Colorado's "Humane Pet Act" Fails in Committee

This shameful move against dogs and cats allows horrific abuse to continue.

Posted Feb 07, 2020

Bad news for dogs and cats

The rejection of the "Humane Pet Act" by a 6-5 vote by Colorado's Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee is bad news for dogs and cats because it allows for the continuation of severe and unrelenting mistreatment in puppy mills and kitten mills, often called kitten factories.1

The full text of the proposed bill (HB20-1084) put forth by state Representative Monica Duran (D) and state Senator Mike Foote (D) can be read here. Why the state's Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee decided on this act has many people confused, but that's another matter for another day. 

 kimdewar0/Pixabay
Source: kimdewar0/Pixabay

The way in which members of this committee voted can be seen below and also here. Votes to reject the bill (green checks) crossed party lines, a move that surprised many people. (Contact information for Colorado legislators can be found here.) A watered-down amendment even "removed the restriction on breeding cats or dogs more than once per year and the ban non-solid floored enclosures for animals."2

 Public Record
How members of Colorado's Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee voted on the "Humane Pet Act." The green checks (under Yea) mean they opposed the bill, and red checks (under Nay) mean they supported the bill.
Source: Public Record

There are many reasons why this bill should have passed unanimously.3 In an essay called "I Sure Wouldn't Put My Dog in a Puppy Mill, Would You?" based on a question I was asked by a 10-year-old, I made a case for why countless people want to shut down puppy mills and kitten farms immediately. I wrote this essay in response to a news release published on September 21, 2019, titled: "On Puppy Mill Awareness Day, Rep. Duran & First Gentleman Reis Draw Attention to the Need to Protect Our Canine Friends." Representative Duran and First Gentleman Reis focused on the utterly reprehensible, inhumane conditions at puppy mills in Colorado (my home state) and across the U.S.

The timing for the release of Monica Duran and Marlon Reis' visionary bill couldn't have been better, because the third Saturday in September is Puppy Mill Awareness Day. This is a perfect time, as is every day, for everyone to pay close attention to the horrific conditions at puppy mills and to pay homage to their innocent and non-consenting residents.

Dogs are sentient, feeling beings, and there is no doubt that they don't like being held captive in a puppy mill. It surely isn't anything close to a good life, and we're surely not doing all we can to give them the best lives possible. Someone once told me that puppy-mill breeders have said that they really loved their dogs. I'm glad they don't love me. 

Some people say: "We really don't know what dogs feel." But I point them to a huge database on the emotional lives of these and other amazing nonhumans. There's more than enough science clearly showing that dogs and other animals are emotional beings. I also tell myself I'm glad I'm not their dog. 

Public Domain
Miniature breeds at a U.S. puppy mill.
Source: Public Domain

No dog in their right mind would choose to live in one of these inhumane hellholes, where they're housed in tiny, crowded cages 24/7, go without veterinary care, are poorly fed, and often live in their own and others' waste. I hope that no human would ever choose to relinquish their dog to a puppy mill. If you can bear it, you can read all about the conditions at puppy mills and where puppy mill dogs are sold here.

Money trumps sentience and feelings

Money is king, and it comes at the expense of the health and well-being of the dogs and cats who are forced to live in puppy mill and cat factory hellholes. In the vote against the "Humane Pet Act," money ruled and trumped the well-being of dogs and cats, a shameful move for sure. We read, for example, "Ultimately, lawmakers said they didn’t feel comfortable supporting a bill that could have such an impact on local businesses. 'We cannot be anti-business,' said Rep. Richard Holtorf, a Republican legislator. 'This industry has so many hard-working people, and I am not going to sit here and jeopardize the business models of these pet stores.'”

How we treat dogs, cats, and other animals says a lot about people and decency 

Closing down puppy mills isn't some sort of "radical animal rights" move, as many have claimed. In fact, it's all about decency. It's about showing respect and compassion and honoring who dogs really are—deeply feeling, sentient beings. Calling dogs "our best friends" is a fabrication and a myth that isn't based on reality. No one I know would commit their so-called best friends to life in a puppy mill. 

