Dog Walk Brings Awareness to "Puppy Mills"

Rita Devenney (left)and Kayla Devenney (center) of Newhall walk dogs with Alexis Mather (right)of Van Horne at the Puppy Mill Awareness Walk on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013 at Noelridge Park in Cedar Rapids.

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By KCRG Intern

Area dog owners weren't scared away by the threatening rain clouds and took their dogs on a walk in support of humane animal breeding practices.

Cedar Rapids hosted its first Puppy Mill Awareness Walk on Sunday at Noelridge Park and organizers said the event helps bring attention to "puppy mills" and inhumane conditions in animal breeding facilities.

The event was hosted by the Iowa Friends of Companion Animals, a Des Moines-based non profit, in it's fourth year. Cedar Rapids is the organizations first organized walk outside of Des Moines.

IFCA founder Mary LaHay said she was thrilled at the turnout in Cedar Rapids. LaHay said it's one of the largest crowds she's seen.

"That tells you how important this issue is to them," LaHay said. "They're willing to bring their dogs out into the rain."

The IFCA considers puppy mills to be large-scale commercial breeding operations that do not adequately take care of the animals, housing them in cramped quarters and not properly caring for them. Iowa considers a commercial breeder someone who owns more than three male or female dogs for the purpose of breeding.

In 2010, Iowa legislature passed a law that allowed state inspectors to respond to specific complaints at federal-licensed facilities, following concern there wasn't enough inspections. Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture released new regulations requiring online animal sellers to obtain a federal license and be subjected to USDA inspections. The regulations are a response to a 2010 USDA inspector general's report on grim conditions at puppy mills across the country.

LaHay, a vocal advocate for the 2010 legislation, said she's happy to see the additional regulations, but there's more Iowa and the rest of the nation can do to ensure more accountability for large-scale breeders.

"What exists now is the bare minimum," LaHay said. "We can do better."

Carol Doser, a volunteer with Last Hope Animal Rescue who helped bring the event to Cedar Rapids, said she's not against dog breeding.

"We're not against breeding just against those who do it wrong," Doser said.

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