Enough bite in puppy-mill law?

Ohio took a giant leap toward ensuring more humane treatment of animals this month when new and tougher state statutes took effect to crack down on operators of puppy mills.

The new law for the first time establishes rules for “high-volume breeders” of dogs, defined as those who produce at least nine litters and 60 or more dogs in a year. It also includes mandatory background checks, proof of insurance, proof of veterinary care and mandatory inspections at puppy mills.

The new law comes none too soon — as the seizure Jan. 17 of 105 dogs at a Smith Township puppy mill proved. Officials labeled conditions at that operation “deplorable.”

State officials must now work to enforce the law rigidly to ensure its bite is sufficiently strong. Some argue that the $100 fine for violating its provisions is woefully low. Others doubt serious compliance because of the largely underground culture in which puppy mills thrive. We’re counting on animal-welfare agencies in the Valley to serve as watchdogs over the law in the coming months, to document problems and then work with state legislators to fix them.

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