New ‘Puppy Protection’ Bill Would Enact More Humane Conditions For Dogs Raised By Breeders

A new bill in Congress could improve conditions in puppy mills by forcing breeders to give dogs more room in cages and mandating that they have access to the outdoors to exercise.

The bipartisan bill would expand enclosure requirements to allow dogs to stand on their hind legs without touching the top, increase the number of square feet for enclosures based on the dog’s size, and make sure enclosures aren’t stacked on top of one another. It would also require unrestricted access to outdoor exercise areas for dogs 12 weeks and older, legislate 30 minutes a day of socialization outside of veterinary care, and require veterinary screenings before every breeding attempt while prohibiting the breeding of too many litters by one dog (defined as two litters in an 18-month period or six litters in a lifetime). The bill also says that breeders must find humane placement for retired breeding dogs.

Previous versions were introduced to the House in 2019 and then to the Senate last year. The previous Puppy Protection Acts were designed to amend the Animal Welfare Act originally passed in 1966.

The act is supported by groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) — an activist group unassociated with your local humane society — but opposed by others, including the American Kennel Club, which claims that its one-size-fits-all standards ignore best practices for health and breeding practices.

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According to HSUS, a puppy mill is “an inhumane, commercial dog breeding facility in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits.”

Puppy mills are not currently illegal. Laws vary between states, and in most cases, breeders keeping dozens or even hundreds of dogs in cages their entire lives are not breaking the law. All that is required in these cases is that the dogs are provided food, water and shelter. The organization estimates that at least 10,000 puppy mills currently operate in the U.S., with more than 2 million dogs sold from them annually — but only about 2,000 are subject to regulation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We’ve seen animals never leave those stacked cages,” Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, told Insider regarding the treatment of dogs by puppy mills. “How on Earth is man’s best friend supposed to be socialized and interactive with us if they don’t even have the opportunity to put their feet on grass?”

If you support the Puppy Protection Act, you can ask your legislators to co-sponsor the bill by completing this form on HSUS’s website.