Crackdown Needed

Report slams fed over puppy mills
By Carol Bradley, May 2010

A new government report blasts the U.S. Department of Agriculture for failing to crack down on reckless dog breeders. 

Far too often, inspectors charged with carrying out the Animal Welfare Act fall short of documenting cruel treatment of dogs kept in breeding kennels, overlook chronic violators and even when they write them up, they stop short of fining them, the USDA’s inspector general found.
More than half of the kennels cited for violations between 2006 and 2008 continued to break the law. One especially egregious example was a breeder from Oklahoma with 219 adult dogs, who was cited for 29 violations during three inspections—and a year and half later was found with five dead dogs on his property and other dogs so starved they had begun eating one another. “Despite those conditions (the inspector) did not immediately confiscate the surviving dogs and, as a result, 22 additional dogs died before the breeder’s license was finally revoked,” the report said.
Sprinkled throughout the 69-page report are some of the worst photos I’ve seen, including one of a live dog’s leg stripped down to the bone; another of a deep pool of eye-stinging urine and feces festering below an occupied cage and a shot of an enormous cluster of ticks feeding on one small dog’s face.
The report found four major flaws with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) handling of commercial dog-breeding inspections:  
  • Spotty and ineffective enforcement; some of the breeders violated the law as many as a dozen times.
  • A lack of proper documentation by inspectors. Thirty percent of them failed to correctly report violations, and the failures caused nearly half of all administrative hearings involving problem breeders to be compromised due to lack of evidence.
  • Inspectors reduced punishments arbitrarily, allowing breeders to continue reckless practices.
  • A large loophole in the Animal Welfare Act exempts breeders who sell dogs over the Internet from the minimal guidelines required by law. 
Here’s a link to the report. Its findings underscore the scandalous conditions I write about in Saving Gracie: How one dog escaped the shadowy world of American puppy mills.
Inspector general reports have chronicled abuses in commercial dog-breeding before, and still they persist. What will it take to turn the tide?
Two lawmakers, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator David Vitter (R-La.) today called for immediate changes at APHIS and promised to work with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reform the system.
“This report raises serious concerns about APHIS’s ability to enforce the law, ensure the welfare of animals, and crack down on the most negligent and irresponsible dog breeders,” Durbin said. “While USDA has already begun to make administrative changes, more needs to be done.”
Durbin introduced legislation on Tuesday, May25, to close the Internet loophole puppy mills are currently exploiting. The Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act would require all breeders selling more than 50 dogs a year to be licensed and to undergo inspections to ensure the dogs are receiving proper care. USDA played a role in developing the legislation, according to Durbin’s office. Senator Vitter is the bill’s lead cosponsor.


Carol Bradley is the author of Saving Gracie: How one dog escaped the shadowy world of American puppy mills. Her post about the USDA inspector general report is cross-posted here with her permission.