Puppy mills concern pet shelter supporters

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mary LaHay wants you to look around.

She says you'll find seven licensed breeders producing more than 390 puppies a year in Lyon County. A pair of Osceola County breeders keep more than 150 dogs per year.

Animal shelter staff members in Dickinson County hear about unlicensed dog breeders as well.

LaHay represents Iowa Voters for Companion Animals and is pushing Iowa lawmakers to adopt a bill with stronger restrictions on larger-scale dog breeding operations.

She and other animal lovers statewide say they have grown weary of the dire conditions some puppies are raised in.

"We've been trying to educate people but it just doesn't stick," LaHay said at a meeting among the staff of northwest Iowa animal shelters Friday, Aug. 29 in Milford. "Many of the breeders are violating the animal cruelty statute."

As of 2014, Iowa has nearly 220 large-scale licensed dog breeders, according to LaHay. The worst operations are often filthy and dark. The dogs live in kennels that are too small.

"Livestock conditions are honestly better," LaHay said. "It would make your stomach turn to know what goes on at the puppy mills. Many of the dogs don't see the light of day and never have grass under their feet. It's a huge burden and there's only so much we can do."

Because of the dire conditions the puppies were raised in, local shelter officials say the animals aren't as friendly as the owners would hope. Puppy mill dog owners quickly become frustrated and dump the pets on local animal shelters.

"I think others can attest to this, a lot of the dogs (from puppy mills) have behavioral and health issues and are often hard to place," said Jen Johnson, who works with the Emmet County Animal Shelter. "All those recessive genes (from inbreeding) are just being manifested."

LaHay thinks a lack of breeding regulations contribute to what she considers an uncontrollable problem in Iowa. Puppy breeding operations produce more than 15,000 dogs annually, according to her statistics. She says the numbers place Iowa No. 2 nationally in puppy mill production.

"What we see at the shelter level, the conditions the dogs are being bred is horrible," Johnson said. "It's really hard when we are trying to promote adoptions and we are competing with these mass breeders. I've seen Boston terriers that are blind, other dogs with diseases."

When local animal shelters can't take in the mistreated puppies because of space constrictions, they are often abandoned in rural areas.

Donna Erickson, with People for Pets in Spencer, said she'll occasionally get calls for help from sheriff's deputies.

"I've had a sheriff from 100 miles away call me and say 'what are you going to do about this?'" Erickson said. "We don't have room for 35 dogs. From a shelter standpoint there really is nothing we can do and no one wants to touch these dogs from puppy mills."

Johnson has attended animal auctions in an effort to save the pets. When puppies aren't bought at auctions they remain in the poor conditions of the puppy mills. She'd buy the animals and return them to her local shelter.

LaHay has focused on combatting puppy mills in Iowa since 2008.

"My initial involvement was for the welfare of the adult dogs," she said. "But as time has gone on, what has eclipsed that is the consumer protection issue. The puppies coming out of the mills being so sick and the owners are just stuck. The cost to others, such as animal shelters, taking care of these pets (is high)."

LaHay said breeders "are pumping faulty puppies into the consumer base and there's no way of holding the breeders accountable." She hopes legislation eventually gains traction in the Iowa House of Representatives.

"Although we are seeing improvements there is still a lot to do," she said. "Right now, the state of Iowa does not have any jurisdiction or oversight of these facilities. It's really complex and I won't pretend we have all the ideas. But we do have a lot of people in the state who care."

Friday's conversation took place at the Humane Society of Northwest Iowa shelter in Milford, where overcrowding is a growing concern.

"We've become overwhelmed locally because of these breeders," Johnson said.

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  • Thank you for sharing this important information with your readers. I would like to clarify a couple of comments in the story;

    1) Our organization, Iowa Voters for Companion Animals, is NOT working to make large-scale dog breeding illegal. We ARE working to get better laws to protect the adult breeding dogs kept in them.

    2) The seven breeders in Lyon county keep 390 adult breeding dogs. The number of puppies they produce annually likely far surpasses that.

    3) The breeders in Osceola county keep approx 150 adult breeding dogs. Again, the number of puppies they produce annually likely far surpasses that.

    Please visit our website, www.iafriends.org, to see photos of conditions in some of these mills and others throughout the state. Iowa can and should do better than this!!

    -- Posted by Mary LaHay on Thu, Sep 4, 2014, at 7:52 AM
  • Maybe there needs to be more humane societies!

    -- Posted by iowagirl on Mon, Sep 8, 2014, at 4:59 PM
  • Mary LaHay said

    As of 2014, Iowa has nearly 220 large-scale licensed dog breeders, according to LaHay. The worst operations are often filthy and dark. The dogs live in kennels that are too small.

