Stand up for our furry friends

Caring about our community, its members and its future can mean a lot of things. For some, it’s the simple act of picking up a scrap of paper, volunteering to coach a little league team or assisting with a neighborhood organization. As Minnesotans, we have a history of compassion and optimism.

We also tend to think of ourselves as forward thinking. Nationally, we’re better educated, harder working and enjoy a higher quality of life than many others. So, it was a jolt to me to recently learn that we are one of just 16 states without licensing and inspection of commercial dog and cat breeding facilities.

I should preface this by letting you know I serve on the Board of Directors of the Animal Humane Society, but it was still disturbing to find out that in Minnesota dogs and cats must first be harmed before officials can intervene in their rescue. Excluded from the everyday definition of harm are “puppy mills” and similar mass breeding operations for companion animals. These facilities continue to operate beyond the routine reach of inspectors, who only become involved in the most egregious cases, such as hoarding or obvious and serious neglect of animals.

This year Minnesota has a chance to redeem itself.  Our Legislature has before it the Dog and Cat Breeder Regulation Bill (S.F. 462/H.F. 702). This legislation, if adopted, would provide strong protection of dogs and cats living in Minnesota commercial breeding facilities. It would license and regulate dog and cat breeders with 10 or more adult breeding animals that produce more than five litters per year. Passage of this particular legislation is crucial to curtailing the commercial and systematic abuse of our most familiar domestic pets.

Are these commercial animal breeding facilities really so bad? In a word, Yes. Puppy mills, for example, usually house dogs in overcrowded and often unsanitary conditions, without adequate health care, food, water or human company. Puppy mill dogs suffer continuously; trapped in cramped, soiled enclosures, breeding litter after litter. The average puppy mill can have between 65 and 75 animals living in cages with wire floors on which these poor creatures must stand for most of their breeding lives. These dogs are bred as often as possible to increase profits. The health or happiness of the animals is rarely considered.  

Nor are consumers well-served by these breeding outfits. It’s possible that the seemingly inexpensive puppy you are considering buying from a pet shop, came from a puppy mill. The dogs produced there often have health problems such as respiratory infections, pneumonia or genetic diseases that can heartbreakingly manifest themselves in your beloved pet years later.  

Currently, there are hundreds and dogs and cats looking for homes … looking for you.  Last year alone, the Animal Humane Society took in more than 20,000 animals who were surrendered by their owners. There is an animal out there waiting for you, and it likely didn’t come from a puppy mill.  

By voicing your support for the Dog and Cat Breeder Regulation Bill, you can make a difference in our community. You can also refuse to support the indiscriminate breeding practices of puppy mills and other large, commercial breeders. Your action to support the regulation of commercial cat and dog breeders is a step toward bringing Minnesota into alignment with the compassionate, forward-thinking state we’ve come to know.  

Tom Hoch is President and CEO of Hennepin Theatre Trust, owner of the historic State, Orpheum and Pantages Theatres, a nonprofit organization devoted to enriching the vibrant cultural atmosphere of the Twin Cities. Please visit HennepinTheatreTrust.org for more information. Hoch is also on the Animal Humane Society’s Board of Directors.