For those of you who follow the efforts to shut down puppy mills in Pennsylvania, the letter below is from Jessie Smith, Special Deputy Secretary for Dog Law Enforcement. This letter was published in today's Gant Daily, a newspaper in the Clearfield, Philipsburg and Dubois areas of PA.
PA Tough on Puppy Mills
Over the last three years, Pennsylvania has worked hard to shed its reputation as the "Puppy Mill Capital of the East." As a result, we now have one of the strongest laws in the nation for protecting "man's best friend" and are enforcing those laws so dogs in commercial kennels are treated humanely.
That's incredibly important when you remember that those dogs will one day be members of a family, so ensuring they're treated properly is vital to raising a friendly, well-behaved pet.
After new commercial kennel requirements took effect in October, the Department of Agriculture immediately began an aggressive enforcement effort. Before the end of the year, each of the state's commercial kennels had been inspected and, as a result, 125 kennels that did not meet the new requirements closed--either voluntarily or because of the bureau's actions. Other kennels that were not already in compliance have acted responsibly and built new facilities or made the appropriate renovations.
In the last three years, department has revoked the licenses of 54 kennels that were cited for poor conditions and closed 16 others; it cited more than 150 illegal unlicensed kennels; and it even went so far as to obtain court injunctions to remove dogs from unsafe conditions.
This work has enabled the bureau to save thousands of suffering dogs from substandard kennels, which has given them a chance at a better life. A prime example is the Almost Heaven kennel in Lehigh County. In its largest enforcement action to date, the bureau and its partners raided Almost Heaven in June 2009 and saved 218 dogs from deplorable conditions. Earlier that year, the department refused to renew owner Derbe "Skip" Eckhart's license, yet the June raid uncovered dogs that were being hidden in his home illegally.
That action was only made possible because of the new dog law. The rescued dogs were placed in shelters around the region and quickly adopted.
Pennsylvanians can rest assured that our dog wardens and kennel specialists, many of whom have prior law enforcement experience, will continue to crack down on bad actors such as Almost Heaven thanks to Governor Rendell, the General Assembly, as well as national, state and local advocates who care about our canine companions. Their work to enact a new dog law has allowed commercial kennel dogs to benefit from required veterinary care, more space in which to live and exercise, protection from the cold, and access to water at all times. Additionally, the new law prohibits wire flooring, which can destroy a dog's feet, and stacked cages that are unsafe and unsanitary.
To be clear, the bureau is not out to close down good kennels. Pennsylvania has reputable dog breeders--in fact, many of the nation's best show, sport and boarding kennels are located here--and more than 250 shelters and rescues that give stray and surrendered dogs a second chance. Remember that if you're looking to purchase a dog from a kennel or shelter, you can view its inspection report first by visiting www.agriculture.state.pa.us and clicking on "Dog Kennel Inspections" under "E-Services."
Our good, law-abiding kennels are a valuable asset to Pennsylvania. That's important when you consider the trust a family places in their practices. When you welcome a new dog into your home, you expect that it to be well-tempered and loving. Pennsylvania's new dog law is making sure that's the case by ensuring those dogs are raised properly and with care.
Jessie L. Smith
Special Deputy Secretary for Dog Law Enforcement
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture