Bill would prevent puppy mill owners from selling dogs online

SEATTLE -- A bill introduced in Congress aims to close a legal loophole that allows owners of puppy mills to sell dogs on the Internet.

Dogs in pet stores generally come from large breeders who must be licensed and inspected by the USDA. But the Internet allows breeders to bypass that, as the law requiring the license was written before the days of online transactions.

"No inspections. And the Internet is the puppy miller's best friend," said Dan Paul of the Humane Society of the United States.

Wendy Laymon's dog-breeding operation in Missouri has newly-built kennels. But a number of rickety out buildings dot the backyard where substandard conditions have previously been found.

Laymon's facility has not been inspected by the USDA since the feds pulled her license. Her puppy mill in Snohomish County was raided in 1999, dogs seized, and Laymon sent to jail.

But now, Laymon sells online, and her website paints a warm and loving picture that many say is false. A Problem Solvers investigation chronicled scores of angry customers who say they bought dogs from Laymon that were sick or genetically defective.

Jennifer Izzi's dog, Frankie, is one of them. Izzi said her dog was so sick and unsocialized that he nearly died.

"I'm glad I have him, but she needs to be stopped, and people like her," shes said.

Under the new bill in Congress, Laymon and others like her must have a USDA license and inspections to sell on the Internet.

The USDA is also considering a similar rule change.

Opponents say the proposed bill is too restrictive, but the Humane Society says the proposed change is long overdue.

"It would be a huge, huge improvement, absolutely," said Paul.

The bill faces a tough fight in the agriculture committee.

The USDA, whose own staff has recommended the change, will make a decision soon.