By Melanie Sanders
The Humane Society of the United States says 260,000 dogs are euthanized in North Carolina every year. And although animal activists say there are loving, responsible breeders in the state, N.C. is also attracting some of the worst.
Kim Alboum, the Humane Society's state director, says rescuers have conducted four so-called “puppy mill” busts in the state since June 1. In Hertford, 86 dogs were seized; in Zebulon, 25 dogs; Lincoln County, up to 135 dogs; and in Caldwell County, 276 dogs and puppies were taken from one facility.
Alboum attributes the number of cases to breeding regulations enacted in neighboring states.
“There are approximately 19 states that now have some level of regulations for commercial dog breeders, whether it’s licensing or standards,” Alboum said. “And around North Carolina, we now have Virginia [that] has passed regulation. So we are seeing some breeders coming down to North Carolina from Virginia.”
She says she has also seen breeders migrate from Tennessee and Pennsylvania. Alboum blames current laws that require a breeder to provide food, water and shelter for the animals.
Paul Faulkner, who helps breeder Rena Jean Long, adamantly defends his employer. Long owns the Zebulon property where several dogs were seized.
“From what I understand, they wanted to make an example out of her,” Faulkner said.
Faulkner says Long did not run a puppy mill, in fact he insists Long loved and provided for her dogs.
“She had plenty of food for the dogs — always had food for the dogs,” Faulkner said. “[They were] not really matted because they are schnauzers and they just have curly hair.
“Not one of them was in bad condition.”
Some of the dogs that were seized had Parvo and died, but Faulkner says Animal Control only claimed the dogs had the virus.
The combat the puppy mill problem, State Representative Pricey Harrison sponsored a puppy mill bill in the 2009-10 legislative session. While it passed the House, the bill died in the Senate.
“Apparently our neighboring states have pretty decent laws in place to prevent animal cruelty and protect animal purchasers from these puppy mills,” Harrison said. “We don't, so we're apparently a magnet for these dog breeders.”
Harrison credits that bill kill to the Pork Council, the Farm Bureau, the American Kennel Club and the NRA, four influential industries.
Harrison said, “Every time we have animal cruelty legislation, it's the same players that arise in opposition. It’s a combination of campaign money and membership pressure.”
However, Senate President Pro-Temp Phil Berger, who voted against the bill, says the wording was too vague.
“Was there pressure from those groups? I don't know if there was pressure, but there were questions that were asked,” Berger said. “Does that have some unintended consequence on our pork industry… other industries that are very important to North Carolina?”
Berger said he would be open to reviewing future proposals, but there are currently no puppy mill bills sponsored for the next session.
New legislation, however, allows individual ordinances to pass breeding regulation laws. One was recently adopted In Guilford County.
Representatives for the Pork Council, the Farm Bureau, the American Kennel Club and the NRA would not comment for this story.