Thursday, June 24, 2010

Congress considers cracking down on 'puppy mills'

WASHINGTON — Should large-scale dog breeders regulate themselves or is this a job for the federal government?

The dispute is in the hands of Congress , which is considering a law that would require dog breeders who sell more than 50 puppies a year to be federally licensed and inspected.

It's called the PUPS Act, short for Puppy Uniform Protection Statute. It's aimed at cracking down on puppy mills, facilities where dogs often are forced to live in small cages. Among other things, the measure would force breeders to give their dogs the chance to exercise for at least an hour each day.

Backers say the legislation would clamp down on the most negligent and irresponsible dog breeders while closing a loophole in current law that allows thousands of commercial breeders to go unregulated. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate .

Under the current law, facilities that breed dogs for commercial resale must be licensed and inspected under the federal Animal Welfare Act, but puppy mills that sell directly to the public are exempt. As a result, large breeders can escape inspection and oversight by selling their puppies online, with consumers often discovering later that they've bought sick or abused animals.

"It can be very disappointing to see a family whose cherished pet has a condition that could have been prevented with more careful scrutiny by the USDA ," said Rep. Lois Capps , D- Calif. , one of the bill's co-sponsors. "So I think that it's very appropriate for us to deal with it here."

Dale Glazer , the owner of the Rocklin Family Pet Shop and Self Serve Dog Wash in Rocklin, Calif. , supports the legislation.

"There certainly needs to be oversight on the breeding of any animals, whether it's for food — like cattle or poultry — or for sale, like dogs," he said. Glazer said the 50-dog limit was too low, however, because breeders would comply by setting up multiple smaller breeding houses, which would help them evade the law.

Critics say the proposed law would be an unnecessary burden on legitimate breeders who take good care of their dogs.

"I don't think it will do any good, because they don't have time to enforce what we have," said Rosemarie Blood , the president of the Sacramento Kennel Club . "I think everybody should go by their own conscience and stand behind their dogs."

She also said that passing another federal law would be a black eye for all dog breeders.

"It doesn't make a good picture for those of us who are trying to breed quality and not quantity," Blood said

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