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Urge Arkansas Legislators to Introduce a Bill to Regulate Commercial Dog Breeding Operations

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Arkansas is one of the most problematic puppy mill states in the country and currently there is no law to protect these dogs. As a result, Arkansas has become a haven for some of the worst operators in the country. For the last 3 weeks we have been diligently working on getting a bill introduced that would regulate commercial dog breeders in Arkansas. We are running out of time. If the bill is not introduced in the next week we will have to wait another two years to try again. Please let your legislators know that we are not willing to wait another two years on this bill. Why must Arkansas always be dead last on protecting animals and consumers? The time is now to do something about this problem.

What is a puppy mill?

Puppy mills are large-scale commercial dog breeding operations that mass-produce puppies for retail sale in pet stores and over the internet.  Focused solely on making a profit, these facilities keep dogs in crowded, filthy conditions where they receive little or no socialization, affection, or exercise. 

What is life like for a breeding dog at a puppy mill?

The father and mother dogs at puppy mills – called “breeding stock” by the operators – endure a lifetime of suffering.  They live their entire lives in small crates or cages, often never setting foot on solid ground, never receiving a kind touch or a scratch behind the ear, churning out litter after litter of puppies until they are “spent.”  They receive little or no socialization and often exhibit severe behavioral and genetic abnormalities.  When they no longer produce a profit, they are simply discarded or killed.

Are consumers affected by puppy mills?

The unwitting consumer who buys a puppy from a pet store or over the internet may be unaware that they are supporting an industry that thrives on cruelty.  In addition, puppy mill puppies often arrive with a host of behavioral, genetic, and physical problems, from congenital heart or skeletal defects, to infectious disease like Parvovirus and respiratory infections – all of which may be unknown to the consumer until after their purchase is complete.  This often leads to extreme financial and emotional expense associated with extensive veterinary bills and the heartbreak of watching their puppy suffer.

Puppy Mills are a Problem in Arkansas. 

In 2012 Arkansas was host to two-hundred and fifty (250) USDA licensed breeders, the fifth highest number of any state in the nation.  And with passage of legislation in Oklahoma in 2010 and Texas in 2011, Arkansas is the only state in the top ten that does not have state laws governing the commercial dog breeding industry.  That gap in regulation means Arkansas does not even know how many non-USDA commercial breeders even exist in the state.  Based on the ratio of USDA vs non-USDA kennels in other states, we estimate that Arkansas is home to at least 400-600 non-USDA commercial dog kennels that operate without oversight. Because these facilities are not regulated or subject to regular inspection, conditions often deteriorate to a shocking degree:

  • In February 2014 Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office seized 121 dogs from an unregulated dog breeding facility.  Animals were found living in outdoor kennels or locked in trailers on the property with no access to clean drinking water or food, and all were covered in their own filth. Many were sick and grossly underweight.
  • On November 7, 2011, the Garland County Sheriff’s Office served a warrant and seized roughly 175 Westies, Boston Terriers, Pomeranians and other small dogs. The breeding dogs, some with tiny, unweaned puppies, had been living in sheds outside a mobile home. Responders found them suffering from various eye diseases, dental disease, skin diseases, fleas, mites and heartworm.
  • In October 2009, roughly 100 small breed dogs were rescued from an unregulated puppy mill in Lamar, Arkansas.  The dogs were found in cramped, filthy cages in trailers throughout the property.  A few larger dogs were chained up outside, fully exposed to the elements.  Many of the dogs were emaciated and suffering from extreme skin and eye infections, and other medical ailments.  A few of the dogs even had to be euthanized due to the severity of their medical conditions.
  • In March, 2009, 310 dogs were rescued from a puppy mill in Paris, Arkansas.  The facility had previously been licensed through the USDA until their license was revoked in November, 2007.  Despite no longer being USDA licensed, they continued to breed and sell dogs in deplorable conditions.  The animals were malnourished and many had matted fur, and skin and dental problems. Officials said this was the largest discovered puppy mill in Arkansas.
  • In October, 2008, 49 animals were found and seized from two separate facilities in Benton, Arkansas.  Four dead puppies, along with a few adult dogs, were found at the seller’s home while 40 others were being kept at a separate location, inside a dim shed where they were kept in small cages full of feces and urine.  The frightened and unsocialized dogs were matted beyond recognition, many with eye infections and other diseases.  The breeder was selling the puppies directly to the public for $150 to $400.

Arkansas is a magnet for unscrupulous commercial breeders.

In the last three years, seven of the top ten puppy-producing states have enacted legislation to crack down on puppy mills.  With the enactment of legislation in Oklahoma in 2010 and Texas in 2011, only Arkansas remains in the top ten that does not regulate puppy mills.  As these state laws are enacted, many of the largest puppy mills choose not to comply with new laws governing humane care standards.  Instead, they simply move their operations to states where they can operate free of oversight.  Barring enactment of meaningful laws, it is inevitable that the least scrupulous operations from Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and other states will enter Arkansas.

Puppy Mills Create a Drain on State Resources.

When conditions are allowed to deteriorate at puppy mills, the cost of cleaning up these operations can be crippling to local agencies.  For example, a recent puppy mill case in which 185 animals were removed from a facility in by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in Arkansas cost  nonprofit humane organizations  more than $140,000.  Regular inspection and implementation of defined standards of care would mitigate such seizures.  Additionally, puppy mills drain state resources by contributing to pet overpopulation. Nationwide, approximately 25% of the dogs entering shelters are purebred dogs, so it is clear that purpose-bred dogs contribute significantly to the national pet overpopulation crisis.

Current Laws are Ineffective in Dealing with the Problems Created by Puppy Mills. 

Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture licenses and inspects large scale commercial breeding operations that sell to pet stores, there are far more puppy mills in Arkansas that are not licensed by the USDA.  Arkansas has no statewide laws to regulate or limit puppy mills.   And the USDA’s own Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently released a report confirming that USDA inspectors regularly ignore horrific suffering at commercial dog breeding facilities and allow the facilities to continue to operate, unimpeded, despite repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act.  USDA inspection reports abound of operational facilities in AR with extensive violations, often over several years. 

What would the bill currently needing to be introduced do? 

Enact clear, enforceable standards of care for dogs kept in commercial breeding operations:  access to food and clean water; regular exercise; solid flooring; adequate veterinary care; sufficient grooming to prevent feces-encrusted matted fur; etc.

  • Require commercial breeders to operate like other businesses – establishing a licensing program to regulate the business and ensure compliance with existing sales and income tax laws.
  • Establish regular inspections as a condition of licensure, and prohibit the licensure of anyone who has been convicted of cruelty to animals.
  • Include criminal penalties for violations, to put an end to the proliferation of puppy mill operators who see repeated civil violations and petty fines as a minor cost of doing business.

 

 



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