Backyard Breeding: Regulatory Nuisance, Crime Precursor
47 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2019
Date Written: January 16, 2019
The harms of puppy mills have been well-publicized over the past decade: hundreds of female dogs living out their lives in small cages, producing puppies for sale with each heat cycle, with neither the breeding stock nor puppies receiving normal veterinary care. In popular media, academic critiques, activist publications, and legislative discussion, puppy mills are contrasted with smallvolume dog breeders—the hobby breeder or inadvertent breeder who has only a few dogs and treats them as pets or members of the family, breeding occasionally for personal reasons. Both state and federal laws have been designed to regulate puppy mills and other large-volume dog breeders, specifically excepting smallvolume breeders from regulatory coverage. From a consumer protection and animal welfare perspective, this makes sense: The amount of harm a single facility can cause to the dogs and to purchasers when it is breeding hundreds of dogs and selling thousands of puppies annually far exceeds that of a small-volume breeder producing 2 or 10 litters each year. However, what is absent from these discussions are the larger societal harms these small-volume breeders in fact produce from run-of-the-mill tax evasion and pet overpopulation to an open and easy market for dogs advertised as bred for gameness and aggression—for guard dogs or fighting dogs, not pets—to the creation of a smokescreen that obscures the breeding that does occur in violation of existing regulations. This Article represents the first rigorous look at small-volume dog breeding. It details the harms inherent in small-volume breeding in the United States today and explains how the current regulatory framework assists the production of dogs integral to larger criminal enterprises. Drawing from empirical studies of effective policing, it proposes a three-step solution of fixing the holes in state and local regulation of dog breeding, working with community members using existing resources to eliminate much of the small-volume breeding that obscures the truly pernicious breeding, and policing remaining violations as part of an effort to reduce access to the dogs that contribute to gang activity and drug trafficking.
Keywords: animal law, puppy mills, dog breeding, animal welfare, backyard breeders, small-volume commercial breeding, licensing, animal rescue, animal control, Animal Welfare Act, consumer protection, tax evasion, dogfighting, criminal activities, registration, de minimis exemptions, spay, neuter
JEL Classification: K14, K23, K32, K34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation