Virginia’s Puppy Mill Bill One Year Later

Looking back on the journey and towards a better future for animals
By Best Friends Animal Society

A little over a year ago, Virginia became the first state to successfully pass puppy mill legislation. House Bill 538 (the "Puppy Mill Bill") limits the number of dogs that a commercial breeder can have to no more than 30 breeding females and 50 adult dogs total at any given time. The law also requires commercial breeders to register with the state and provide proof of veterinary care and allows state officials to investigate violations on a local level. The goal of the bill is to prevent puppy mills by keeping the number of dogs they can have in their possession at a manageable level and ensuring that the animals are receiving proper care. Persons who violate any portion of the law can be subject to the penalties of up to 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine.

Local kennels and breeding facilities that have more than 50 dogs and do not want to pay the fees associated with registering their facility and providing proof of veterinary care to authorities have been unloading their dogs on local animal shelters and rescues. One local animal rescue group in particular has taken on more than 100 dogs from a single local breeder who unloaded her dogs in order to avoid paying the violation fees associated with the new bill. The majority of the dogs were older and thus considered "useless" to the breeder since they could no longer be bred, which is evidence that most of these people are simply in it for the money and have no regard for the care and quality of life of their dogs.

4594963665 fd1a5e7295 oLocal rescues have found that many of the dogs coming from the breeding facilities are in dire need of care and suffer from severe matting, bad teeth, dental disease, and other conditions associated with having multiple animals live in unsanitary conditions. Though the organizations are struggling with the financial strain of the additional animals, it helps to know that these dogs will now have the opportunity to get the medical care they need and will be able to find loving homes.

It is their hope that under the new legislation things can only get better and the state can continue to move forward and eliminate the presence of local puppy mills. People who have helped to implement the new legislation are happy with the progress that they have seen so far and look back to see how far they have come from prior years.

In 2007, Best Friend Animal Society worked with a local animal welfare groups to help rescue 179 dogs from a Virginia puppy mill. The owner of the breeding facility was attempting to rebuild after a fire that had killed more than 190 dogs, sparing only the 170+ dogs that lived in the outdoor portion of the facility. When denied the permit to rebuild, the breeder decided to bring the dogs to auction, which Best Friends caught wind of and then negotiated with local organizations to rescue the dogs from being auctioned off. All 179 dogs and puppies were then brought to New York, where they were assessed, given medical treatment and prepared for adoption. Over the next month, volunteers continued to work and many of the dogs and puppies were able to find forever homes.

The fire at the facility opened the eyes of local animal rights organizations, who were not even aware that the facility even existed. Unfortunately, this is common problem with the commercial breeding industry. Many kennels and facilities are located in rural areas and the animals are kept out of view, so even if people visit a kennel to purchase one of their puppies, it is very unlikely that they will see the conditions in which the dogs live and do not realize that they are housing hundreds of dogs.

One of the dogs saved is Mabel, a sweet beagle who had spent 10 years of her life living in the horrid conditions where she was forced to provide litter after litter of puppies solely for profit. Not only did she find a great forever home, but she has become the face of the Puppies Aren"t Products campaign and has worked her way into the hearts of many people. She may be blind and have only 8 teeth, but Mabel is now enjoying life as a dog and getting the love and attention she and all dogs deserve. You can learn more about Mabel and hear her story by watcing her video.

How you can help:

For more information, see Rescue groups struggle to care for flood of unwanted mill puppies and Proponents satisfied with new puppy mill law

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia Commons and Arria Belli