In November of 2018, the Worth County Sheriff’s Department and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) got a permit to search a dog breeding facility on the Minnesota-Iowa border. There, they found a huge, heartbreaking mess.
About 170 Samoyeds – known for their cloud-like fur and teddy bear-like faces – were huddled in cold, broken down kennels with dirt floors. Their pelts were matted with mud and feces. Many of them hadn’t been properly socialized and had become jittery and solitary.
The Samoyeds were put into temporary housing and given medical exams, behavioral evaluations, and lots of love and treats. This kind of out-of-control breeding situation is discovered from time to time, and it doesn’t always end so well for the dogs.
“In Minnesota, you’ll sometimes find mills with 200, 700, even 900 dogs in a single facility,” Sen. Karla Bigham (D-Cottage Grove) says. Bigham's got a couple of rescue dogs at home, and this issue is personal to her. She and Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn (D-Eden Prairie) are trying to put puppy and kitty mills out of business with some new legislation.
It wouldn’t be the first time the legislature has tried to crack down on puppy mills by regulating the breeding side of the operation. This proposal comes at the issue from the other side, and would outlaw selling dogs and cats at pet shops.
“What this is going to do is prevent those puppy and kitty mills from having an end sale,” Bigham says. The hope is that eliminating pet shop sales cuts into the mills’ bottom lines, while sending potential pet owners to shelters instead.
Bigham's bill would still let you get a kitten at a Chuck and Don’s, provided it was because the store was, for example, hosting an adoption event with the Humane Society. You could also still buy your designer French bulldogs, hunting dogs, and adorably dopey corgis from a reputable breeder. You’d just have to cut out the middleman and buy from the breeder directly.
So far, Bigham says, the bill hasn’t encountered any opposition, and plenty of rescue organizations are eager to get on board. Three states – Maryland, California, and Maine – have similar laws place, according to KSTP, while local ordinances are on the books in Roseville, Eden Prairie, and St. Paul.