Pennsylvania unveiled measures Tuesday to crack down on commercial kennels that breed dogs in inhumane conditions across a state that has one of the biggest concentrations of so-called puppy mills in the United States.
WEST CHESTER, Penn. -- Pennsylvania unveiled measures Tuesday to crack down on commercial kennels that breed dogs in inhumane conditions across a state that has one of the biggest concentrations of so-called puppy mills in the United States.
To strengthen the application of existing law, Governor Ed Rendell appointed a new head of the state's bureau of dog law enforcement, named a special prosecutor, and created a team of inspectors to police about 2,800 kennels.
"We have a very serious problem with the regulation and sale of dogs in Pennsylvania," Rendell said at a news conference. "The state has become known as the puppy mill capital of the country."
Rendell, a Democrat who is running for re-election on Nov. 7, proposed legislation that would strengthen criminal penalties for kennel owners found guilty of cruelty; allow dog wardens to seize dogs in distress, and revoke the license for 10 years of any kennel owner found guilty of cruelty.
Rendell hopes to introduce the legislation by the end of the year.
New regulations, which also need approval by legislators, include doubling cage sizes; requiring all dogs to be exercised for at least 20 minutes a day, and setting minimum standards of temperature, lighting, ventilation and sanitation in the kennels.
Other states with significant numbers of puppy mills include Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
Animal-rights campaigners have protested for years against the conditions endured by thousands of dogs kept permanently in cramped and unsanitary conditions. Adult dogs are continuously bred until they reach the end of their reproductive life, and are then destroyed, according to activists.
Because of the inhumane conditions of the kennels, the puppies produced there often have health, genetic and behavioral problems when they are sold to pet stores.
Bob Baker, a consultant with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals, welcomed the Pennsylvania initiative which he said put the state in the forefront of a national effort to regulate puppy mills.
"We are delighted with the proposals," Baker said. "This is a significant step forward in enforcement, and it is significant that (Rendell) also wants to improve the regulations. No other state compares."
Baker estimated that Pennsylvania's puppy mills produce at least 200,000 puppies a year.