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How Much is that Doggie on the Internet?

October 21, 2011

HARRISBURG, Pa. - You can buy just about anything online now, but when that purchase is a brand new puppy, how much do you really know about where or how the puppy came to be? Thousands are bred and sold by large-scale commercial breeders, often called "puppy mills." Justina Calgiano, with the Delaware County SPCA, says it's a situation in which the humane treatment of animals takes a back seat to production and profit.

"The nature of it is just completely irresponsible and that's the reason shelters like us are in business."

Last year, Pennsylvania passed one of the toughest laws in the nation for humane treatment at dog-breeding facilities. It requires large-scale breeders to double their cage sizes, eliminate wire flooring, and provide animals access to the outdoors. It also institutes twice-a-year vet checks. Still, there are no federal regulations covering breeders who sell dogs directly to the public.

Calgiano says a closer look at the issue shows one clear solution to puppy mill problems: If people don't buy from them, they won't stay in business.

"It's really getting out there that adopting a pet is really the only way to go, and the only way to solve the problem of overpopulation."

Richard Matelsky, executive director of the Delaware County SPCA, says discriminating buyers can be a challenge to pet adoption. Some people get an image in their heads of a certain dog and won't accept anything else, he explains.

"White dog, female with curly fur; and if that's exactly what they want, they go out and purchase it."

The Humane Society of the United States is gathering signatures on an online petition to ask the Obama Administration to require that commercial breeders be covered by the USDA's Animal Welfare Act regulations, which would mandate minimum federal standards for humane treatment.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA