Ohio, one of the epicenters of cruel “puppy mill” style dog breeders, passed a landmark bill on Tuesday restricting the ability of breeders to mistreat the dogs they are raising for sale. Because Ohio had virtually no legal oversight of breeders, it became “one of the biggest unregulated states” for puppy mills, understood as breeders who keep their dogs in confined, unsanitary, and cruel conditions until they’re sold as a strategy for maximizing profit. The new Ohio law, among other provisions, “requires state licensing and inspection of breeders who annually sell 60 dogs or at least nine litters; authorizes Ohio’s agriculture director to specify standards of care; and denies licensing to anyone convicted of animal cruelty in the last 20 years.”
These reforms are badly needed: a recent puppy mill case involving 241 dogs has resulted in 723 counts of animal cruelty because “dogs and pups [were] living in horrid conditions and many were sick, emaciated and had visible infections and sores.” In another November case, a breeder released 34 dogs “matted with urine, feces and fleas [whose] nails were curled under the pads of feet…Many have severe dental disease and 17 have eye infections.” The tighter licensing and inspection provisions are expected to prevent many dogs from ever having to endure these conditions by making it harder for abusive breeders to hide cruel practices.
The new legislation isn’t everything proponents of strict animal welfare protections could hope for. Animal advocates worry that the veterinarians conducting the inspections could be on a puppy mill payroll and that the minimum size for cages, six inches from nose and tail, are still much too small. And Ohio law still has serious deficiencies with respect to the treatment of animals. But the law is generally considered to be a step in the right direction in limiting the puppy mill epidemic.