Good News – Virginia Passes Bill HB 538, Limits Number of Dogs in Puppy Mills!
Every day the fight against puppy mills continues and so often only small strives are made due to opposition but finally Virginia has made a big step! We can only hope that more states can follow their lead. It’s not an absolute answer but as an advocate in the fight, ever step in the right direction counts!
An Overview of VA HB 538
Bill Sponsor(s): Del. Bobby Orrock (D, 54)
Defines commercial breeders as persons who maintain 20 or more unsterilized adult females for commercial breeding purposes. Commercial breeders will be required to: (i) apply for a business license from their respective locality; (ii) cooperate with inspections by animal control officers to ensure compliance with state and federal animal care laws; (iii) create a fire emergency plan and install fire safety measures; (iv) maintain records of animal sales, purchases, breeding history, and veterinary care; (v) dispose of dead dogs and confined waste in accordance with law; and (vi) maintain no more than 50 adult dogs at one time.
Virginia First in Nation to Limit the Number of Dogs Held in Abusive Puppy Mills
RICHMOND, Va. — In the aftermath of an investigation by The Humane Society of the United States into the Commonwealth’s puppy mill industry, Virginia became the first state in the nation to limit the size of puppy mills by making it illegal to maintain more than 50 dogs over the age of one year.
The bill — H.B. 538, introduced by Del. Bobby Orrock (R-54th) — passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 91 to 6 and the Senate by 37 to 3. Gov. Tim Kaine made recommendations to the bill which was then approved by the General Assembly during its veto session. This effort, led by Teresa Dockery of Bristol and Kathy Strouse of the Virginia Animal Control Association, has incredible support from Virginia’s many animal welfare activists, law enforcement, pet owners and humane organizations. Its historic provision capping the total number of dogs a commercial breeder can produce annually will help address the growing puppy mill crisis recently showcased on national televsion.
“Puppy mills abuse dogs routinely, and having these facilities licensed and inspected to ensure compliance with animal care laws is an important first step to ensuring that dogs used for breeding are treated humanely,” said Stephanie Shain, The HSUS’ director of outreach for companion animals. “We are grateful to state lawmakers and Governor Kaine for passing this important policy reform to protect man’s best friend. Dogs should be treated like a part of the family, not like a cash crop.”
With passage of the new law, commercial dog breeders will be required to:
- maintain no more than 50 dogs over the age of one year at one time, unless approved by local ordinance after a public hearing;
- obtain a local business license;
- breed female dogs between the ages of 18 months and 8 years only;
- obtain annual certification by a licensed veterinarian that the dog is in suitable health for breeding;
- cooperate with inspections by animal control officers to ensure compliance with state and federal animal care laws;
- maintain records of animal sales, purchases, breeding history and veterinary care.
Commercial breeders that violate any of these provisions are guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by 12 months in jail or a $2,500 fine. The bill also addresses pet stores as part of the puppy mill pipeline by requiring that they purchase dogs from dealers or persons who are properly registered and licensed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A five-month undercover investigation by The HSUS last year revealed a substantial puppy mill industry in Virginia that was virtually unregulated and often in violation of state and federal laws for humane care. Among the breeding operations visited in the Commonwealth, investigators found breeding dogs and puppies living in cramped, filthy cages, caked in feces, in urine-soaked trailers and in ramshackle kennels without basic sanitation, clean water, veterinary care or even the most primitive protection from the elements.
The HSUS investigation also resulted in what is thought to be the largest puppy mill rescue in U.S. history. Prompted by that investigation, officials in Carroll County negotiated the surrender of almost 900 dogs from one large-scale breeder in Hillsville last November. The HSUS helped coordinate the multi-agency rescue operation in rural Southeastern Virginia that placed rescued dogs in animal shelters across the Eastern seaboard.
Virginia is one of many states considering puppy mill bills this legislative session to pass a law. Besides working with state legislatures to improve the regulation of puppy mills, The HSUS is working at the federal level to have Congress to ban both Internet sales that escape regulation through a loophole in current law, and imports of young dogs from foreign puppy mills.
From Best Friends Network
“Delegate Bobby Orrock, R-Caroline County knew the issue and presented it very well. He understood the problems and concerns and the message is powerful. He deserves a lot of credit!”
“The last 2 years has brought to light the conditions that many large breeding facilities operate under. I had been aware of smaller operations, but hadn’t seen anything like the kennels that supply puppies wholesale. But understand, the size isn’t the issue, it’s the conditions that the animals are kept in. This bill will enable Animal Control Officers to go in and make sure that standards are being met.” Del. Orrock said.
Del. Orrock is an interesting choice to have become the sponsor for HB 538 – he’s Republican, comes from an agricultural background, and many of his constituents are in agribusiness. How’d it happen?
“This is not a lifelong passion of mine, but I believe that we are responsible for stewardship of all God’s resources, whether it’s the land, wild animals, or companion animals, we’ve got to make sure they’re all cared for properly.”
He saw from the recent busts that the animals weren’t being cared for, and he took a stand.
“One of my first lessons I learned when I got into office was that there are two topics of legislation you don’t touch: bills that deal with fencing and bills that deal with dogs. It sparks such a debate, and outrage. I know I won’t be getting any Christmas cards from many of my colleagues, but this was important, commercial breeders need to be responsible to make sure the animals that they’re selling are healthy and make sure that the animals in their facility are cared for. If they can’t do that by themselves, it’s the government’s responsibility to step in.”
While this bill is a compromise, the original proponents think it’s too weak and the opponents feel like it’s draconian, Del. Orrock even said that there are some people in the breeder camp that want to see him impeached!
“It’s about getting a balance. To many people it’s about the money, not the animals. It was not easy, but I was lucky to have had Teresa Dockery working on it for the last 18 years. She is so credible and she spearheaded the coalition. I had support from some individual veterinarians but there was never any official support. The average citizen makes a distinction in an operation to make money between a hobbyist or breed enthusiast, and the people making money need to be held to standards!”
“This has been the single most difficult piece of legislation that I have gotten passed and I’m thrilled to have hung in there long enough to see it through.” said Del. Orrock.
This is still just one small step in one state. We must all continue to raise awareness and work together to make a difference and be voices for those who have no voices of their own.
Do your part!
- Raise awareness, let people know about puppy mils, what they really are.
- Write to your legislators and let them know that you care about the treatment and conditions of animal welfare in your state and as a voter, they need to listen.
- Don’t shop, Adopt!! Do not buy puppies from petstores on the internet which has become the latest outlet for puppy millers. Shelters and rescues have do many dogs desperately in need of loving homes, from puppies to seniors, from mutts to purebreeds, anything you could be looking for in your next canine companion.
- Join organizations that fight puppy mills. There are so many people out there working together to fight the horrors of puppy mills. Raising a united voice can make things happen!!
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