Focal Point: 'Puppies and Politics'

A bill stalled in the General Assembly would enforce stronger standards on breeders of so-called puppy mills. WRAL News looks at why some are opposed to the measure.

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Original air date: Oct. 28, 2009

In February 2009, Wayne County animal control authorities seized 283 dogs, mostly puppies, from a puppy mill operation in Mount Olive called Thornton’s Kennels.

Most of the animals suffered from a variety of health problems, including malnutrition, skin infections, flea and tick infestation, rotten teeth and jawbones, embedded collars, fur matted with feces and urine, ringworm and disease.

The owner of the kennel was later convicted of animal cruelty.

The Thornton’s Kennels case was in the district of state Sen. Don Davis, D-Wayne, who went to see the dogs and puppies for himself.

Davis was so appalled that he introduced legislation to regulate commercial dog breeders who sell to the public.

The bill would force the breeders to comply with the same standards of care for their animals that already apply to public and private animal shelters, boarding kennels and pet stores.

The bill, narrowly passed in the Senate, was stalled in committee in the House when the Legislature adjourned in August.

The bill was strongly opposed by many dog breeders, but also by a wide variety of powerful special interest groups, including the American Kennel Club, the National Rife Association and several agri-business organizations.

They call the bill arbitrary, vague, and unnecessary and an intrusion on the rights of dog breeders.

But there’s another reason for their opposition: The Human Society of the United States supports the bill. The bill’s opponents claim that the HSUS wants to eventually ban all animal breeding and that it’s backing the puppy mill bill as a small step toward its much larger agenda.

Focal Point: “Puppies and Politics” examines the puppy mill problem in North Carolina, its impact, and the controversial political debate that’s been ignited by legislation designed to help protect both puppies and consumers.

Writer/Producer: Clay Johnson
Photographer/Editor: Jay Jennings

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