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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Off to a Strong Start in 2010

It was a record breaking year in 2009 for animal protection lawmaking at the state level, with 121 new laws enacted for animals. And we’re already off to a strong start in 2010, with important policy reforms charging forward in key states.

Puppy
We're off to a strong start in 2010 with a number of states
working to combat puppy mills.

Ten states last year passed laws to crack down on abusive puppy mills, but this year we’re seeing progress in the heart of the industry. In Missouri, the nation’s top puppy mill state with an estimated 3,000 mills, citizens are now collecting signatures to place the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act on the November statewide ballot. In the second and third largest puppy mill states, Oklahoma and Iowa, lawmakers are considering bills to address the most serious problems in large-scale breeding facilities.

The Oklahoma Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday approved S.B. 1712, introduced by Sen. Patrick Anderson (R-Enid), which would establish minimum animal care standards and require licensing of commercial breeders, and the bill now moves to the full Senate. Tulsa World investigative reporters Omer Gillham and Curtis Killman had exposed the rampant problems and lack of oversight on Oklahoma’s puppy mills, with their Genesis Award-winning series “Puppy Profits: Oklahoma’s Dog Breeding Industry,” and the newspaper’s editorial writers have called on state legislators to take action.

The Iowa House of Representatives yesterday passed H.F. 2280, introduced by Rep. Jim Lykam (D-Davenport), by a vote of 77-22, to give the Iowa Department of Agriculture the authority to inspect puppy mills. Iowa currently does not allow state officials to inspect USDA-licensed puppy mills, even if complaints have been reported. When dogs are languishing for years in wire cages to produce puppies for pet stores and retail sale, it’s just common sense that there should be basic standards of care and oversight.

Indiana legislators are taking action to protect pets and consumers, and also crack down on staged animal fights. The Indiana House of Representatives has passed H.B. 1258, introduced by Rep. Linda Lawson (D-Hammond), by a vote of 71-26, and the bill is now pending in the Senate. The measure would require retail pet stores to provide dog and cat purchasers with information on the animal’s history and health records, and would make it a felony to attend a dogfight or cockfight. A bill sponsored by Rep. Lawson in 2009 successfully upgraded the penalties for animal abuse and established standards of care at puppy mills, and the new legislation would build on that record of achievement by providing more public disclosure regarding puppy mill dogs, and cracking down on animal fighting spectators who finance the cruel operations with their admission fees and gambling wagers. The South Bend Tribune published an editorial today calling on the Senate to pass the bill.

There are dozens of other animal protection bills moving across the country, and we will keep you informed of their progress. As illustrated by the recent Humane State Ranking, the trends are positive but there are major gaps in the law throughout the nation. It’s only because citizens who care about animals take part in the public process that we are able to close these gaps and enact stronger policies. Please contact your state lawmakers in favor of these proposals, attend a Humane Lobby Day in your state, and be part of the growing movement to have strong laws on the books protecting animals from cruelty and abuse.

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