Puppies. Just the word brings a smile to most faces. Tiny paws, wagging tails and cute little howls. Fuzzy bundles of fur nuzzling their mamma.
The last thing we want to think about is the likliehood that a furry bundle of joy might have had a not-so-happy beginning. In fact, in Missouri, where puppy mills are numerous, there is a good chance of that being the case.
A puppy mill is, described by the ASPCA as, “a large-scale commercial dog breeding facility where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs.” The horror stories of puppies freezing to death and facing other tragedies are all too real, and need to be put to an end. According to the Humane Society of Missouri, this state is one of the worst in the U.S. for having a puppy mill problem.
But is tighter regulation the solution? Opinions on this are mixed, but recent efforts show little impact on improving the situation.
In 2010 the Missouri Dog Breeding Regulation Act was voted on and approved by 52 percent of voters. This act created stricter regulations for dog breeders, such as limiting the number of dogs, making sure dogs have access to the outside and inside at all times and resting periods between breeding. There were many organizations that supported this act, such as Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, and the Humane Society of the United States. However, there were many that did not like this act because they believed it would either lead to the hunting, agriculture industries or it would make things harder for actual pet breeders.
“(The Act will) do absolutely nothing to improve the wellbeing of animals; instead, it would add excessive expenses to responsible breeders who strive to produce well-bred family pets. Unfortunately, cruelty and negligence can occur regardless of the number of dogs a person has,” said a representative of the American Kennel Club.
The American Kennel Club said the best thing to do would be to enforce laws already in place.
Seven years later, and Missouri is still known for being the puppy mill capital of America according to the Humane Society of Missouri. The Missouri Dog Breeding Regulation Act was thought to be a sure way to keep inhumane practices under control, but it did not do a thing according to the Humane Society of Missouri.
As the American Kennel Club said, all the act did was put more strains on ethical dog breeders. The problem is that the people who are running puppy mills are not going to change their ways just because some new law is passed. Those who already raise dogs in humane conditions are the ones working to keep up with all the new regulations. There are many organizations such as Missouri Department of Agriculture that have resources such as Operation Bark Alert.
According to the department’s website, Operation Bark Alert began in 2009 and is a program that allows the general public to report unlicensed facilities. The site provides a link to a form that allows the public to submit information for investigation by field staff. The program investigates credible reports to ensure compliance under state code. There are also laws that require dog breeders to be inspected by a veterinarian in order to keep their license.
According to the Humane Society of Missouri, more regulations are not the answer. The best solution is to enforce existing laws. Next time you see dogs exhausted from dehydration, or limping from an untreated wound, do not just look the other way. Use Operation Bark Alert or call the police. Another thing that consumers can do is be wise about where you are buying your puppy. The last thing you want to do is give money to an inhumane operation, and allow them to survive. If people take care to purchase puppies from reputable breeders, then the puppy mills will go out of business.