Goldie’s Act: Federal Legislation to Protect Dogs in Puppy Mills
Goldie’s Act (H.R. 1788) is named after Golder Retriever #142, who was a victim of one of the most egregious puppy mill cases we have seen to date. She lived without clean food and water, space to play, and love. She didn’t even have a name until we gave her one when we learned about her and the heartbreaking way she died.
In November 2021, the ASPCA helped rescue more than 500 dogs from a commercial puppy-breeder in Iowa that was licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and supplied puppies to pet stores around the country. The USDA allowed this facility to operate for 17 months without ever checking on the welfare of the animals. When the USDA finally inspected the facility, they found dead dogs, dogs with untreated injuries and illnesses like parvovirus and distemper, dogs with painful fur matting, dogs in cages that were too small, insect infestations, and moldy food. That nightmarish place is where Goldie spent her life. Inspectors witnessed Goldie’s condition worsen over the course of 2021, but they didn’t help her. The agency failed her and the many other dogs who died in that puppy mill.
Emergency rescue happened only due to massive public pressure and intervention from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). But by that time, the breeder had already amassed over 100 violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
At a separate breeding facility in Virginia, the USDA documented horrific animal suffering for months, but did not intervene. Hundreds of puppies died from “unknown causes,” nursing mothers were denied food for days, dogs were left with severe, untreated medical conditions, dogs were killed due to unsafe housing, and dogs were euthanized without anesthesia. Just like the Iowa case, emergency rescue occurred only after the DOJ intervened. Only then did the remaining 4,000 dogs at this facility experience relief.
Despite knowing that thousands of dogs were suffering in extreme pain, the USDA impeded inspectors from visiting this facility, removed the lead inspector without cause, and struck 80 pages from the inspection report. Even after 70 AWA violations, the USDA allows this company to continue breeding and selling dogs.
It’s too late to save Goldie and the thousands of other dogs who died in dreadful conditions under the USDA’s watch, but we can prevent other dogs from meeting the same fate by passing Goldie’s Act.
Goldie’s Act would require the USDA to fulfill its obligation under the AWA to protect dogs in puppy mills—a responsibility the USDA has ignored for far too long.
The legislation would require the USDA to:
- Conduct more frequent and meaningful inspections of the facilities it licenses.
- Confiscate dogs who are suffering.
- Impose deterring penalties for AWA violations.
- Share inspection information in a timely manner with local law enforcement who can investigate cruelty.
The USDA is required to identify and report violations of the law during inspections so that those who violate the law may be held accountable through the use of penalties provided for in the AWA, such as fines and license revocation.
Contrary to this Congressional mandate, the USDA has chosen not to report violations and to let inhumane operators continue their cruel practices. The agency has not imposed a single penalty against a licensed commercial breeding facility since 2017, despite overwhelming evidence of cruelty. Instead, the agency has adopted a “customer service” approach—with the breeders being the “customers”—that has been proven ineffective by the agency’s own audit. With no enforcement, we can never hope to help the dogs who suffer behind the closed doors of these federally licensed facilities.
Congress must pass Goldie’s Act to protect dogs like Goldie in puppy mills.
To read more about the USDA’s pattern of failing to protect dogs in commercial breeding facilities, please visit these links:
- USDA Enforcement: Fiscal Year 2022
- Major Newspaper Exposes USDA’s Failure to Protect Animals, August 2019 (WaPo Ruby Fur Farm)
- USDA Enforcement of Animal Welfare Act Continues to Plummet, May 2020
- The USDA Is Letting Puppy Mills Operate Without Inspections, October 2020
- USDA Fails to Ensure “Licensed” Animal Businesses Have Met Licensing Requirements, March 2021
- 20 Violations Over Five Years—How the USDA Keeps Bad Puppy Mills in Business, April 2020
- Shocking Cruelty at Licensed Puppy Mills Provokes No Response from the USDA, April 2021
- ASPCA Lawsuit blog, June 2021