Texas leads the nation in many things, including drunk driving deaths, executions, and prison rapes. Now it is poised to add something new to the list: The Lone Star State may soon become the puppy mill capital of the United States.

Other states with a troubled history of animal breeding, such as Louisiana, Oklahoma and Missouri, have all recently passed legislation regulating puppy mills. Texas has not followed suit, and animal advocates are concerned unscrupulous breeders may start flocking to the state to take advantage of lax laws. “We have the perfect element: geography, land demographics for buyers, little regulation,” said James Bias, executive director of the Dallas chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

There are already countless puppy mills in Texas. The Dallas Morning News reports: “Texas law officers say they have seen an increase in puppy mills, where hundreds of mistreated, diseased and malnourished breeding dogs have been found in cages.” And according to investigative reporter Randy Wallace, “At least once every three months the SPCA raids a puppy mill in the Houston area.”

In 2009 alone, 3,000 neglected, diseased, and dying animals were rescued from Texas puppy mills. Those who run these awful facilities often escape prosecution, despite a record of cruelty and abuse, as is the case with Cloyce and Carol Heddins, owners and operators of Maggic Pets/Heddins Kennel.

Efforts last year to pass a new law to protect animals and regulate large-scale breeding operations failed. Legislation to regulate commercial breeding operations passed the House of Representatives, but died in committee when it reached the Senate. One group who was particularly shrill in attacking the proposed law was the grossly misnamed Responsible Pet Owners Alliance.

I say misnamed because 1) They aren’t particularly responsible, and 2) They aren’t necessarily pet owners. As the Texas Humane Legislation Network points out, the RPOA “comprises pet breeders, pet dealers, retail sellers and related commercial interests, consistently fights animal protection legislation and proposed city ordinances that would implement spay/neuter programs or require even minimal standards on large-scale commercial breeding operations.” Indeed most of their donations are from breeders.

Fond of quoting the nonsense spewed by the corporate stooges at the equally misnamed Center for Consumer Freedom, the RPOA takes credit for defeating the 2009 ant-puppy mill bill. “We defeated the misnamed ‘puppy mill bill’ last session … It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if … breeding is regulated out of existence, there’ll be no animals left. We call it the ‘pet elimination bill,'” said the RPOA’s Mary Beth Duerler. Duerler is apparently blissfully unaware of the hundreds of thousands of companion animals killed every year in Texas because no one adopts them.

Fortunately, there are those who have not given up the fight to crack down on puppy mills in Texas. Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) plans to propose a law requiring a commercial breeder to obtain a license and pay a fee set by the Department of Licensing and Regulation. In addition, there would be initial and annual inspections to uphold basic U.S. Department of Agriculture rules. A friend of animals, Rep. Thompson also plans to introduce a bill to create an animal abuser registry.

The Texas Humane Legislation Network and the state’s various offices of the SPCA all are aligned to push through legislation to prevent Texas from becoming the next puppy mill capital of America.

Standing in the way? The breeders at Responsible Pet Owners Alliance. Don’t let them. Tell the San Antonio Area Foundation, which in 2009 gave at least $5,000 to the RPOA, not to continue supporting an organization that stands in the way of making Texas a better place for animals.

Photo Credit: Public Domain