Puppy mill bill helps, but only part of solution

We realize that Pennsylvania lawmakers could and should be grappling with issues that many residents would deem more important than puppy mills — taxes, education, passing a budget on time for a change, to name a few.

But for Pennsylvania, and Lancaster County in particular, this is an issue that needs addressing, and has for far too long.

Lancaster County is notorious for its puppy mills, as LNP’s Tom Knapp reported. This bill — introduced by state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler and state Rep. Jason Ortitay, Republicans who represent Allegheny and Washington counties — would require pet stores to partner with shelters and rescues “to promote adoption and decrease the demand for the puppies raised in puppy mills.”

Given some horrendous cases of animal abuse that we’ve seen over the last couple of years in Lancaster County, this is a necessary measure that both Republicans and Democrats should support.

The Hill newspaper reported back in May that according to the Humane Society of the United States, the greatest number of problem breeders in the country are in Ohio, Kansas and Pennsylvania.

“It is well-documented that ‘puppy mills,’ inhumane commercial dog breeding facilities, frequently supply pet stores with puppies,” Ortitay wrote in a memorandum seeking co-sponsors on the state House website.

A dozen breeding facilities on the Humane Society’s so-called “Horrible Hundred” list are in Pennsylvania, seven of which are in Lancaster County. We don’t want the county to be known as the state’s capital of puppy mills.

“We applaud Rep. Ortitay and Sen. Reschenthaler for introducing this important legislation to bring us closer to the day when cruel puppy mills have nowhere left to sell,” Kristen Tullo, Pennsylvania state director for the Humane Society, said in an email to LNP.

We applaud them, too.

We urge you to contact your local state lawmaker and tell him or her that you support this legislation. But there’s something else you can do.

We will always recommend adopting a dog or cat from a shelter. There are plenty of unwanted and abandoned pets out there just waiting for a home.

But if you, or anyone you know is considering purchasing a specific breed, there are some red flags that indicate a particular breeder might be nothing more than a puppy mill. As Knapp reported in 2016, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says to be aware of the following:

– The breeder lists multiple breeds.

– The breeder advertises dogs on Craigslist or similar websites.

– The breeder won’t show you the kennels.

– The breeder shows you handwritten health records.

– The dogs seem antisocial or fearful.

Any reputable breeder should be able to show you a current kennel license. He should also be able to give you a list of references. There are good private breeders out there that aren’t puppy mills.

One of the problems, according to the ASPCA, is that there are countless unlicensed breeders operating completely under the radar and too many licensed breeders operating without enough oversight. Perhaps if we had better enforcement of the laws and stricter requirements for licensing, we wouldn’t be in this situation. While this bill doesn’t directly address those issues, it’s a step in the right direction.

This bill protects both animals and consumers. Animals should never suffer inhumane conditions. And consumers shouldn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for a sick dog at a pet store, only to have the animal die a few days or weeks later.

“This legislation will spare animals from suffering and consumers from heartbreak,” Tullo told LNP.

And each is a worthwhile endeavor, even among other pressing matters.