Three Republicans and three Democrats have joined to sponsor a bill now before Congress curbing the cruel, fraudulent Internet puppy mill trade. As it is, there are no health and safety regulations for internet traded animals and no protections for online buyers. Called the PUPS Act, the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act is sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Penn., Bill Young, R-Fla., and Sam Farr and Lois Capps, D-Calif.
In an interview, Farr expressed "The loophole in the Animal Welfare Act created by the Internet has resulted in widespread abuse of dogs in breeding facilities. Leaving dogs crammed into small cages with no exercise or social contact goes against our humanity. The PUPS Act is necessary to end the abuses of puppy mills and restore the values of our society."
Consumers purchase puppies, sight unseen, online often paying premium prices. If the dogs arrive at all, they frequently are sick, having been denied vaccinations, decent food, housed in filthy conditions, and possibly weaned too early to develop even natural immunity from their equally neglected mothers. Puppy seller websites show young animals frolicking in green fields and interacting with people and other puppies. Many times these videos are absolute fiction, phony representations of the conditions where the puppies are born and confined in small cages.
Co-sponsor Senator Durbin points out, "The media regularly report stories about dogs rescued from substandard facilities where dogs are housed in stacked wire cages and seriously ill and injured dogs are routinely denied access to veterinary care. Online dog sales have contributed to the rise of these sad cases."
Puppy mills which sell wholesale to distributors or to pet stores have been regulated but enforcement has been notoriously weak or altogether lacking. The reasons are economic, political and include a shortage of field inspectors. There is no official oversight for puppy mills who sell direct to individual buyers, either through physical outlets or online web sites. The PUPS Act will require breeders who sell more than 50 dogs annually to be subject to inspections to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for care.
The crusade to actively regulate puppy mill operations is decades-long and hard-fought. The historic outlet for the animal factories has been pet stores which purchase wholesale stock from international distributors like the Hunte Corporation. They gather puppies from the rural puppy mills, clean them up and send them off caged in 18-wheeler delivery trucks. Some stores purchase from so-called backyard or hobby puppy mills. All of it is bad business for the animal victims. A hopeful sign is that the January edition of the trade magazine "Pet Business" reports that pet store owners underestimated the public boycott as compassionate customers became educated. Concerned and aware puppy shoppers have been choosing to avoid stores selling live animals. On the plus side, stores which converted to selling pet supplies only are maintaining - and even increasing - sales revenue.
Successful passage of retail sale bans of puppies and kittens began in the City of South Lake Tahoe and has spread across the country. The City of Los Angeles passed their ban in November 2012 with the city of Burbank currently working on passing their version. The exposure of previously hidden abuses benefits many stakeholders: the innocent animal victims, unaware consumers, responsible breeders, and anyone who abhors cruelty.
Again, with the PUPS Act, animals help bring out the best in humans. The cause to regulate abusive puppy trade practices transcends politics and bridges party differences as politicians champion respect for all life.
- Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals. Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.