MASON CITY, Ia - “It’s Iowa’s dirty little secret,” says Sybil Soukup, Executive Director of the Humane Society of North Iowa.
She’s done her research and sees the consequences when dogs from an unethical breeder come to her.
While there are breeders in the state who take good care of their animals, there are others who don’t.
“There are breeders out there that take very good care of their animals and their breeding puppies, not to make money, but because they love the breed so much and want to share the joy of that breed with other people. We don’t have a problem with those types. It’s the people that are breeding hundreds of dogs, making them live in substandard conditions that are inhumane and cruel and doing it for the money.” she says.
According to the a new national ranking by the US Humane Society, Iowa is ranked fifth in the number of so called “puppy mills.” But why so high? For one, Missouri is the number one state for problematic puppy mills and is Iowa’s neighbor.
“Eventually, they need to switch out their stock, otherwise they’ll have inbreeding and lots of issues. Some do this, some do not, those that do go to a breeder’s auction. These are often held on state lines in Missouri and Southern Iowa,” says Soukup.
But, maybe the most prevalent reason for this issue is the lack of state regulations. Dogs are still considered by lawmakers as “livestock” under the Animal Welfare Act of 1965. A time when dog breeders barely existed.
“Even a pig from birth to market is six months and we consume that. This is a pet,” Soukup adds.
Since then, regulations are still very lenient.
“This is all the law requires; adequate shelter, and this is considered adequate, and then access to food and water, and it doesn’t need to be a nutritious diet, it doesn’t need to be clean water, it doesn’t need to be, you know they don’t require veterinarian care, very minimal standards,” she explains.
A bill is currently going through the Minnesota legislature requiring an annual inspection of all breeders and licensure.
“We’re looking at trying too. I think it’s pretty well-defined who the commercial breeders are and those are the people that are going to need to be licensed as of July 1, 2015. They must obtain an annual license for every facility the owner operates.” says State Representative Jeanne Poppe.
These guidelines are already in place in Iowa. The inspections happen but last year 41% of almost 250 licensed breeders had violations and all but one are still open for business.
Soukup also says if you want to avoid enabling these establishments, there are a few things to watch out for.
Ask to see the parents, if they don’t let you see them in their normal living conditions that’s a red flag and always make sure they are licensed.