Legislation Against Puppy Mills
Updated: Nov 18
Puppy mills are a category of commercial breeder that prioritize profits and, as a result, do not provide adequate socialization or humane treatment to their animals. Animals born and raised in puppy mills are more likely to have genetic defects or severe illnesses. Due to the lack of socialization, dogs from puppy mills often exhibit serious behavioral problems, which can greatly reduce their chances of adoption. By some estimates, puppy mills breed more than 2 million new dogs every year, while another 3 million dogs are euthanized due to a lack of shelter space and suitable homes.
Despite all the negative consequences of puppy mills, there is little oversight governing commercial dog breeders. The only national law that covers commercial dog breeders is the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which falls under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). AWA is only applicable to breeders that produce a certain number of puppies per year, and as such, it has provided a loophole for so-called “backyard breeders” to operate without any type of license or supervision.
Additionally, AWA fails to supply crucial guidelines concerning such issues as space requirements, breeding limits, and mandatory exercise and socialization. As a result, breeders can carry out practices that many would find cruel to maximize their profit. Further, the USDA is too understaffed and overburdened with regulating other types of animal-related activities to investigate the 3,000 licensed dog breeders operating in the United States. For this reason, many local and state governments have passed stricter legislation to improve standards for dog breeders or make it more difficult to operate this type of business.
For example, Arizona requires all commercial breeders to hold permits and be subjected to routine inspections. Failing to do so can result in a fine or jail sentence. In California, Colorado, and Indiana, breeders must also ensure that all of their animals are given time to exercise outside of their cages.
Many states and municipalities have outlawed the sale of commercially bred animals in pet shops. In California, New York, and Maryland, pet shops can only source domestic pets from animal rescues. Cities such as Phoenix, Chicago, and Beverly Hills have put similar laws in place that limit the purchase price of animals sold in pet shops. Other cities, such as Madison, Alabama, have banned puppy mills from operating within their jurisdiction, with more cities and states expected to follow suit over the next few years.
Even with more stringent regulations, puppy mills remain a profitable industry. Many breeders exploit loopholes, for example, through sending their animals out of state or selling them through a network of disreputable rescues created only to skirt the laws. For these reasons, animal rights advocates point to consumer education and behavior as the most successful ways to reduce the viability of commercial breeding practices.
Consumers should adopt animals directly from their local shelter or a specialized purebred rescue. Those committed to having a registered purebred dog should visit the breeder and tour the kennel where the animal was raised. Reputable breeders will have clean, humane facilities and will vet any potential buyers thoroughly.