Recent news about unlicensed commercial dog breeders, or puppy mills, has raised eyebrows among Missouri residents. But what, exactly, is a puppy mill? The Missouri Attorney General's website defines a puppy mill as a "substandard commercial breeding facility" that may be "overcrowded, the animals underfed, asocial and in need of basic grooming and medical care." Not to be confused with licensed breeders, puppy mills do not have the license required by the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) under the American Care Facilities Act Program (ACFA), which mandates safe and sanitary conditions for all animals kept in a commercial setting. Dog breeders licensed by the MDA are also subject to yearly inspections.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is teaming up with the MDA to increase enforcement of the ACFA regulations. The first part of this enforcement, Operation Bark Alert, encourages citizens to report unlicensed breeders to MDA Director Jon Hagler. The second phase, Prosecution Bark Alert, will require breeders to become liscensed in order to operate legally. Legal action will be taken against unliscensed breeders.
It's important to note that many Missouri dog breeders follow MDA regulations and operate well within all legal and ethical guidelines. The MDA will provide the number of licensed dog breeders upon request; as of the date this article was written there are 1,802 licensed dog breeders in Missouri. For more information on what's involved in becoming a reputable dog breeder visit the American Kennel Club's (AKC) guide to breeding your dog or the MDA's Animal Health regulations. Search for responsible breeders through the AKC's Online Breeder Classifieds or you may decide to adopt a dog from a local shelter. The Library has several dog breeding resources available for check out.
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