It may sound like a contradiction, but animal welfare advocates say puppy mill auctions are actually a sign that the number of mills in the state is declining. “Those are breeders that are either down-sizing or electing to go out of business,” Mary LaHay with Iowa Voters for Companion Animals explains.
Channel 13 took you inside one of those auctions last week and showed you some of the dogs being bought and sold.
Iowa ranks number two in the country when it comes to the number of commercial breeders. Those breeders sell the dogs they no longer need - or want - at the auctions.
Victor, Buddy and Omar are just three of the dogs purchased by rescue organizations at auctions last month.
“Many of these dogs have not only the potential for health problems, but they`re way behind the ball on socialization,” Veterinarian Nancy Peterson says.
In 2010, then Governor Chet Culver - with his dog Buck by his side - signed the so-called 'Puppy Mill Bill.' It gave state inspectors the ability to inspect USDA licensed facilities if a complaint had been filed against the breeder.
Since then, animal rights advocates say more and more auctions are popping up throughout the state. While it can be hard for some to watch, at least one advocate says an increase in auctions means more puppy mills are closing... And the law is working.
Mary LaHay is the executive director for Iowa Voters for Companion Animals.
“Our organization`s goal is 100-percent compliance to regulations amongst all of the breeders.”
Her organization was instrumental in the passage of Iowa`s Puppy Mill Bill and is now working on new legislation that would put additional bite into Iowa`s Animal Welfare laws.
Peterson says it`s key to reducing the number of irresponsible breeders. “Better legislation is the biggest link and the problem here I think is the breeder group is a pretty powerful lobbyist.”
Breeders fought Iowa`s Puppy Mill Bill, arguing it place additional restrictions on Iowa`s livestock industry.
LaHay says that`s an insult to agriculture, “Farmers have a vested interest in taking care of their animals…these adult breeding dogs aren`t afforded the same type of consideration because the adult dogs aren`t the commodity, the puppies are the commodity. A sick abused, injured, adult dog, still gives birth to cute, fluffy puppies - and they`re the product.”
The number of licensed USDA breeders has dropped significantly since the puppy mill law was signed.
In 2011, there were more than 450... Now, there are fewer than 250.
LaHay says it`s too early to talk specifically about proposed legislation, but in general, she`d like state inspectors to have greater enforcement power over federally licensed facilities.
She points to Missouri as a state that`s made great strides in this arena. In 2012, there were 600 additional inspections, compared to the year before and new regulations - ranging from how animals are housed to how often they`re fed are being phased in.