Debbie Johnson has seen the dangerous effects of puppy mills firsthand. "It's really, heartbreaking, the things that you see," says Johnson, the Operational Director at the Toledo Humane Society.
The damaged dogs are kept inside cramped cages. They're at higher risk of developing skin, teeth and bone problems and under-developing behavioral skills. "They've not had human contact, they've not been socialized," Johnson says. "They're typically very fearful, and they may have a lot of obsessive compulsive behavior."
These dangerous mill behaviors are some of the reasons animal advocates are behind the puppy mill crackdown. The new law would force large scale breeders to buy licenses to operate in Ohio. It would also require inspectors to oversee those operations, and punish breeders who don't follow the rules. The bill has proactive measures as well, creating partnerships with local vets who will conduct regular inspections at so-called puppy mills.
Some worry smaller dog operations would feel the pinch of the bill, partly through the new licensing fees. "I don't think it will hurt any of the small, good quality breeders that are breeding for the love of breeding," Johnson tells 13abc. "This bill looks at people that are selling more than 60 dogs a year or producing more than nine litters of puppies a year."
"If we didn't do this, and went too far, we would have driven an industry underground," says State Representative Dave Hall, who's behind the law. He believes it's a balanced perspective for all sides. "Then you would have had an issue where we wouldn't have had the opportunity to know where they are."
The bill passed the House 91 to five on Wednesday, and heads to the Senate next. Lawmakers say the Buckeye State has been known for years as a safe spot for bad breeders. The goal is to revamp that reputation, and protect the pups who need it the most.
"There's got to be a starting point," says Johnson. "Creating a regulatory body and getting in there and seeing these conditions on a regular basis is a great first step."