Animal Advocates Want Stronger 'Puppy Mill' Laws In Arkansas

- JEFFERSON COUNTY, AR -- Nearly 200 animals rescued from a suspected puppy mill  -- in Jefferson County -- are being cared for tonight.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates there are around 500 puppy mill operations in Arkansas right now, which makes us one of the worst in the nation when it comes to unlicensed breeders.

But animal advocates say new laws could change that.

Tara Loller knows the signs of abuse and neglect all too well.

She's helped rescue hundreds of dogs from puppy mills around the country.

In the recent Jefferson County rescue, Loller also saved turtles, birds, even horses.

Dale Bartlett, with the Humane Society of the United States, said, "It's a huge issue here. Arkansas is absolutely one of the leading puppy mill states in the country."

Bartlett says Arkansas has no laws against puppy mills.

He says many states require breeders to register as a business and receive yearly inspections, but that's not the law in Arkansas.

So, according to Bartlett, anyone can breed dogs here without the worry of following certain rules.

Showing a malnourished, neglected dog, Loller told us, "You know without vet care, animals showing some of the signs she was showing, wouldn't make it."

Some of the other animals were underweight, suffering from eye conditions and dental problems.

But, the Humane Society of the United States is vowing to try and change laws by working with state leaders in the 2015 session.

The two people accused of running a puppy mill operation in Jefferson County appeared in court this morning.

James and Tara Best are each charged with more than 100 counts of animal cruelty.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office served a search warrant on the property and found that the animals were being housed in deplorable living conditions, that's when they called the Humane Society to help with the effort of safely removing all the animals.

Some of the dogs were living in an outdoor facility, but many were inside trailers on the property.

Most of the rescued pets are staying at the Saline County Humane Society.

Other organizations that helped in the rescue include Central Arkansas Rescue Efforts for Animals, Out of the Woods, RedRover and Sallis Ranch Large Animal Rescue.

After the court releases custody of the animals to the Humane Society, they are free to go up for adoption.

There's no word though, on how long that could take.

If you would like to help with the care of these animals, you can make a donation on the Humane Society's website by clicking here.

To follow Melissa Schroeder on Twitter, click here.

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