Rolling Stone investigation looks at puppy mills in NC

One of the dogs seized in Stokes County puppy mill bust, housed at the Guilford County Animal Shelter.
One of the dogs seized in Stokes County puppy mill bust, housed at the Guilford County Animal Shelter. bcain@newsobserver.com

A new investigative story in Rolling Stone magazine explores puppy mills – including those in North Carolina.

Calling puppy mills “the secret shame of the pet industry,” writer Paul Solotaroff describes a Cabarrus County puppy mill scene – filth, a maze of cages and garbage, howling, whining and crying.

An anonymous source apparently tipped off the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office, which led to an investigation and finally a bust of the puppy mill with help from the Humane Society of the United States. Charges were filed against the mill owner.

The Humane Society of North Carolina posted the Rolling Stone story to its Facebook page Tuesday, encouraging its followers to “get a look inside the horrors of puppy mill cruelty and why we must push forward in 2017 to urge N.C. legislators to pass stronger laws protecting animals from this egregious cruelty.”

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are about 10,000 puppy mills across the country, so it’s not just a North Carolina problem. The state has tried and failed multiple times to pass legislation against puppy mills.

One of former North Carolina First Lady Ann McCrory’s projects was an effort to regulate them. But the state General Assembly didn’t pass the bill.

During the House debate in 2013 – with the first lady in the visitor’s gallery looking on – Rep. Michael Speciale of New Bern ridiculed the bill for requiring breeders of a certain size to adhere to standards such as exercising dogs and using humane euthanasia.

“Exercise on a daily basis – if I kick him across the floor, is that daily exercise?” Speciale asked. “‘Euthanasia performed humanely’ – so I should choose the ax or the baseball bat?”

Though the N.C. House has passed some form of the puppy mill bill several times, it has never fully cleared the General Assembly.

Last year a new Animal Welfare Hotline for reporting animal cruelty cases to the state Attorney General’s office went live.

By state law, acts of animal cruelty include wounding, tormenting, killing or depriving an animal of necessary nourishment – or causing any of these things to occur to an animal.

People can report cases via the hotline number (1-855-290-6915) or by mail (P.O. Box 629, Attention: Animal Welfare Hotline, Raleigh, NC 27602). There is also a form on the Department of Justice website that can be filled out (ncdoj.gov).

Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett