The Humane Society of Missouri will care for more than 100 dogs removed from what officials call an unlicensed puppy mill near the mid-Missouri town of Rolla.
The Animal Welfare Act, passed by Congress in 1966, established guidelines to regulate commercial dog breeders. The Missouri Department of Agriculture has a long list of requirements for kennels: They must be heated, well-ventilated and cleaned once a day. The dogs must also get food, water and exercise; their cages must have sufficient space for the dogs to turn around, and the whole operation must be supervised by a veterinarian.
Of the 5,000 United States Department of Agriculture-licensed dog and cat breeders in the country, the federal agency reports, 1,525 are in Missouri -- the highest number of any state.
Bills have been proposed in the Illinois and Minnesota state legislatures to regulate animal breeders more closely and impose harsher penalties, but no one has done anything similar in Missouri.
"It's such a touchy subject," says Debra Sauberli, a professor of veterinary clinical medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "I don't know if there's any true definition for puppy mills. The breeders you would worry about are the ones who are not producing quality puppies, who have multiple breeds and cross-breeds and [who have] many dogs. Most true breeders, who care about their dogs, have health clearances and produce maybe two or three litters a year."