Update June 5, 2008: Governor Tim Kaine has now signed the landmark puppy mill bill into law. It iwll be effective January, 2009.
One rescuer who asked not to be identified has expressed concern about the large numbers of dogs that will be surrendered, dumpedÂ or sold out of state by millsÂ as they begin to comply with the new law’s limit of 50 dogs.Â "We are thrilled with a law that for the first time limits the number of breeding dogs. It will certainly stop the large operations with hundreds and thousands of dogs. But the animal welfare community must gear up now to care for the many dogs that will be dumped when the law goes into effect."
Update April 25, 2008: Instead of signing the puppy mill bill, H.B. 536, Governor Tim Kaine returned the bill to the legislature with a recommendation to move up the effective date from July 2009 to January, 2009.
By a vote of 66-29 in the House and 39-0 in the Senate, the legislature has agreed!
Virginia has passed a bill that for the first time limits the number of dogs a miller can have. Also, the bill limits the ages when female dogs can be bred. Read Animal Law Coalition’s earlier reports below for more on this historic legislation.Â
Also, stay tuned: Junior Horton will be tried on animal cruelty charges beginning on May 16. Read Animal Law Coalition’s earlier reports below for more on this bust of a horrific Virginia puppy mill that spurred many to support this legislation.
Update March 5, 2008: The Senate passed the puppy mill bill!! By a vote of 37-3! With no debate. The governor is expected to sign this bill which will apply to commercial breeders that have 30 or more female dogs for breeding.Â Â
For more information, read the reports below!Â
If you need a reason to write or call Virginia Senators in support of H.B. 538, the puppy mill bill, click here. Sheriff’s deputies in Warren County, VA found 29 dogs this past week in a "dark, freezing barn", a puppy mill.
They were starving, living in filth with fur matted with feces. One chihuahua was found starved to death in a trash bag. Many of the dogs were pregnant, at least one was less than a year old, still a puppy herself.
This "puppy mill" operated by Michael Smith is why Virginia must pass H.B. 538. Smith is on probation from a prior charge for operating an illegal kennel. He has been charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty as a result of this latest atrocity.
Then there’s Junior Horton. Following months of undercover investigation by Virginia Partners for Animal Welfare and Support, ("VA PAWS") http://www.vapaws.org/, and Humane Society of the United States, of a puppy mill operated by Lanzie ("Junior") Horton, Jr. and his family, in Hillsville, Virginia, authorities raided the place on November 1, 2007.
More than 700 dogs were seized.
Then on January 31, 2008 Junior was charged with 14 counts of animal cruelty, 25 counts of neglect and 1 count of failing to have the requisite county license. Junior has been released on $5,000 bond.
What is shocking is that Junior has been allowed to continue to operate his mill where dogs subsist 24/7 in overcrowded makeshift cages. He has even been issued a county license to keep 200 dogs. It is believed the family covertly operates another larger mill on property owned by Junior’s father.
Junior’s trial is set April 18.
Once you watch these reports, you’ll understand why H.B. 538 is so important. As Lila Wills, president of VA PAWS, puts it, "H.B. 538 would provide a measure for keeping commercial breeders in check. We would not have the issue of puppy mills like Junior Horton’s if this passes".
Sharon Adams, executive director of Virginia Beach SPCA, concurs, adding, "USDA cannot protect us from these folks. There are not enough inspectors and not high enough standards." As Adams points out, the USDA does not even require licensng for a puppy miller, like Junior Horton, for example, that does not sell to pet stores. A miller like Junior Horton is not even regulated by the USDA. Adams summarized, "This is a Virginia problem and it needs a local Virginia solution."
Update February 26, 2008: The Senate Finance Committee has passed H.B. 538, unanimously!! One more vote and this bill may be law. The bill is likely to come up for a vote before the full Senate later this week or early next week! Click here to find Virginia Senators and write or call and urge them to vote yes on H.B. 538.
If you live in Virginia, click here to find your Senator. Write or call and urge him or her to pass H.B. 538.
Send them the attached Questions and Answers prepared by Sharon Adams, Executive Director of Virginia Beach SPCA. Don’t wait. Do it now before the vote.
Update February 25, 2008: The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee passed H.B. 538 by a vote of 14-1!!
The bill now goes immediately to the Senate Finance Committee.
The puppy millers are fighting this bill. They plan to turn out for the hearing en masse. They have paid lobbyists working to stop this bill. The dogs only have you.
