November 1, 2007
Article written by Wayne Pacelle
An HSUS undercover investigation revealed deplorable conditions
in nearly 1,000 puppy mills across Va., making the state a leader in an inhumane industry.
Virginia—a state dotted with historic towns, scenic byways ... and horrible puppy mills.
A five-month, undercover
investigation by The HSUS revealed a substantial Virginia puppy mill industry that is largely unregulated and often in violation of state and federal laws.
From large-scale operations with hundreds of dogs living in seemingly endless rows of cages; to small, crowded kennels
in trailers, backyards and even basements across Virginia; hundreds of commercial breeders are mass-producing dogs with little
or no oversight and few—if any—safeguards for the health and well-being of the animals.
HSUS investigators visited puppy mills of all sizes, as well as pet stores and Virginia-based websites selling dogs. Their
discoveries were staggering.
Big-time dog breeders in Virginia number nearly 1,000. And many of these
operations churn out puppies in the most deplorable conditions imaginable.
Denying Basic Needs
Like many states, Virginia has no kennel inspection program to ensure that dog breeders meet basic standards of animal
care. HSUS investigators visited mills and pet stores across the state and found that even the most minimal state
laws for adequate care and shelter were ignored.
Investigators found breeding dogs and puppies living in cramped, filthy
cages, in urine-soaked trailers and in ramshackle kennels without basic sanitation, clean water, veterinary care or even the
most primitive protection from the elements.
Flouting the Law
Some breeders were also breaking federal laws. To sell puppies to pet stores, facilities with more than three breeding
females are required to have a license from the United States Department of Agriculture.
In Virginia, only a handful
of dog breeders hold a USDA license; many of the unlicensed sell to pet stores, anyway.
Others bypassed pet stores altogether
and sold directly to the public though classified ads and the Internet, where breeders are not required to have a license
and can operate without any oversight whatsoever.
A Sick Business
All this out-of-control breeding has other consequences. Consumers find the market flooded with sickly puppies. Many buy
a puppy who seems healthy, only to find out weeks or months later that their new pet has serious health problems.
And Virginia's puppy mills significantly contribute to the state's pet overpopulation crisis: last year, shelters
in Virginia had to euthanize more than 42,000 dogs for lack of homes.
In Bad Company
Unless Virginia does something fast, it is destined to be known as the next puppy mill state. The HSUS urges legislators
to require higher standards for breeding kennels within the state, as Virginia's puppy mill problem only accelerates a nation-wide
Puppy mills all over the country are producing dogs much like Virginia—under the radar and out of
sight. Legislators in all states can help stem this cruelty by requiring large-scale breeders to be licensed,
inspected, and held to high standards.
What You Can Do
Meanwhile, The HSUS urges dog lovers everywhere to become part of the solution.
- Perform your own inspection of any breeder from whom you are considering buying a pet. Pet stores love to tout that they buy only from "local breeders"—wooing
potential spenders into thinking the pups came from a good situation. But "local breeders" can and often are local puppy
- Help stamp out the puppy mill trade entirely by choosing to adopt your next pet from a shelter or rescue group instead. There are millions of lovable animals across the country in need of a good home.