ASPCA Helps Ensure Protections for Dogs in Commercial Breeding Facilities

September 27, 2016

puppy being held by ASPCA volunteer

Guest blog by Jennifer Chin, ASPCA Vice President of Legal Advocacy

Earlier this month, the ASPCA played a critical role in a legal victory for puppy mill dogs in Pennsylvania. ASPCA Vice President of Legal Advocacy Jennifer Chin is here to shed some light on this landmark case—and let you know how you can continue to be a voice for suffering animals nationwide. 

For years, the ASPCA has been at the forefront of efforts to combat puppy mills—large-scale commercial dog breeding operations where profit is placed above the well-being of the animals. These efforts have included working hard for legislative and regulatory reforms that establish basic standards of care for dogs kept in these facilities.

In 2008, Pennsylvania amended its Dog Law to require more humane conditions for dogs and puppies living in commercial breeding facilities. Two of the most important provisions mandated that all adult dogs residing in commercial kennels must be kept in enclosures without any metal strand flooring, and must be provided with unrestricted access to an exercise area—both basic requirements that evidence shows are critical to the health, welfare and quality of life for dogs that spend most or all of their lives in these kennels.

Unfortunately, a few years later, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture enacted regulations that exempted nursing mothers from these two important protections. Specifically, the regulations allowed commercial kennels to keep nursing dogs and their puppies in enclosures containing up to 50% wire flooring, despite evidence that such surfaces frequently lead to injuries and a host of other problems. The regulations also provided nursing dogs with only once-daily access to an exercise area, which is wholly inadequate to ensure their medical and behavioral well-being.

The ASPCA therefore enthusiastically supported a lawsuit brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) against the Department of Agriculture, filing an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in support of ALDF’s suit. Our brief argued that these regulations conflicted with the clear language and intent of the Dog Law and was contrary to sound public policy. The brief detailed the veterinary and behavioral research that shows the detrimental impact that both wire flooring and long periods of confinement have on dogs in commercial kennels.

On September 9, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania agreed, concluding that the regulations were invalid and ordering the Department of Agriculture to strike them. The ASPCA’s efforts to ensure greater protections for dogs in commercial breeding facilities is ongoing, but the court’s decision in this case is one step toward more humane treatment of dogs in these operations.

To learn more about our work to improve breeding standards and fight puppy mills, visit

Take Action! Help us urge the USDA to take the first step in making long-overdue reforms to its commercial breeder regulations. Visit this page to email the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and tell him to improve care standards for dogs in commercial breeding facilities.