Solving the Problem of Puppy Mills: Why the Animal Welfare Movement's Bark is Stronger than its Bite


The relationship between man and dog is one characterized by companionship, service, and love; but dogs serve a variety of functions beyond just "man‘s best friend." These companion animals provide valuable assistance to people with disabilities, in military and police service, in therapeutic contexts, and in numerous other areas of life. With approximately 78.2 million pet dogs in the United States, and approximately 39 percent of U.S. households owning at least one dog, it is no surprise that so many animal welfare activists and organizations possess a deep passion for protecting and improving the lives of these animals.

The prevalence of dogs in American culture makes the opposition to protecting them perplexing. At the root of this opposition is a fundamental disconnect between the message presented by animal welfare activists and the message received by individuals in the agriculture industry, who view animal regulations as a threat to their livelihood. On one side, activists, seeking regulations and protections for dogs, frame the issue as one of animal welfare and morality. On the other side, the agriculture industry, motivated largely by economic factors, opposes outside oversight likely to reduce profits.

This Note examines these differing perspectives and explains how members of the animal welfare movement can mitigate opposition to animal welfare reforms. Using Missouri ballot initiative Proposition B ("Prop B") as a lens, this Note analyzes the animal welfare movement‘s political efforts to eradicate puppy mills. First, it discusses the history of puppy mills. Second, it explains the political role of animal welfare organizations. Third, it identifies opponents of these welfare reforms. And finally, this Note argues that animal welfare activists can more effectively achieve their policy goals by implementing a number of common-sense strategies. By producing a mainstream message, connecting with more human-focused interest groups, increasing public awareness, and building local relationships, the animal welfare movement can work to achieve greater political influence and success.


animal law; puppy mills; animal welfare movement; animal welfare



Kailey A. Burger (Washington University School of Law)



Publication details



All rights reserved

File Checksums (MD5)

  • pdf: bc02e6603a88c8afd11bfe0e8283f984