Well, today is it. The last day to comment on the USDA’s proposed rule change to the Animal Welfare Act. I’ve already made my comment, the question is… WILL YOU?
You haven’t heard about the proposed rule change? Then let me tell you what it means in one sentence. The ability for the USDA to inspect and regulate unscrupulous breeders and puppy mills who sell puppies over the internet.
Right now, yes today, puppy mills all over this country are using the internet to sell their puppies. Why? Because when they sell their puppies over the internet they can’t be inspected by the USDA. Nada. Never. This means they can keep their dogs in any condition they want. They don’t have to give them fresh water. They don’t have to feed them on a regular basis. They can keep them in tiny wire cages for their whole life. They don’t have to exercise them. They certainly don’t have to provide them the minimum of care that puppy mills who sell to pet stores do now.
Yes, yes, yes. I know it’s a bit more complicated than that. Isn’t everything? But at its essence this rule change is about closing a loophole. One that badly needs closing right now. All you have to do is look at eBay Classifieds to know that puppy millers are doing quite well on the internet. (BTW eBay – nice that you took puppies and kitties off your main listings page, but hiding them from the main page doesn’t address the real issue. You’re still facilitating the sale of puppy mill puppies over the internet.) And why not? They don’t have to worry about inspections. They don’t have to worry about dealing with a middle-man anymore. They simply pose their puppies next to a pop can or place them in front of a cute background and offer to ship them to you for an exorbitant fee.
So today is the day. It’s your chance to make a difference. As the owner of a former puppy mill breeding dog, I ask you to express your support for the proposed rule change. You can do so on the USDA website directly or you can use the easy form created by the ASPCA. Still confused? Hearing conflicting information from breeders on this topic? Go to the source. The USDA clarified some of questions and issues first raised by hobby breeders about the rule change.
Side note: I expect that I will hear from a lot of responsible breeders about how completely wrong I am about the specifics of this rule change. I am sure I will hear I am wrong to support it because it will have an impact on hobby breeders all over America. Great. Have at it. But before you do, answer me one question, why should I oppose a law that may or may not hurt you when I have seen very little from you in the way of opposing puppy mills?
I don’t see responsible and hobby breeders up in arms about the AKC handing out certificates to puppy millers. I never hear about responsible breeders exposing puppy millers who keep their pets in horrific conditions (and who, by the way, also give responsible breeders a bad name). Maybe you do fight against puppy mills and I just never hear about it. But I certainly haven’t seen the AKC stop giving them legitimacy.
I have always made the distinction between responsible “good” breeders and puppy millers. I support what you do. I respect breeders who care about the well-being of their dogs. But on this we will have to agree to disagree. I am for the rule change. I support it. I recognize that a rule change won’t mean there will be more inspectors available to inspect these internet puppy mills. I recognize that this will not stop puppy mills from selling over the internet. But what I do expect is that it will put a speed bump in their path and I’m good with that.
A story about dogs being stolen in Scott County caught my attention last week. Every once in a while you hear rumors of dogs being stolen, but they always seemed to be just that, rumors. But this news story makes me wonder what is going on. Stealing a dog from a backyard is one thing, but breaking into a home to steal one?
I know that some Class “B” dealers will steal dogs to sell to testing labs, but I can’t imagine them stealing a pet right from a person’s home. That would put them a little too far over the gray line into possible jail time territory. However, I recently read a story in the paper where a police officer mentioned that a stolen dog was likely sold on eBay. eBay? Yup. Apparently, this is a new (or not so new?) way for people to make easy cash. How horrible. Yet another reason to dislike eBay’s Classifieds.
News like this makes pet owners like me feel a little paranoid. I don’t know about you, but I am almost always with my dogs when they are outside. I feel better knowing I can see where they are while they take care of their business. But, now I am considering adding a padlock to both gates. What do you think? Am I being too paranoid?
Over the past few weeks there has been a battle going on. Thanks to a heads up by Two Little Cavaliers, dog and cat bloggers, tweeters and Facebook folks have been rallying together to stop eBay from selling live pets via their eBay Classified’s website. Most of these pups come from questionable breeders, and if I had a chance to make a bet, I would say that the majority of them come straight from puppy mills and/or backyard breeders. As a result of this campaign, people have been signing a petition to ask eBay to stop selling live pets on their website. So far, 83,000+ people have signed the petition. You can add your name to the petition here and I encourage you to do so. Stopping the sale of puppies from these mills is a major key to ending pet overpopulation and the killing of 3-4 million dogs and cats each year by U.S. shelters.
But while this battle was going on, another one was taking place in Missouri… and it’s not good news.
Back in November 2010, animal advocates and pet owners rejoiced when Prop B passed in Missouri by the narrowest of margins. Prop B mandated that dog breeders, especially puppy mills, had to provide the following for the dogs in their care: exercise, comfortable places for breeding dogs to live, and required food and veterinary care. Seems pretty reasonable doesn’t it? I mean most dogs I know need exercise, a comfortable place to sleep, food and vet care. But not in Missouri, the worst puppy mill state in the country. Nope. In Missouri, this is considered excessive (Read: It takes too much time, money, effort, etc. to offer the minimum standard of care to an animal considered to be “livestock” by the USDA). So over the past few months, since the passage of Prop B, puppy mill owners and backyard breeders have been putting pressure on their state legislators to rescind or completely dismantle Prop B. And it appears that they are succeeding…
One example, HB 131, just passed unanimously out of the House Agriculture Policy Committee on Tuesday (February 15, 2011). “If it passes, it will strip the requirements for clean water, room to move around in cages, and time to rest between breeding cycles out of Proposition B. In essence, it makes Prop B a do-nothing law.”
And then there is SB 113 which essentially takes the legal teeth out of the punishments puppy mill breeders would face if they violated Prop B.
Not good news at all.
So while we battle on against eBay, let us not forget the fight that is still going on in Missouri (and even in my home state of Minnesota).
And lest you think that this is no big deal – none of your concern – not worth your time – watch the video below. It was filmed in Minnesota, but trust me. Kathy Bauck (the puppy mill owner) is not the exception but the rule in Missouri.
To tell the members of the Missouri House of Representatives to vote NO on HB 131. Go here. They only have 234 signatures so far.