Puppy mill bust renews debate over NC regulations

Posted August 6, 2012
Updated August 7, 2012

— A North Carolina state lawmaker says he plans to introduce a bill next year that would regulate puppy mills.

Focal Point: "Puppies and Politics" Focal Point: 'Puppies and Politics'

First-term Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, said Monday that he and Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, have been discussing the matter for the past couple of weeks but that a bust Friday at an alleged puppy mill in Leland prompted him to speak publicly about it.

Brunswick County sheriff's deputies and animal rights advocates rescued 160 dogs, 26 birds and one cat in the raid of the breeding operation inside a doublewide trailer without electricity.

Many of the dogs were matted, caked in filth, covered in fleas, and in need of veterinary care. Some have broken jaws from severe tooth decay.

"No animal should be treated that way," Saine said. "We're in a place in society now where I think, certainly, we can have some reasonable regulation that prevents instances like that happening."

According to the Humane Society of the United States, about half of all states have some type of regulation on commercial breeders.

Animal rights advocates have been trying for years – most recently in 2010 – to get similar regulations in North Carolina, but they have gotten nowhere.

Kim Alboum, North Carolina director for the HSUS, says that there are regulations for breeders who sell to pet stores or to research laboratories but there is no oversight regarding sales to the general public.

Puppy mill bust renews debate over NC regulations Puppy mill bust renews debate over NC regulations

Ninety percent of breeders, she says, sell to the general public through newspaper advertisements and the Internet.

"There are no state standards for breeders. They don't even have to register. Federal laws don't cover most of them, either," she said. "We have to wait until these animals are literally suffering and dying before we can go in. We could avoid so much pain for the animals if we just had minimum standards for them."

Over the past year, there have been nine puppy mill busts in the state – more than any other state in the country, according to Melanie Kahn, national director of the HSUS Campaign to Stop Puppy Mills.

"Almost every product sold in this country is subject to some sort of regulation, but somehow dog breeding is not," she said.

But dog breeders and groups that represent their interests say that puppy mill regulations could have unintended consequences for legitimate and responsible dog breeders.

The North Carolina Federation of Dog Clubs recently opposed proposed federal regulations on Internet dog sales. Many of its arguments are similar to their reasons for opposing puppy mill regulations.

For example, the federation says, regulations could create unreasonable financial hardships for home-based hobby breeders, who don't generate the same level of income as commercial breeders.

"It would threaten the future of a vast number of small, responsible dog owners and breeders, as well as have long-term implications on our agriculture industry," NCFDC President Peter Lunding said.

Larry Sorenson, of Clayton, has bred and shown dachshunds for 35 years and has been recognized by the American Kennel Club as a breeder of merit. He also says that a poorly written law could end up hurting good breeders.

"We're not opposed to reasonable, enforceable laws," he said. "The problem is in the drafting of the laws – definitions. What's the definition of a puppy mill situation? Is it a number? Is it a procedure?"

A clearer definition of what constitutes a puppy mill, he said, would make him more comfortable with regulations.

He adds that recent busts prove that the state's current animal cruelty laws are strong enough.

"We have had a number of convictions now that people are finding these out, and they are being brought to the light and being eliminated," he said.

But Kahn disagrees.

"We know the current laws aren't working, because we've had so many raids in North Carolina," she said. "All of those raids have been because the situation has risen to the level of animal cruelty. That's why authorities have been able to go in."

In Friday's Brunswick County case, the dogs' owners, Andrew and Amelia Millis, of Wilmington, were arrested on charges of animal neglect and animal cruelty. Both were in the Brunswick County jail Monday afternoon under $1.5 million bonds.

The SPCA of Wake County has taken in 39 of the dogs and puppies seized from the Millises.

Spokeswoman Mondy Lamb said Monday that some of the dogs are facing serious health problems but that others should be ready for adoption in about two to three weeks.

Anyone interested in adopting a dog should contact the SPCA.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • ykm Aug 7, 2012

    If people didn't buy em they wouldn't make em. That's the way it is.

  • Bewitched Aug 7, 2012

    Yes, the laws exist...but the penalties associated with the laws obviously aren't stiff enough.

  • cecgrader Aug 7, 2012

    The NC Animal Welfare Act (NCGS 19A) states: ""Dealer" means any person who sells, exchanges, or donates, or offers to sell, exchange, or donate animals to another dealer, pet shop, or research facility; provided, however, that an individual who breeds and raises on his own premises no more than the offspring of five canine or feline females per year, unless bred and raised specifically for research purposes shall not be considered to be a dealer for the purposes of this Article." Well, this means "puppy mills" that are not licensed are in violation of this act. As stated before laws already exist to control "puppy mills" we don't need any more.

  • malonem1 Aug 7, 2012

    I want to see stiffer laws on this - this is a disgrace and why would someone want to purchase a puppy from these places knowing that they are inbred and the conditions these dogs are in - it is terrible . My heart goes out to all the dogs/puppies that have SUFFERED in these type of conditions. THese people are scumbags - look at their pictures - no emotions about what they have done - they have scarred these poor dogs/puppies- they need to be thrown in the slammer and the key thrown away. FUTURE PET OWNERS _ DO NOT BUY FROM PUPPY MILLS!!!

  • Pepe Silvia Aug 7, 2012

    WRAL - Please do your part and no longer allow puppies for sale in the classified ads!

  • Bewitched Aug 7, 2012

    I'm glad those two hateful people are in jail. And now we need to do something to STOP this from continuing! The laws have to be made tougher on this issue.

  • dwntwnboy Aug 7, 2012

    Greed is what drives people to keep animals like this- especially if they are breeding them. It's just plain greed. They want to spend as little as possible for the upkeep of the animals while still charging as much as they can- it's basic business...but when dealing with live animals, some care has to be given to keep the stock in good condition. They needed a business class.

  • flyNC Aug 7, 2012

    Are we done reinforcing gay regulations? If not, do we really have the time to be worrying about animal abuse?

  • eye10west Aug 7, 2012

    NC has the laws to address animal cruelty. Regulating every one that has a litter can be harmful to the dogs, buyers and breeder and is governmen over reach. To regulate a small not for profit show dog breeder in the same manner as a large commercial facility is akin to regulating a person who bakes cookies for a fair or bake sale in the same manner as a bakery. Please don't start with, but these are living beings. Living beings eat the cookies. There are too many reasons for keeping dogs intact that have nothing to do with breeding to list here. The idea that the only reason is to breed the animal is ignorance at it's greatest.

  • piene2 Aug 7, 2012

    "She is a chiwawa, and has been inbred many generations

    Unfortunately we have all too much experience with K-9 epilepsy. Our French Poodle developed it around two years of age. He was already suffering from allergies and was on anti histamines. Our vet put him on Phenobarbital to control the seizures and that worked for a time. When the seizures returned we added potassium bromide which, while it did help with the seizures, it just took left Buddy with no desire to do anything but sleep. After that he developed some joint problems that required Glucosamine. I and our veterinarian did a lot of research and she even made some calls to her old professors for advice. We came up with a drug usually reserved for human use called Zonisamide to control his seizures. Unfortunately at about that time Buddy developed Cushing's disease and everything put together was just too much for Buddy to overcome and we were forced to put him down.