Virginia becomes first state to limit the number of dogs at breeding kennels
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2008:
RICHMOND–Virginia dog breeders may not keep more than 50
dogs over the age of one year after January 1, 2009.
Virginia on April 23, 2008 became the first U.S. state to
limit the size of dog breeding kennels. At least 30 states
considered “puppy mill” bills of various sorts during 2008 spring
legislative sessions, with several others believed likely to pass as
the May 2008 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press.
Introduced by Spotsylvania state representative Bobby Orrock,
and amended by recommendation of Governor Tim Kaine, the Virginia
bill was pushed by the Humane Society of the U.S. and the Virginia
Animal Control Association.
The bill received a boost from a five-month HSUS
investigation that discovered more than 900 active dog breeders in
Virginia, only 16 of whom held USDA permits to sell dogs across
state lines. HSUS released the findings on November 1, 2007.
The next day, responding to a tip from Virginia Partnership
for Animal Welfare and Support, of New River Valley, Carroll County
animal control officers raided Horton’s Pups, of Hillsville.
Licensed to keep up to 500 dogs, proprietor Lanzie Carroll Horton
Jr. reportedly had more than 1,100, including about 300 puppies.
About 700 dogs were taken into custody. Horton was charged in
January 2008 with 14 counts of cruelty, 25 counts of neglect, and
one count of failing to update his license.
Allegations of puppy milling made news again in Virginia on
March 11, 2008, when Suffolk County impounded 38 small dogs from
the kennels of Eugene Gordon Lynch, 74. Licensed to keep 50 dogs,
Lynch actually had about 90, said acting Suffolk County animal
control chief Harry White.
Fifty larger dogs were left at the scene, wrote Veronica
Gorley Chufo of the Newport News Daily Press.
“Investigators found a large amount of American Kennel Club
and Continental Kennel Club paperwork and proof of 70-some
vaccinations,” Chufo reported.
Lynch was charged with 103 counts of failing to provide
adequate care, 31 counts of failure to vaccinate, 10 counts of
failure to license, and one count of failure by a dealer to provide
adequate care, police spokesperson Lieutenant D.J. George told Dave
Forster of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.
Publicity about the Horton and Lynch raids and the earlier
HSUS findings built on the exposure of Bad Newz Kennels, the pit
bull terrier breeding business that fronted for the dogfighting
activities of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.
Vick, who pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy
in 2007, is now serving a 23-month sentence at the U.S. penitentiary
in Leavenworth, Kansas. Vick is to return to Virginia to face
state felony dogfighting charges on June 27, 2008.
State charges are also pending against co-defendants Tony
Taylor, Quanis Phillips, and Purnell Peace. Taylor, who turned
prosecution witness, was released from federal prison in March 2007
after completing a two-month sentence. Phillips and Peace are due
for release in February and April 2009.
If Bad Newz Kennels had only bred dogs, it might have been
permitted under the new Virginia law. Sixty-six dogs were found on
Vick’s premises in Surry County, including 53 pit bulls, but many
of the dogs may have been under one year of age. Forty-seven pit
bulls and all of the non-pits were eventually transferred to shelters
Whether the ceiling of 50 adult dogs set by the Virginia law
will actually restrain problematic breeders is unclear from recent
law enforcement history.
Of 28 dog breeders brought before U.S. courts during the
first four months of 2008 for allegedly neglecting animals, in cases
known to ANIMAL PEOPLE, 17 had fewer than 50 dogs total, and 22
appeared to have fewer than 50 adult dogs. Among them, they had
870 dogs. Three had between 100 and 200 dogs, three had between 200
and 300, and only Horton had more. The six breeders other than
Horton with more than 100 dogs each had a combined total of 1,179
dogs, only marginally more than Horton had by himself.
Breeders argue that would-be rescuers are responsible for
more animal neglect and suffering than puppy millers, with
relatively little regulatory supervision.
Breeders, for example, must be federally licensed to move
animals across state lines; nonprofits are exempted. USDA-licensed
breeders are subject to inspection; shelters, sanctuaries, and
shelterless “rescues” are not, no matter how much money they handle
in donations and adoption fees.
Rescuers counter that far fewer animals would need rescue if
breeders were not constantly producing more, but self-described
rescuers are involved in neglect cases at least as often as breeders,
and those operating under nonprofit umbrellas–albeit not always with
complete federal and state credentials– are handling comparable
numbers of animals.
ANIMAL PEOPLE received information about 104 individual
dog-and-cat hoarding cases that were before U.S. courts during the
first four months of 2008, about half of them involving people who
claimed to be rescuing, plus eight cases of prosecuted mass neglect
at shelters and sanctuaries. The latter eight cases involved more
than 200 dogs and more than 1,500 cats, leading to some Internet use
of the term “rescue miller” by breeders asserting that rescuers
should be brought under the same regulatory regime.
Much of the debate over bills to restrain “puppy mills”
pertains to the definition of a “puppy miller.” Animal advocates,
regulatory agencies, and breeders all claim to oppose “puppy
millers,” but tend use the term to mean different things.
To animal advocates, a “puppy miller” is often anyone who
breeds dogs for profit, including backyard breeders whose operations
are too small to be covered by the new Virginia law. The primary
issue is often stopping breeding, to slow the flow of cast-off dogs
into animal shelters.
To much of the public and in law enforcement jargon, a
“puppy miller” tends to be a “factory farmer” of puppies, operating
on a large commercial scale. The primary issue is protecting public
and animal health, within an agricultural context.
To people in the dog breeding industry, a “puppy mill” means
a substandard breeding facility, no matter how small. The primary
issue is selling sick & inbred dogs, who give all breeders a bad
reputation. Large commercial breeders producing thousands of dogs
per year may deny being “puppy millers,” while pointing toward some
of the same backyard breeders as animal advocates.
The earliest mainstream use of the term “puppy mill” that
ANIMAL PEOPLE has discovered at NewspaperArchive.com was a December
1953 warning by an Illinois pet columnist to “Beware of these
so-called puppy mill places where they buy and sell puppies.”
But the term “puppy mill” appears to have morphed from the
pre-World War II use of the term “doggy mill” in similar
warnings–and “doggy mill” already had the same divergent meanings by
the mid-1930s that “puppy mill” has today.
Circumstantial evidence hints that the original “doggy
miller” was 19th century major league catcher Doggy Miller, who bred
hunting dogs in the off-season, allegedly neglected his debts and
family before an early post-career death attributed to alcoholism,
and may have neglected his kennels too.
Miller’s baseball career overlapped that of Humane Society of
Central New York founder Orrin Robinson “Bob” Casey, a professional
player from 1876 to 1885.
A frequent orator on behalf of animals, Casey appears to
have been perhaps the first to denounce “doggy millers.” He died in
1936 while examining a neglected horse.