Animal rescue organizations have been working tirelessly to improve conditions in the horrendous puppy mills thriving throughout the country. This shameful animal welfare problem has been allowed to fester for decades, and as we begin a new year, we implore people to initiate positive action. We are honored to have this week’s Paw Prints column authored by Mary LaHay, President of an Iowa grass roots organization whose sole purpose is to better protect our helpless animals. Please read the piece carefully, and then take appropriate action, whether in Iowa or another state.
“Our organizations, Iowa Friends of Companion Animals (IFCA) and Iowa Voters for Companion Animals (IVCA) have been working hard to get better state level laws to protect the more than 15,000 adult dogs in these USDA-licensed kennels, but to no avail. We’ve backed up our calls for action with reams of date—USDA data showing that way too many dogs are suffering and dying: dogs fighting to the death with incompatible cage mates, dogs suffering from illness or injury with no veterinary treatment. The list goes on and on. We have records from the USDA’s own inspections that 26 incidences of “direct” violations like these have occurred in 2016. Our analysis of USDA data show that, year after year, upwards of 50% of Iowa breeders are cited for violations to the federal Animal Welfare Act, but these citations seldom result in penalties. And when they do, a breeder only need ignore it and eventually it’ll be swept under a rug. (DM Register: 11/13/2016—Why won’t the USDA shut down these serial animal abusers?)
What we also provide is information about the huge consumer protection issue in this industry. People all across the country end up with sick and dying puppies exported from Iowa. They end up costing many an unwitting customer tens of thousands of dollars in veterinary bills, often ending up with broken hearts and broken bank accounts. One unfortunate New York state family suffered the first-ever confirmed transmission of a terrible zoonotic disease from an Iowa bred-puppy. Their three year old child was hospitalized and diagnosed with canine brucellosis as a result.
In the Iowa Capitol we’re stymied by the industry’s professional organization—Iowa Pet Breeders Association, but upon closer examination, the name is misleading. In fact, only half of the approximate 150 members of the association are breeders. The remaining members represent other ancillary special interest groups that stand to benefit from the status quo: pet stores such as Petland, puppy distribution companies such as Hunte Corporation, dog transport companies, kennel supply companies, veterinary supply companies and clinics – the majority of them don’t even reside in Iowa.
We, on the other hand, have 8300+Iowans who are members of our organization, Iowans who want to see increased oversight of this industry. Hundreds of these members have contacted Iowa legislators lobbying in support of better oversight. Hundreds have taken time out of their busy lives to join us on our annual Lobby Day for Dogs. (iowavca.org/lobby-day-2017) to speak with their legislators face-to-face to ask for better oversight. While many legislators “get it”, the unreasonable fears of Iowa’s agriculture result in the majority of them digging in their heels and saying NO to protecting the dogs, fearing it is all a ruse with the end in sight of affecting agriculture.
This is no ruse. It is a shameful fact. And those of us who care have had enough. We’ve had enough of being accused of fabricating data. We’ve had enough of being dismissed as “animal rights zealots”; we’ve had enough of legislators who work to oppose us in their effort to protect family members who participate in and benefit from this despicable industry.
Based on some of the decisions thus far, it appears the new administration won’t be empathetic to this issue. We won’t see a kinder and gentler USDA any time soon, so the urgency to address this on a state level is more important than ever. If this mistreatment of helpless animals matters to you, if you think Iowa can do better, please reach out to your state legislators, and governor and lieutenant governor, and tell them so. The dogs need each of us to reach out to all these leaders: FOR THE DOGS.”
Only by working together is it possible to change laws, and stop the incredibly cruel and inhumane conditions that flourish in puppy mills. To receive more information, or receive regular e-mail alerts, sign up at www.iowavca.org or contact Mary LaHay at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 515-556-5949. If you still are not convinced, I challenge you to google, “Puppy Mill Photos.”
Remember that what you allow, is what will continue: BE A VOICE FOR THE VOICELESS