Raleigh, N.C. — Animal advocates gathered at the Legislative Building on Wednesday to ask lawmakers to regulate so-called "puppy mills."
Similar bills have failed in every legislative session for years, but one Raleigh couple said they hope their four-legged lobbyist can turn the tide.
Bee is a little cuter than the average lobbyist, but you would never guess she came from a rough background. She was removed from a Stokes County puppy mill in 2011, where she lived in a filthy chicken-wire pen in a gutted trailer with no heat.
"Rats would go inside the trailer, and (the dogs) would fight rats for the food. Some of the dogs had rat bites," said Jennifer Senechal, who adopted Bee.
Senechal and her husband said lawmakers need to require commercial dog breeders to meet basic needs such as food, water and veterinary care for their animals.
"We're here to advocate on behalf of all the dogs that are still in the mills, on behalf of all the dogs that are still in the deplorable conditions that she was in," she said of Bee.
Twenty-one puppy mills have been busted in North Carolina since 2011, with more than 1,600 dogs removed from them.
House lawmakers passed a puppy mill bill last year, but the Senate refused to take it up. House leaders say they will try again this year.
Justin Senechal blamed industry lobbyists for repeatedly defeating attempts to regulate large breeding operations.
"There's a lot of money coming from the opposition, I guess – agriculture groups and the (American Kennel Club) has been against it – and it's just a no brainer to me," he said.
The AKC says regulation would unfairly target good breeders, but supporters say good breeders have nothing to worry about – unlike Bee and other dogs.
"They're creatures too," Jennifer Senechal said. "They deserve to be kept and cared for, and the bill needs to be passed because there needs to be at least minimum standards."