Legislation targets inhumane 'puppy mills'

Commercial dog breeders may soon have to be federally licensed, as Congress considers a new law that would impose oversight on "puppy mills," known for breeding dogs in overcrowded, dirty and inhumane conditions to be sold in pet stores.

The bill would close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act that allows some large breeders to avoid regulation. It contains provisions to protect the health of animals, and protect consumers from buying diseased or inbred pets. Animal advocates say regulation is necessary to curb abuses at factory-style kennels, many of which keep dogs crammed in filthy cages with no veterinary care. The bill would focus on breeders that sell more than 50 puppies a year.

Abuses have been ignored for decades, say animal welfare advocates. One reason is that under current law, breeders who sell through pet stores or online are exempt from regulation. As a result, a nationwide supply chain has evolved between dog breeders and pet stores. Since no one sees the breeding grounds where dogs are raised, abuse goes unchecked.