Senate 'Puppy Protection Act' Could Outlaw The Worst Breeding Practices

I'm sure I don't have to tell you how much people love dogs but even with that in mind, it's still easy to be surprised by how intense the demand for them really is.

According to Business Insider, there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the United States alone that have a combined total of 213,000 breeding dogs on hand. With each dog giving birth to an average of nine puppies per year, that means over 13 million puppies are sold every year.

Only about 2,000 of these breeders are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and even then, their regulations left animal rights groups with a lot to be desired.

However, it seems that a sweeping suite of improvements could be underway to ensure that it's at least possible to make an ethical choice of breeder.

On September 29, Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois introduced a bill he called "the Puppy Protection Act of 2020."

As the text of the bill makes clear, it serves as an amendment to the 1966 Animal Welfare Act that introduces new standards breeders and other "dealers" of dogs must put in place to legally operate.

One of the first conditions requires dogs to be housed in an area with solid flooring in enclosures that the largest dog present could not reach the top of even if it stands on its hind legs.

The enclosure's size requirements depend on the size of the dogs being bred but there's one new restriction that applies to all enclosures.

Namely, they can't be stacked on top of each other, a tactic that unscrupulous breeders use to maximize production.

But as Business Insider reported, this practice allows waste from one dog to drip down into the cages of other animals. This creates a pooling effect that not only produces foul odors, but releases dangerous ammonia fumes.

As Sara Amundson of the Humane Society Legislative Fund said, "We've seen animals never leave those stacked cages. How on Earth is man's best friend supposed to be socialized and interactive with us if they don't even have the opportunity to put their feet on grass?"

Similar questions likely inspired another clause in the bill that requires breeders to provide unrestricted access to a solid and sufficiently large exercise area at ground level.

And if there's some medical reason why a dog shouldn't have this unrestricted access, that needs to be confirmed in a certificate by a veterinarian who prescribes an alternative exercise plan.

The bill also requires that dogs receive sufficient quantities of nutritious food at least twice a day as well as potable water that is neither frozen nor contaminated by bodily waste or algae.

The bill would also require that each dog have "meaningful socialization" with humans and compatible dogs for at least 30 minutes per day.

The bill defines this as touching that is beneficial to a dog's well-being such as petting, playing, stroking, and grooming.

Although the bill also requires that the dogs receive adequate veterinary care, the time spent with a vet does not count towards this requirement.

The act of breeding itself was also subject to new regulations, which include a screening for heritable diseases that would either disable breeding dogs and their offspring or severely impact their quality of life.

This section of the bill also prohibits forcing a dog to produce more than two litters within an 18-month period and more than six throughout her entire life.

It also restricts a small dog's breeding period to between 18 months and nine years of age and a large dog's period to between two and seven years of age.

The bill also requires breeders to make "all reasonable efforts" to find a home or rescue organization for dogs that can no longer breed.

As Amundson said, "Whether puppies are sold in pet stores or sold over the internet, they're sentient beings. We want to know that these animals have been treated appropriately, from conception through their homecoming."

h/t: Library of Congress, Business Insider

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