    This is from the USDA regulations

    (c) Lighting. Indoor housing facilities for dogs and cats must be lighted well enough to permit routine inspection and cleaning of the facility, and observation of the dogs and cats. Animal areas must be provided a regular diurnal lighting cycle of either natural or artificial light. Lighting must be uniformly diffused throughout animal facilities and provide sufficient illumination to aid in maintaining good housekeeping practices, adequate cleaning, adequate inspection of animals, and for the well-being of the animals. Primary enclosures must be placed so as to protect the dogs and cats from excessive light.

    If this is not being met in some facilities then the problem lies in enforcement of existing law.

    -- Posted by sticktofacts on Tue, Sep 9, 2014, at 9:47 AM
  • Again, this is from the USDA breeder CURRENT regulations. If these are not being met in some facilities, the problem lies in lack of enforcement. The regulations ARE in place.

    3.8 Exercise for dogs.

    Dealers, exhibitors, and research facilities must develop, document, and follow an appropriate plan to provide dogs with the opportunity for exercise. In addition, the plan must be approved by the attending veterinarian. The plan must include written standard procedures to be followed in providing the opportunity for exercise. The plan must be made available to APHIS upon request, and, in the case of research facilities, to officials of any pertinent funding Federal agency. The plan, at a minimum, must comply with each of the following:

    (a) Dogs housed individually. Dogs over 12 weeks of age, except ******* with litters, housed, held, or maintained by any dealer, exhibitor, or research facility, including Federal research facilities, must be provided the opportunity for exercise regularly if they are kept individually in cages, pens, or runs that provide less than two times the required floor space for that dog, as indicated by 3.6(c)(1) of this subpart.

    (b) Dogs housed in groups. Dogs over 12 weeks of age housed, held, or maintained in groups by any dealer, exhibitor, or research facility, including Federal research facilities, do not require additional opportunity for exercise regularly if they are maintained in cages, pens, or runs that provide in total at least 100 percent of the required space for each dog if maintained separately. Such animals may be maintained in compatible groups, unless:

    (1) Housing in compatible groups is not in accordance with a research proposal and the proposal has been approved by the research facility Committee;

    (2) In the opinion of the attending veterinarian, such housing would adversely affect the health or well-being of the dog(s); or

    (3) Any dog exhibits aggressive or vicious behavior.

    (c) Methods and period of providing exercise opportunity. (1) The frequency, method, and duration of the opportunity for exercise shall be determined by the attending veterinarian and, at research facilities, in consultation with and approval by the Committee.

    (2) Dealers, exhibitors, and research facilities, in developing their plan, should consider providing positive physical contact with humans that encourages exercise through play or other similar activities. If a dog is housed, held, or maintained at a facility without sensory contact with another dog, it must be provided with positive physical contact with humans at least daily.

    (3) The opportunity for exercise may be provided in a number of ways, such as:

    (i) Group housing in cages, pens or runs that provide at least 100 percent of the required space for each dog if maintained separately under the minimum floor space requirements of 3.6(c)(1) of this subpart;

    (ii) Maintaining individually housed dogs in cages, pens, or runs that provide at least twice the minimum floor space required by 3.6(c)(1) of this subpart;

    (iii) Providing access to a run or open area at the frequency and duration prescribed by the attending veterinarian; or

    (iv) Other similar activities.

    (4) Forced exercise methods or devices such as swimming, treadmills, or carousel-type devices are unacceptable for meeting the exercise requirements of this section.

    (d) Exemptions. (1) If, in the opinion of the attending veterinarian, it is inappropriate for certain dogs to exercise because of their health, condition, or well-being, the dealer, exhibitor, or research facility may be exempted from meeting the requirements of this section for those dogs. Such exemption must be documented by the attending veterinarian and, unless the basis for exemption is a permanent condition, must be reviewed at least every 30 days by the attending veterinarian.

    (2) A research facility may be exempted from the requirements of this section if the principal investigator determines for scientific reasons set forth in the research proposal that it is inappropriate for certain dogs to exercise. Such exemption must be documented in the Committee-approved proposal and must be reviewed at appropriate intervals as determined by the Committee, but not less than annually.

    (3) Records of any exemptions must be maintained and made available to USDA officials or any pertinent funding Federal agency upon request.

    (Approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control number 0579-0093

    -- Posted by sticktofacts on Tue, Sep 9, 2014, at 9:50 AM
  • If you would like to read more regarding the current regulations for USDA breeders you can find them here. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2009-title9-vol1/xml/CFR-2009-title9-vol1-chapI...

    You will need to scroll down this document to section 3.1 to reach the regulations for breeding dogs and cats. You will find that all of the things Ms. LaHay and others state need to be regulated already ARE. Facilities who do not meet these regulations are in violation of existing laws and the way to correct it is through enforcement. If the laws are not being enforced, the USDA is not doing its job.

    -- Posted by sticktofacts on Tue, Sep 9, 2014, at 9:57 AM
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