Hundreds of puppies have died in filth and pain while federal investigators looked the other way, according to a disturbing new report by the USDA Office of the Inspector General cited by Mercury News. The report states that the agency responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act has failed to prevent cruelty at puppy mills across the nation.
After visiting 68 dog breeders and dog brokers in eight states that had been previously cited for at least one violation, investigators attribute countless unnecessary animal deaths to lack of proper oversight and action by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services.
The investigators found that repeat violators were allowed to continue breeding dogs in the same conditions as the APHIS agency continuously waived penalties and failed to document inhumane treatment of the animals.
In one Oklahoma facility, 27 dogs died after agency inspectors cited the facility 29 times in one year yet failed to confiscate animals despite finding dead dogs and starving animals that had resorted to cannibalism.
The agency emphasized educating violators instead of penalizing them, even in serious cases of neglect and cruelty.
"The agency believed that compliance achieved through education and cooperation would result in long-term dealer compliance and, accordingly, it chose to take little or no enforcement action against most violators," the report said.
The Animal Welfare Act specifies the amount of space, feeding, bedding, exercise, and transportation required for each species used in research, breeding or commercial transport or public exhibition but does not apply to farm animals. Some large breeders get around the law by selling their animals online.
In the report, the USDA Inspector General recommends immediate confiscation of animals from repeat offenders and strict documentation of conditions at each facility.