In North Carolina, overwhelming support for puppy-mill rules

March 6, 2013 

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A dog in a pen at the puppy mill in Stokes County in a photo provided by HSUS.

DIANE LEWIS

A growing movement to end puppy mills has been sweeping the country, and it has landed in North Carolina, where an effort to enact common sense legislation to regulate the state’s commercial dog breeding facilities has taken hold.

Puppy mills are large-scale commercial breeding operations where dogs are often crammed in dark, poorly ventilated sheds and exposed to sweltering temperatures in the summer and below-freezing temperatures in the winter.

Puppy-mill operators want to keep their costs down and their profits up. In addition to raising dogs in substandard conditions, they breed female dogs at every opportunity with little to no recovery time between litters. When females can no longer reproduce or when the breed goes out of “style,” the dogs are often abandoned, shot or starved. Nothing except a legal mandate will convince breeders that they must treat the animals in their care humanely.

Currently, 35 states, including Virginia and Tennessee, have laws governing breeders who sell to the public. Sadly, North Carolina is not one of them, meaning puppy mills are not required to be licensed, let alone inspected. As more states pass stronger commercial breeding laws that drive bad breeders to lax states, it is critical that North Carolina lawmakers implement measures to avoid further becoming a magnet for unscrupulous breeders.

This kind of legislation not only benefits dogs, but also pet owners, taxpayers, animal shelters and rescue communities. Frequent headlines of puppy mill busts and news stories detailing dogs found in horrific conditions are all too common across the state.

Improving the standards of care in these facilities would prevent breeding operations from necessitating a raid, which can cost taxpayers $100,000 in a large-scale puppy mill seizure. Sometimes nongovernmental organizations are not able to assist, and the entire cost falls on a local community.

It’s not just animal welfare advocates who want regulations. A newly released poll conducted by Lake Research Partners showed that 87 percent of North Carolina voters favor a law that would set standards of care for the state’s commercial dog-breeding facilities. In fact, 77 percent of all registered voters in North Carolina would strongly favor such a law.

According to the poll, voters believe more should be done to improve the quality of care for these dogs. North Carolina voters consider a number of commercial dog-breeding practices that are currently legal to be inhumane. For example, 94 percent of voters say it is inhumane to keep dogs in cages that provide no more than 6 inches of space in each direction, 93 percent of voters say it is inhumane to keep dogs in cages with wire mesh floors and 92 percent say it is inhumane not to provide dogs an opportunity to exercise at least once daily.

Most importantly, the overwhelming support for setting minimum standards of care crosses all partisan, demographic and geographic divides. Fully 90 percent of registered Democrats and 82 percent of registered Republicans support enacting such a law. In addition, 87 percent of voters living in Western North Carolina favor a law, as do 87 percent of voters living in the central part of the state and 86 percent of those in the east. It is clear this is one issue that unites voters in North Carolina.

North Carolina voters are calling on their elected officials in Raleigh to set minimum standards of care for the state’s commercial dog-breeding facilities. For North Carolinians, this is a common sense, consensus issue that extends beyond mere policy and reflects Tar Heel values.

Nancy Perry is senior vice president of Government Relations for The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York.

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