More than 100 animals were rescued from a Pender County puppy mill earlier this month, fueling debate surrounding the lack of state commercial breeding legislation.
The Pender County owner agreed to surrender dogs and several other farm animals after local law enforcement investigated the property and found animals suffering from untreated medical conditions and living outside in wire chicken coops.
North Carolina has seen more puppy mill raids than any other state — this raid marks the 14th since 2010, said Melanie Kahn, the senior director of the puppy mills campaign for The Humane Society of the United States, which assisted in the Pender County rescue.
Kahn said puppy mills are breeding facilities that lack food and water, veterinary care and clean and spacious living conditions.
North Carolina has 200 to 300 puppy mills, and the state has no commercial breeding law, Kahn said. Breeders only have to be licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sell to pet stores.
But Brad Ringlien, who owns The Pet Pad in Cary, said some animal rights groups have an agenda.
“(Animal rights groups) kind of redefined what a puppy mill was, so now it’s anyone who makes a profit off of selling dogs is evil,” he said. ”(They) keep redefining it in order to get people to send them money.”
Ringlien’s store sells purebred puppies from BJ and Guys Kennel in Kansas. Although many animals rights groups have accused the kennel of being a puppy mill in online advocacy campaigns, Ringlien said he still stands by the owner, Sharon Munk.
“She would’ve been closed down many, many years ago if she was actually doing half the things that people accuse her of,” he said.
Although he said he has never visited Munk’s kennel, he said she has never failed a USDA or American Kennel Club inspection in the 18 years he has bought puppies from her.
But Kahn said passing these inspections doesn’t mean much.
“It’s virtually meaningless because the USDA standards are so low to begin with. The HSUS has raided plenty of USDA-licensed facilities,” she said. “North Carolina has become a haven for puppy mill operators.”
The USDA, which has suspended some operations due to the government shutdown, did not respond to a request for an interview.
The N.C. House of Representatives passed House Bill 930, a commercial breeding bill in May. The Senate could take it back up in the short session next May.
The bill would give law enforcement officials more specific standards of legal dog care, said Aimee Wall, an expert in animal control law at the UNC School of Government.
Khan said increasing the standards of care in breeding facilities is crucial.
“You never get used to seeing dogs — seeing puppies, living in these horrific conditions where they can’t even stand up and turn around, where they are so emaciated you can see their ribs, where they’re so matted they can’t even open their mouths to eat.”
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