Philadelphia City Council may soon move to enact a ban on “puppy mills” in the city after emotional animal advocates testified at a hearing Monday.

“When you meet a puppy mill puppy, you know it,” said Portia Scott Palko, owner of Central Bark Doggy Day Care, who said she has encountered many such puppies in her work.

“Their behavioral development is stunted,” she said. “There’s lots of fear in these dogs because they live the first two months of their lives in mental isolation."

The problem is especially serious in the towns outside of Philly, Palko said.

"If some calls up and says 'I got a puppy from a breeder in Lancaster County,' I look at my staff, and we say, 'It's a puppy mill puppy.'" 

So-called “puppy mills” (and “kitty mills”) are animal breeding operations where animals are forced to breed repeatedly and often kept in unsanitary or neglectful conditions. Operators may pose as legitimate breeders and sell the animals to pet stores or individuals at high prices.

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The PSPCA’s director of humane litigation, Rebecca Glenn-Dinwoodie, described discovering a German Shepherd who was being bred in a puppy mill in Lancaster County. The dog was pregnant and living in unsanitary conditions with her own waste everywhere.  The PSPCA rescued the dog, Hazel Grace, and later adopted her out.

“The goal of puppy mills is to make as much money on breeding dogs as possible,” Glenn-Dinwoodie said. “The females are bred constantly and receive little to no veterinary care.”

According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are an estimated 10,000 puppy mills in the country, producing more than 2.4 million puppies a year.

No puppy mills have been reported in Philadelphia, but if passed into law, the Philly ban on puppy mills would serve as a deterrent, said animal control officials. It would also mandate a $150 to $300 fine per incident.

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“We don’t have any at this point In Pennsylvania, they’re exclusively in rural areas. But it [the bill] cuts it off before anyone gets the idea, because the income is substantial,” said Vincent Medley, executive director of the Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT Philly).

City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson said he introduced the legislation to prevent puppy mills from opening up.

“My dog is a family member, and I treat my dog as such. If you want a pet, treat your pet humanely,” Johnson said of Sasha Blue, his pet Cane Corso. “This is an opportunity for us to be proactive and make sure if any stores or businesses decides to open in the future and source animals from a puppy or kitty mill, we’ll be on the front line making sure that doesn’t happen.”

The bill passed favorably out of committee Monday and will be voted on by Council at a future session before heading to the mayor's office.