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Puppy Protection Act: Michigan Legislators Aim To Control Commercial Breeders, 'Puppy Mills'

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Legislators in Michigan are proposing the puppy protection act, a package of bills that would provide restrictions for large-scale dog breeders. Proponents of the bill say it could have helped avoid a case in April, 2012, when more than 350 puppies were rescued from a couple's house in Alleghan County.
Legislators in Michigan are proposing the puppy protection act, a package of bills that would provide restrictions for large-scale dog breeders. Proponents of the bill say it could have helped avoid a case in April, 2012, when more than 350 puppies were rescued from a couple's house in Alleghan County.

Michigan's so-called "puppy protection act" is getting a new push following a case of animal cruelty in Alleghan County that some say might have been prevented if the bill were adopted.

Members on both sides of the aisle in the state House and Senate have backed legislation that seeks to protect pets from "puppy mills" by limiting the number of female dogs breeders are allowed to own, restricting each dog to producing one litter per year and introducing guidelines for diet, housing and health.

Proponents say a case discovered last week highlights the need for the puppy protection act. Officials in Western Michigan's Alleghan County rescued more than 300 dogs from a two-bedroom house in Cheshire Township, where they were being raised for profit by George and Cheri Burke. According to MLive, many of the dogs were Shih Tzu and Pomeranian mixes, and the animals were filthy and many had minor health problems.

"Something like this bill would give us the authority to make sure it doesn’t get to this point," Dr. Steve Halstead, the Michigan Department of Agriculture's state veterinarian, told Michigan Radio.

The legislation would allow the state to enforce regulations for breeders who own more than 15 female dogs. Only a small number of breeding operations in the state have that many dogs, but according to the Michigan Humane Society, nearly all pet stores that sell puppies buy from large-scale breeders. And as other states introduce and pass animal protection acts of their own, the Michigan Humane Society expressed concern that breeders could move to Michigan if the laws here remain lax.

"Michigan must not become a haven for puppy mills," Terry MacKillop, president of the Michigan Association of Animal Control Officers, said in a statement. "The Puppy Protection Act will give law enforcement the tools they need to investigate potential cases of animal abuse and neglect at large-scale kennels and breeders, and keep the bad actors out of our communities."

The puppy protection act is sponsored in the House by Rep. Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills) and Rep. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City). Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren) and Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) also sponsored legislation in the Senate.

For more information on how to help or adopt the rescued puppies, see the Alleghan Shelter website and Facebook group.

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