Posts Tagged ‘dog ownership’

The politics of puppy mills

January 26, 2009

Over the past few years I have seen a lot of material come through on my emails about the evils of puppy mills, the abuses of puppy mills and the demands for legislation to put them out of business.

It all kind of came into focus for me after the U.S. election and the manufactured uproar over then Vice President Elect Joe Biden buying a purebred pup and not getting it from a shelter and the hoopla over what kind of a dog then President Elect Barack Obama would get for his daughters and his expectation that it would come from a shelter and not from a breeder.

The thrust of the rhetoric left the impression that there was somehow something wrong with buying a dog from a registered breeder and that got me to thinking about just what the definition of a puppy mill had become.

Twenty years ago, people knew that a “puppy mill” was a substandard kennel where unhealthy, overbred dogs were kept in horrendous conditions.

Today it’s not so easy. In the last decade of the 20th Century, activist groups began to broaden the term to cover just about any kennel that they didn’t like. As a result, commercial kennels and hobby breeders with more than an arbitrary number of dogs or litters have become targets for anti-breeding groups that lobby for laws to restrict these law-abiding operations. These organizations stir up public support for breeding restrictions and high license fees by deliberately blurring the lines between responsible breeding operations and real puppy mills. They use emotional rhetoric and pictures of dirty kennels and sickly dogs to imply that most or all breeders will subject their dogs to abusive lives unless they are regulated.

Shelter and rescue workers who receive dogs from raids on squalid kennels often lead the fight for laws restricting or regulating breeding in an effort to close kennels they label as puppy mills. Some responsible breeders are so incensed at the existence of substandard kennels that they are willing to accept these punitive licensing schemes even though the costs may limit or destroy their breeding programs.

Lawmakers who write bills aimed at preventing puppy mills leave the definitions up to those who lobby for the laws. As a result, publicity campaigns highlight kennels where dozens or hundreds of dogs are kept in poor conditions, but the bills themselves often target responsible hobby and commercial breeders with far fewer breeding dogs.

That being said, when you search the internet for puppy mill stories, or more correctly, bad breeder stories, it is pretty horrific. However the demands by animals rights groups for laws that will limit the number of breeding dogs a person keeps is not something that will solve the problem of dogs being kept under substandard conditions.

It would seem obvious that a bad breeder is just that; someone who abuses his animals through deplorable living conditions, poor medical care and just all around bad breeding practices. It would not make any difference whether he had 50 or 2 breeding animals in his kennels.

If legislators are going to pass laws to correct the problem of puppy mills (in the true context of the name) they need to deal with real abuses on site and the closing down of bad operators and not on the theoretical possibility of problems because a breeder has more animals than the arbitrary number set by statute.

But as noted, it is the activists that drive the wording of the legislation and what they want is to shut down commercial breeding operations or, at least, limit the practice as much as possible.

This is standard operating practice, a case in point being the attempt to re-write the federal animal cruelty Act, but the activists pushing the legislation insisted on wording that made user groups extremely wary of the intent. Their refusal to compromise ended up dooming the passing of the legislation.

I would normally point out that the same philosophy was implemented into the writing of the Federal Firearms Act, but it was suggested to me by someone who claims genetic linkage that I have a regrettable habit of letting my rants slide into the gun control area. So I won’t.