Let’s not sacrifice Wisconsin’s puppy mill law at the altar of profit

If you have a pet, look into his or her eyes the next time you’re together and consider this startling fact: According to the Humane Society of the United States, every year in this country, 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized in animal shelters. For the most part, these animals are no different than the dog or cat you share your home with. They’re just less lucky – victims of massive overpopulation and a lack of available homes and resources.

That’s why a recent proposal by Rep. Don Pridemore (R-Hartford) to roll back a provision in a new state law intended to crack down on puppy mills is beyond misguided.

Pridemore – who, ironically, is one of the original co-sponsors of the anti-puppy mill legislation – would like to increase the limit on the number of dogs a breeder can sell each year without a license from 25 to 100.

Pridemore says he still wants to prevent the breeding of dogs in puppy mills but doesn’t want to punish so-called hobby breeders.

My advice to the guy who breeds 99 dogs in a given year in order to sell them to his friends and neighbors: Get a new hobby – or stop whining about the oversight that would come with moving that many dogs out the door each year. Seriously, are most “hobbyists” really equipped to raise and care for that many dogs – and to do so humanely? And is breeding on such a large scale really a legitimate hobby? I don’t know of many model airplane enthusiasts who buy their glue bottles by the gross. This sounds more like commerce to me.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with commerce. It’s how I get most of my stuff. But a dog is not just another product. Puppy mills – which this law is finally, thankfully, and belatedly trying to get a handle on – are horrific places where dogs are severely confined and improperly cared for. So any thought of loosening regulations on dog breeders is a thought out of left field.

But that’s exactly what Pridemore’s measure would do. According to a story in the Wisconsin State Journal, the bill would trim the number of inspectors needed to enforce the puppy mill law.

Yeah, nice idea, Don. Seriously, is there no end to the number of prostrations some lawmakers will perform at the altar of profit? If there’s one industry that doesn’t need less regulation, it’s dog breeding.

Of course, at its core, there’s a big difference between dog breeding and most other businesses. It’s one of the few enterprises in which the “product” is a living, feeling being with a capacity for suffering that rivals our own. In most businesses, if a product can’t compete in the open marketplace, it’s discontinued and the surplus inventory is destroyed. When it comes to pets, the same is true of the inventory, but no product lines are ever discontinued, because too many pet owners fail to spay or neuter their animals.

Now, think about those 4 million unfortunate pets again. They will die this year for one reason: There are too many animals and too few homes. Do we really want to support policies that encourage the birth of more pets – and isn’t clamping down on puppy mills the least we can do to prevent more animals from suffering?

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