Home > Animal Welfare Issues, Backyard Breeders, Pet News, puppy mill dogs, Puppy Mills > Puppy mills: The livestock argument

Puppy mills: The livestock argument

December 10, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

puppy mills 1Long ago and far away, when crop yields were low and the American farmer was struggling to make ends meet, a government organization looked for a way to help them out. The government agency was the USDA. Their solution? Encourage farmers to raise a variety of livestock that could then be turned into a cash crop and allow them to thrive.

The “livestock” the USDA encouraged them to sell were dogs, cute and cuddly, little purebred puppies that could be sold to an ever-growing American middle class, who had begun to see the dog as a part of the American dream (a house, a fence, two kids and a dog).

What we couldn’t know then, but know now, is that this industry would grow and spread across the United States, and it would increase in scope and size and numbers. It would become a burgeoning industry that made farmers money and would feed an ever-growing American need for a dog – a purebred dog, a designer dog, an -orki and an -oodle, and every other kind of combination of dog possible.

Farmers, including the Amish, benefitted from this cash crop in tough times. They found  this type of farming appealing and one that could supplement their incomes and help their families. To them, dogs really were livestock. They were just like cattle or sheep, only smaller and cheaper to raise. They could be kept in cages and bred and their offspring could be sold to pet stores across the country. The adults could be harvested for their pups, and when too old to produce, could be sent off to the slaughterhouse, much like a dairy cow, only in their case the slaughterhouse was out back of the mill, the one in which they had lived for their whole life.

IMG_2486For years, the argument has been made that dogs raised in puppy mills are livestock, not pets. They are bred for one purpose, profit, and thus should not be afforded the same kind of care as a dog raised in home. Viewing puppy mill dogs as livestock and not as companion animals, allowed farmers (a.k.a. puppy millers) to argue that they should be treated the same as a farmer raising beef cattle. It allowed them to argue that additional regulations should not apply to them since it did not apply to farmers who raised cows and sheep.

And this argument has worked, for a very long time (and continues to do so, if you live in Missouri).

But in Minnesota, there is reason for hope. There is reason to believe that this argument (that puppy mill dogs are livestock) may be changing.

Recently, a dog breeder, Dayna Bell, was convicted for animal cruelty. And this year, she tried to make the argument that her breeding stock of dogs were not companion animals or pets, but in essence “livestock,” and thus she was not subject to the state statutes that were used to convict her of felony animal cruelty.

Unfortunately for her, the Minnesota State Court of Appeals disagreed.

You can read the full background and history on the case against and the conviction of Dayna Bell and the recent Minnesota State Court of Appeals opinion on the Animal Folks MN site, but here is an excerpt from the court papers.

….Under Bell’s interpretation, so long as her subjective “enjoyment” of a dog at her kennel amounts to use of the animal as a vessel for conceiving, birthing, and rearing puppies that would be sold as pets, the breeding dog would not qualify as a “pet or companion animal” under Minn. Stat. Sec. 343.20. We presume that the legislature does not intend results that are a “absurd, impossible of execution, or unreasonable.” Minn. Stat. 645.17(1)(2012). Just as a farm cat that is kept in a barn to kill mice or a hunting dog that is used to retrieve game can still be a pet, some of Bell’s dogs may have served incidental roles that imparted some economic benefit. But these animals continue to qualify as pet or companion animals under Minn. Stat. 343.20, subd. 6. In every objective sense, the dogs and puppies that Bell “enjoyed” at her kennel were small-breed, household dogs raised to be and treated as domesticated pets, and Bell sold many of them as pets. Each of these dogs, colloquially referred to as “man’s best friend,” qualifies as a pet or companion animal under the non-exhaustive definition of Minn. Stat. 343.20, subd.6, which is sufficiently definite such that “ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited.” State v. Newstrom, 371 N. W.2d 525, 528 (Minn. 1985) (quotation omitted).”

Puppy mill dogs are not livestock. They are pets and companion animals, and yes, man’s (and woman’s) best friend.

Do they look like livestock to you?

Silly dogs.

Former puppy mill breeding dogs – Daisy and Maggie

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  1. December 11, 2014 at 1:13 AM

    I hope the laws continue to change and people stop puppy mills and animal cruelty altogether.

  2. December 11, 2014 at 4:13 AM

    Whee hope one day there will be no puppy mills and no animals will be hurt or mistreated 😦

  3. December 11, 2014 at 7:04 AM

    That’s great news in the fight against the mills.

  4. December 11, 2014 at 7:49 AM

    There is no reason all animals should not be treated humanely – companion animals AND livestock. Humans are the only animal that treats other animals with such cruelty. Other animals (carnivores) kill to eat – and do so quickly and efficiently. Humans raise animals in horrendous conditions and justify it to ourselves as necessary. It’s not. I agree with scifihammy – stop the puppy mills and animal cruelty altogether.

  5. Sheila Anderson
    December 11, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    It’s encouraging but there is so much money involved it will be an uphill battle. Buy an anti-mill bumpersticker, follow anti-mill fb pages and write letters when they ask. Don’t buy even a jar of jam from the Amish and make sure your friends and family understand the situation.

  6. December 11, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    I wish the whole damn country was looking at puppy mills this way. It’s sickening to think of all the poor sad dogs who will never have a normal life.

  7. December 11, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    While Missouri did pass the Right to Farm amendment, it will not change the way breeders are regulated in the state. The Department of Agriculture has worked hard to ensure Missouri is no longer the Puppy Mill Capital of the US. More about what they do and have done can be found here: http://agriculture.mo.gov/animals/ACFA/

    • Mel
      December 11, 2014 at 9:05 AM

      That is very encouraging to hear Samantha. I was deeply disappointed when I saw that piece in Esquire. I had not seen the update before yesterday. Thanks for the additional info!

  8. December 11, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    It’s a slow path, but changes are being made for the better. Hopefully with efforts like those in MN we can speed those changes along.

  9. December 11, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    This argument is going to become increasingly hard to make as more people object to cruelty imposed on cows and pigs (livestock) as well. And now, maybe thanks to the chicken farmer whistle blower, chickens as well.

    • Mel
      December 11, 2014 at 9:41 PM

      So very true Pamela.

  10. December 11, 2014 at 7:58 PM

    Thank you for defining this issue so well.

    I love reading your blog. Just tweeted, and I will share on Google Plus dog lovers group and even on Face-burger as my friend, Harry, dubbed it. Keep on Be the Change for Animals!

  11. August 10, 2015 at 1:52 AM

    They just need to pass a law that puts animals bred to be sold as live stock. Then they would have the same protection as any other farmer who breed animals for profit.

    Then you could have have two category of dogs, pets and other.

    • Mel
      August 10, 2015 at 8:58 PM

      Yeah. No. Dogs are not meant to be livestock. They have evolved over thousands of years to be companion animals. I don’t support that at all.

  12. Christine Warner-Littlea
    August 1, 2016 at 2:42 PM

    #NoToPuppyMills #StopAnimalCruelty

  13. Marisol Portalatin Guzmán
    August 1, 2016 at 3:01 PM

    No more puppy mills. Please 😢

  14. Carmen Lope
    August 1, 2016 at 5:42 PM

    I know that it is ridiculous to assume that you will close down puppy mills. You must however get these facilities inspected frequently and the fines need to be huge and with the threat of removal of all animals. Why would you not use unpaid licensed volunteer inspectors? You would have them lined up. You could have them inspect facilities with breeds that they do not currently own. There is a way to do this!

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