Nonhumans, including dogs, need all the help they can get, and humans also will benefit from such efforts. It's a win-win for all. The Colorado bill has been postponed indefinitely, and this is not only is a regrettable and shameful move but also shows how some people really don't care about how dogs and other companion animals are mistreated "in the name of humans" and "in the name of money." When they say they really do care, it's hypocrisy in the extreme. They may care, but ... I wonder if they'd put their dog in a puppy mill or kitten factory. 

Dogs and cats aren't mere commodities and shouldn't be traded off as such. They have deep and rich emotional lives, and they care what happens to themselves, their families, and friends. I'll bet some people who support puppy mills still persist in calling them "their best friends" as they allow them to be severely mistreated. There's something very wrong here, and it's ethically repugnant. 

It's astounding that even with amendments, the much weaker version couldn't garner enough support in the face of what we really know about puppy mills and kitten farms and the abuse and violence to which these amazing sentient beings are routinely subjected. I hope people who are as horrified and put off by the failure of the "Humane Pet Act" as those who contacted me will work hard to get it back on the agenda. It's no secret that puppy mills and kitten factories are places in which violence prevails; shame on Colorado legislators who voted down the puppy mill bill. 

Dogs, cats, and numerous other animals depend upon us for our goodwill and trust that we will work as hard as we can to give them the best lives possible. Those who support puppy mills and kitten factories clearly do not have their best interests in mind. These wonderful nonhuman beings deserve much better. 

References

Notes

1) Articles about Colorado's Humane Pet Act can be seen here. Essays about the deplorable nature of puppy mills can be read here and articles about the horrific nature of kitten factories can be read here.

2) In an essay called "The war on rural Colorado: The animal rights legislation circus" we read: "The Humane Pet Act, HB20-1084, which failed on a 6-5 vote in the House Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee, would have prohibited the sale of dogs and cats in public places or by pet stores, also would have limited breeders to keeping, housing, or maintaining more than 25 dogs, cats, or any combination of more than 25 dogs and cats that are more than 6 months of age and have not undergone sterilization. Bill language also specified enclosure flooring types, limits litters per year, and mandated exercise as well as required engagement in 'mentally stimulating and social behaviors.'” As someone mentioned to me, and with which I agree, "These are not very demanding requirements. Dogs, cats, and other animals need to be simulated and engage in social activities with others. Also, 25 animals are a lot to care for."  

3) What is so wrong with puppy mills?

Puppy mills are dog breeding operations that put profit over the health and well-being of the dogs.

Puppy mills may be large or small. They may be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture or unlicensed. In order to sell to a pet store, the breeder must be licensed, though many still sell to pet stores without a proper license.

Puppy mills can house hundreds or thousands of dogs. Smaller does not necessarily mean better. The conditions in small facilities can be just as cruel as larger ones.

Puppy mills are everywhere, though there is a large concentration in the Midwest. Missouri has the largest number of puppy mills in the United States. Amish and Mennonite communities (particularly in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania) also have large concentrations of puppy mills.

Puppy mills breed all types of dogs – everything from Labrador Retrievers, Boxers, and English Bulldogs to teacup Yorkies – you can find nearly every breed.

Breeding parents spend their lives in 24-hour confinement to cages. It is common to see wire cages stacked on top of each other. They generally do not have protection from heat, cold, or inclement weather.

Dogs in puppy mills live in dirty, unsanitary conditions.

Dogs living in puppy mills receive little to no veterinary care (and puppy mill owners often provide veterinary care without anesthesia or veterinary training).

Mothers are bred every heat cycle and are usually killed when they can no longer produce.

Many puppy mills do not practice humane euthanasia. Dogs are killed in cruel ways, including shooting or drowning.

Puppies are taken from their mothers too young and can develop serious health or behavioral issues due to the conditions in which they are bred and shipped. This leads to expensive veterinary bills, heartbreak, and stress for their owners.

The bottom line is that puppy mills are all about profits. Any money spent on veterinary care, quality food, shelter, or staff to care for the dogs cuts into the profit margin.