Animal Control Association, has incredible support from Virginia's many animal welfare activists, law enforcement, pet owners and humane organizations. Its historic provision capping the total number of dogs a commercial breeder can produce annually will help address the growing puppy mill crisis recently showcased on national televsion.
"Puppy mills abuse dogs routinely, and having these facilities licensed and inspected to ensure compliance with animal care laws is an important first step to ensuring that dogs used for breeding are treated humanely," said Stephanie Shain, The HSUS' director of outreach for companion animals. "We are grateful to state lawmakers and Governor Kaine for passing this important policy reform to protect man's best friend. Dogs should be treated like a part of the family, not like a cash crop."
With passage of the new law, commercial dog breeders will be required to:
- maintain no more than 50 dogs over the age of one year at one time, unless approved by local ordinance after a public hearing;
- obtain a local business license;
- breed female dogs between the ages of 18 months and 8 years only;
- obtain annual certification by a licensed veterinarian that the dog is in suitable health for breeding;
- cooperate with inspections by animal control officers to ensure compliance with state and federal animal care laws;
- maintain records of animal sales, purchases, breeding history and veterinary care.
Commercial breeders that violate any of these provisions are guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by 12 months in jail or a $2,500 fine. The bill also addresses pet stores as part of the puppy mill pipeline by requiring that they purchase dogs from dealers or persons who are properly registered and licensed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A five-month undercover investigation by The HSUS last year revealed a substantial puppy mill industry in Virginia that was virtually unregulated and often in violation of state and federal laws for humane care. Among the breeding operations visited in the Commonwealth, investigators found breeding dogs and puppies living in cramped, filthy cages, caked in feces, in urine-soaked trailers and in ramshackle kennels without basic sanitation, clean water, veterinary care or even the most primitive protection from the elements.
The HSUS investigation also resulted in what is thought to be the largest puppy mill rescue in U.S. history. Prompted by that investigation, officials in Carroll County negotiated the surrender of almost 900 dogs from one large-scale breeder in Hillsville last November. The HSUS helped coordinate the multi-agency rescue operation in rural Southeastern Virginia that placed rescued dogs in animal shelters across the Eastern seaboard.
Virginia is one of many states considering puppy mill bills this legislative session to pass a law. Besides working with state legislatures to improve the regulation of puppy mills, The HSUS is working at the federal level to have Congress to ban both Internet sales that escape regulation through a loophole in current law, and imports of young dogs from foreign puppy mills.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 10.5 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.