Representative McGrady has championed bipartisan legislation that sets minimum standards for the safety and well-being of pets raised for private sale by commercial breeders. The bill overwhelmingly passed the House this past May and awaits final approval by the Senate.
House Bill 930 — the so-called “Puppy Mill Bill” — seeks to protect the health, feeding and shelter of 10 or more female dogs over the age of six months primarily for the purpose of breeding and selling the offspring as pets to individual buyers. Small breeders with under 10 animals would not be affected by this legislation.
The absence of this type of regulation has lead to the widespread abuse of animals in the care of some commercial dog breeding operations, derisively referred to as “puppy mills.” According to the Humane Society of the United States, North Carolina is one of the top puppy mill states in the nation, with over 300 commercial breeding facilities currently in operation.
“I applaud the House for passing House Bill 930 with resounding support. This legislation is a very important step in establishing basic standards of care for large commercial dog breeding facilities and helps ensure all dogs are treated humanely. I’m grateful for the leadership of the House in passing this bill and encourage the Senate to follow their lead to ensure the health and safety of all dogs in our state.” —First Lady Ann McCrory
According to Kim Alboum, state director for The Humane Society, “thousands of breeding dogs are forced to live in cramped, barren wire cages for years on end. These dogs often don’t have the basics of food and water, shelter from the blistering heat or bitter cold, regular veterinary care, or exercise outside their cages. They receive little or no socialization and often exhibit severe behavioral and genetic abnormalities. When they no longer produce a profit, they are simply discarded or killed.”
The bill aims at preventing the mistreatment before it occurs, instead of having to wait to respond to reports of violations of North Carolina anti-cruelty laws. Currently, reports of animal cruelty trigger intervention by law enforcement and result in the seizure of the afflicted animals after a crisis has emerged and the animals have been harmed.
Dog breeding standards have been implemented in thirty-five other states, and without similar legislation here, North Carolina may be at risk of becoming an attractive alternative for breeders wishing to relocate their operations to a less restrictive environment.
Among the mandates in the bill are those requiring that commercial dog breeders who sell offspring directly to private buyers provide:
- Access to exercise on a daily basis;
- Access to fresh food and water provided at appropriate intervals to maintain a healthy weight;
- Appropriate veterinary care;
- Preventative care sufficient to keep dogs free from internal and external parasites;
- Euthanasia where necessary that is performed humanely;
- Shelter that is humane and offers protection from bad weather;
- Lighting that provides a regular lighting cycle for the dogs;
- Bedding material that is clean and safe.
In January of 2007, 56 dogs were seized by the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department from a home in Candler, North Carolina. The owner was charged with felony animal cruelty for the torture of one Scottish terrier. The puppies were found living in paint buckets and feces spilled from stacked crates of dogs. The rescued animals were taken to the Buncombe County Animal Shelter. The owner later pled no contest to misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals. She was sentenced to 45 days confinement and 18 months probation and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution to the Buncombe County Animal Shelter.
On August 3, 2012, the raid of a puppy mill in the Town of Leland by Brunswick County deputies yielded 163 abused dogs. The operators of the breeding facility were charged with both animal neglect and animal cruelty and put in jail on a $1.5 million bond. They subsequently pleaded guilty to the charges and were sentenced to three years supervised probation and are prohibited from possessing animals again.
Violations of the new law would constitute a Class 3 misdemeanor resulting in fines of $25 per animal, up to $1,000. Each violation of the bill’s provisions would be considered a separate offense. A repeat offender would face stiffer penalties as a Class A1 misdemeanor.
Similar measures have been considered in previous legislatures but always failed after pressure from groups who raised concerns that the legislation was too vague and could negatively impact legitimate large-scale animal operations through unintended consequences.
The current bill is partly a response to these concerns; it is more specific in its provisions, lowers the fines for violation, and removes the requirement to register with the Animal Welfare Division of the Department of Agriculture and the requirement to submit to inspections.
The bill also explicitly excludes kennels operated solely for the purpose of boarding dogs or kennels exclusively used for training dogs for hunting, sporting, field trials, or show. Nor should anything in this bill “be construed to limit hunting or the ability to breed, raise, sell, control, train, or possess dogs with the intention to use those dogs for hunting or other sporting purposes.”
First Lady Ann McCrory was present in the gallery of the House Chamber for the bill’s debate on May 9. The measure passed 100-15.