Puppy Mills Are Terrible, But Is Licensing the Solution?
The attorney general’s office has recently announced a crackdown of sorts on unlicensed dog breeders in Missouri, commonly referred to as puppy mill operators. Combest has linked to a number of the stories.
This is a tough call. I love dogs, but I dislike licensure, and the question is whether the benefit of regulation in this case would outweigh the government intrusion into private commerce. It very well might. I don’t want to be seen for one second as defending puppy mills, which can be a heartbreaking industry. We have a dog, Marleigh, which: a) I adopted from the APA (a shelter here in St. Louis) about 10 years ago; and, b) was named by me years before that book or movie came out, I swear.
The argument for licensure of dog breeders is pretty simple: You have to have licensure so inspectors know who to check up on, to ensure they are following health and safety standards. It’s the same argument used to justify licensure for a lot of other industries, but because we are dealing with living creatures in this case, the intervention has more validity to me than it does for most other occupations.
Licensing and the current crackdown are probably valid in this case. There are certainly far worse examples of occupational licensing in our state, where the real goal is to limit competition. But I still think that the most important thing that the people of Missourians can do to reduce the prevalence of puppy mills would be to stop buying dogs from breeders and start getting them from shelters. If we all did that, the solution would solve itself without the heavy hand of government.