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Victoria’s Law bill to combat puppy mills

Lehigh Valley legislators, animal rights organizations and the Humane Society of the United States held a news conference recently in support of a bill, introduced by state Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-133rd, that would ban pet stores from selling animals from puppy mills.

At the Lehigh Valley Humane Society, more than a dozen officials and advocates drew attention to the problems with puppy mills and touted McNeill’s legislation as part of the solution.

“It is well documented that puppy mills are inhumane commercial dog-breeding facilities, yet they frequently supply pet stores with puppies,” McNeill said. “Once these pet store puppies are sold, consumers often spend thousands of dollars caring for sick puppies.

“As someone who fosters for local animal rescues, I have seen the horrors that result from inhumane conditions propagated by the puppy mill industry here in Pennsylvania,” McNeill continued. “Just like Victoria before she was adopted, dogs and cats are weak, malnourished, neglected, subjected to overbreeding and have little or no veterinary care. It’s important that we protect those who don’t have a voice.”

McNeill’s bill would drive the Pennsylvania pet market toward more humane sources, such as shelters, rescues and responsible breeders, stop the sale of puppy mill dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores, protect consumers from misleading sales tactics and require advertisers to include license numbers on their ads so consumers have access to information on breeders.

McNeill’s pet retail sales legislation would be named Victoria’s Law after a German shepherd who passed on an incurable genetic disease to more than 150 puppies before being rescued from a Pennsylvania puppy mill.

“By making these changes, more pet stores will partner with shelters and rescues to promote adoption and decrease the demand for the animals produced at puppy mills. Responsible breeders will benefit and continue to provide pet owners with healthy, socialized dogs,” McNeill said. “This is the best way to honor Victoria and stop the terrible process currently in place.”

“Pets are beloved family members, and that’s why a bill like Victoria’s Law is so important,” state Rep. Josh Siegel, D-22nd, said. “We want to give both pets and their owners the best possible chance at a happy life together, and that means working to shut down the puppy mill pipeline.”

“Rep. McNeill’s compassion and drive is contagious,” state Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-132nd, said. “She deserves a great deal of credit for her work in protecting animals from abuse, both as a legislator and as a human being who shows what it means to care when others have shown blatant disregard for animal welfare.”

McNeill also said she was surprised at the news conference by being the first legislator to receive the Humane Society’s Victoria’s Champion Award for leading the way to end the puppy mill pipeline in Pennsylvania.

“We urge swift passage of Victoria’s Law to put an end to the cruel puppy mill-to-pet store pipeline in Pennsylvania once and for all,” Kristen Tullo, Pennsylvania state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said. “We’d like to congratulate Rep. McNeill, who is the first legislator in Pennsylvania to be given the Victoria’s Champion Award for leading the way to end the puppy mill pipeline in Pennsylvania, as well as to thank her 54 co-sponsors for their leadership on this important bill.”

More than 400 localities in Pennsylvania, including Allentown, Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg, Sharpsburg and Bellevue, as well as the states of California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland and New York, have passed similar laws.

The bill is currently before the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee for consideration.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO State Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-133rd, is the first legislator in Pennsylvania to be given the Victoria's Champion Award for leading the way to end the puppy mill pipeline in Pennsylvania.