The North Carolina Senate has passed a bill that targets the kind of abusive practices by some commercial dog breeders that have earned them the name “puppy mill” and that have caused misery to countless animals in their custody. The measure follows the shutdown of two large puppy mills in that state in February and its passage has been controversial, with the American Kennel Club claiming the bill would burden dog “owners,” and not just breeders.
Law will Regulate Commercial Dog Breeders to Prevent Puppy Mills
Senate Bill 460 clearly defines a “commercial breeder” as any person who owns or maintains 15 or more intact female dogs of breeding age and 30 or more puppies primarily for the purpose of sale. The measure provides for the establishment of minimum humane standards for the care of animals at commercial dog breeding operations, including the provision of adequate housing, exercise, food, water and veterinary care.
Commercial Dog Breeders must Register with the State and be Subject to Inspection
The measure provides that no commercial breeder will be permitted to operate in North Carolina without first registering with the state. In order to register, the breeder must be in compliance with all established standards for the care of the dogs. Failure to register constitutes a Class 2 misdemeanor and may subject the breeder to an injunction. Commercial dog breeding operations are subject to inspection by authorities upon reports of inhumane conditions.
Penalties for Failing to Provide Adequate Minimum Humane Treatment
Under the new law, the failure of a commercial breeder to adequately house, exercise, feed, water and provide veterinary care for the animals in its custody is a Class 3 misdemeanor and will result in a fine of not less than $50 per day per animal. Any commercial animal breeder convicted of a violation will lose its registration, meaning that it can no longer operate in the state.
Abusive Puppy Mills in North Carolina
The legislation comes partly as a response to an incident in February in which local authorities, along with the Humane Society, raided and shut down two abusive puppy mills in Wayne County, North Carolina. According to a Humane Society press release congratulating lawmakers on passing the legislation:
[More than 300] dogs were housed in filthy, cold, cramped cages without access to exercise, adequate veterinary care, or human contact. Many of the dogs were covered with fecal encrusted dreadlocks and suffered from severe skin and eye infections. Some had chain collars embedded in their necks.
American Kennel Club Opposed the Measure
The American Kennel Club opposed the measure, arguing, among other things, that it would add a “duplicative layer of regulation on responsible dog owners and breeders in North Carolina.” The measure, however, does not apply to mere dog “owners.” It applies only to clearly defined commercial dog breeders. Moreover, it appears that at least some commercial dog breeders have proven incapable of self-regulation to the detriment of the health and wellbeing of hundreds of dogs in their care.
The law becomes effective May 1, 2010, and applies to the commercial breeding of dogs on or after that date.
More States on Board with Puppy Mill Legislation
According to the Humane Society, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Virginia passed laws in 2008 targeting puppy mills. Arizona, Indiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington state passed laws in 2009 to cracking down on puppy mills. Several other states are now considering puppy mill legislation.