Interestingly, Sen. Creigh Deeds seems to be leading the charge against this bill. Sen. Deeds apparently plans to run for governor. Click here to find Sen. Deeds’ contact information. Let him know if he wants to be governor, he should support HB 538 and let Virginia regulate the many puppy mills that are not required to have USDA licenses. Like Junior Horton, for example. Send Sen. Deeds the link below to the video of the undercover investigation of this puppy miller, Junior Horton, whose terribly cruel treatment of his poor dogs is vividly depicted on the video.
The puppy millers showed up on Monday, February 18, and forced one amendment: A locality, if it chooses, may expand the total number of animals that a commercial breeding operation may have so long as the locality adopts an ordinance that requires a public hearing and it grants the locality the right to add requirements on the operation as a consequence of the expansion.
Update February 12, 2008: The Virginia House of Delegates has passed the puppy mill bill by a vote of 91-6. Now it’s on to the Senate.
Update February 8, 2008: The bill was changed in committee: The commercial breeders that will be regulated are those with 30 dogs instead of 20, but the upper limit of 50 dogs remains unchanged. Dogs included in the count are those over 1 year instead of 4 months. Also, the fire prevention and suppression requirements have been deleted.
For more on this bill, read Animal Law Coalition’s Original report below.
Original report: Stopping or at least regulating the breeding of companion animals particularly dogs for profit, in what are typically terrible conditions, is a top priority of animal welfare advocates in Virginia this legislative session.
H.B. 538 proposes to regulate commercial breeders defined as those that keep 20 or more adult female dogs for breeding. No commercial breeder would be allowed to have more than 50 dogs over the age of 4 months at any one time.
All commercial breeders that sell to pet shops would be required to maintain their USDA license. Every commercial breeder would be required to have a business license.
Female dogs could not be bred without an annual certificate from a licensed veterinarian that states the dog is healthy enough to breed. No female dogs could be bred unless they are between 18 months and 8 years of age. There would be no limits, though, otherwise on the number of times the dogs can be bred or numbers of puppies sold each year.
Interestingly, commercial breeders would be barred from operating what is called a releasing agency, meaning a private rescue or other animal welfare organization. Sometimes these puppy millers disguise their operations as a private rescue.
The proposed law would otherwise require animal control to keep track of commercial breeders in their jurisdiction. Commercial breeders would be required to keep detailed records for 5 years for each animal, submit to inspections by the Department of Agriculture, the State vet, local animal control and health officials; dispose of waste and dead animals according to law, and maintain an evacuation plan in case of fire that includes smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and a sprinkler system.
Violations of this proposed law would be a Class I misdemeanor.
Sharon Adams, executive director of Virginia Beach SPCA, had this to say: "HB 538…finally begins to regulate an unregulated industry, puppy mills, which directly impacts the taxpayers throughout Virginia.
"In November, 2007 more than 1,000 dogs were found at a breeding facility, "puppy mill" in Carroll County. Think about the amount of waste, feces and urine that was being produced by that facility. Where did it go, into the groundwater? Consider what happens to the carcasses of all the puppies that don’t survive and the adult dogs that die of cancer, (common to breeding animals) and other disease.
"Seven hundred dogs were seized, what is the impact on the county’s taxpayers when they have to provide shelter and care for those animals awaiting a court hearing?
"What does this activity contribute to the almost 117,000 animals euthanized in Virginia’s shelters and pounds in 2006, mostly at taxpayer’s expense? Never mind the horrible conditions these animals endure while living in their life long prisons."
Adams continues, "HB538 does not in any way impede the activities of those who are breeding small numbers of animals to improve the breed or to show or to hunt. …Breeding fifty dogs is not a hobby. Stamp collecting and knitting afghans are hobbies….Hobbies do not produce over one quarter million dollars a year in income for the individual.
"21 females bred 3 times per year = total of 15 puppies each, producing 945 dogs.
"945 puppies sold for a conservative $300 each to pet stores like Petland, = $283,500 ANNUALLY
"…Dog and cat breeding is a business, using live ingredients to manufacture more live products with no regard for the outcome. It is time to be realistic about this commercial activity and to hold the participants accountable just as we hold other businesses accountable for their business practices.
"If the Commonwealth of Virginia can regulate and inspect municipal pounds and private non-profit shelters who try to find homes for the animals that are often the by-products of this activity; then those who profit from the activity should be subject to regulation as well."
Adams concludes, "…We require farmers and Perdue to comply with regulations, along with our shelters and pounds, why shouldn’t a puppy mill?"