Rendell to propose puppy mill crackdown

May 7, 2008 9:45:29 PM PDT
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is preparing to introduce a bill that would change the way commercial dog breeders do business in the state. He's doing it with a new round of support brought on by Oprah Winfrey and her recent probe of puppy mills.In video from Main Line Animal Rescue, you can see dogs packed into rabbit cages. The animals walk gingerly on wire flooring and feces cover the ground below. Sofia is one of lucky ones saved from inhumane puppy mills.

"This dog -- you can see her jaw. Her teeth were so bad that her jaw was rotted away," said Bill Smith, the founder of Main Line Animal Rescue.

Smith turned to Oprah Winfrey to get help shutting down abusive puppy mills.

"We put up a billboard in Chicago, four blocks from Harpo Studios to get Oprah Winfrey's attention. We thought, and we were right, that she can reach more people than anyone on the planet," he said.

Last month, Oprah had Smith on a show that focused on abusive Puppy Mills in Lancaster County. (CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THE SHOW) The county is estimated to have the highest concentration of puppy mills in the country.

"After spending 9-10 years in a rabbit hutch, they're led into a cornfield and shot. That's the first time, in most of the cases, they've ever been let out of a cage," said Smith.

"Sometimes it's not the physical abuse they suffer, but the mental abuse," said Governor Ed Rendell, who will announce a new bill next week that would double cage sizes, require solid flooring and 24-hour access to water.

The bill focuses on commercial breeders -- those who transfer or sell more than 60 dogs a year.

In a letter to Oprah, the governor pleaded for her help.

"Some of these commercial breeders make two million dollars in profit. They can spend a couple hundred thousand dollars creating more humane conditions for these puppies," Rendell explained.

"The great thing about Oprah Winfrey is she does reach out across lines. It's amazing. A lot of the people who we didn't think would support, now support it," Smith added.

The governor believes with Oprah's help the bill now has a better than 50/50 shot of passing.

We did contact the Pennsylvania Professional Dog Breeder's Association. The group stands by the governor, but does not want laws so stringent that it drivers breeders out of business.