Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) has introduced legislation that would require all breeders to meet basic standards for shelter, care and exercise of their dogs.

The Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act is aimed at putting an end to "puppy mills," an unregulated and often hidden industry of puppy breeding that relies on housing dogs in cramped, unsanitary, and inhumane conditions. It would place regulations on direct-to-buyer dog breeders and ensure dogs sold over the Internet are receiving proper care.

"The media regularly reports stories about dogs rescued from substandard facilities -- where dogs are housed in stacked wire cages and seriously ill dogs are routinely denied access to veterinary care," Durbin said. "Online dog sales have contributed to the rise of these disturbing cases."

Under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), wholesale animal breeders are regulated, licensed and subject to inspections by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Senator explained, but direct-to-buyer Internet sales are not regulated.

"My bipartisan bill requires breeders who sell more than 50 dogs a year directly to the public to obtain a license from the USDA and ensures that the dogs receive proper care," Durbin said.

Approximately 120 dogs were rescued from deplorable conditions at an alleged puppy mill in Tennessee on March 29. The dogs were rescued by Animal Rescue Corps and the Warren County Sherriff’s Office after they received a tip concerning the animals' welfare.

"These animals were suffering from starvation and various untreated illnesses," Scotlund Haisley, president of Animal Rescue Corps, said. "We got here just in time for some of them. Every year, the estimated 10,000-plus puppy mills in the U.S. produce more than 4 million puppies while millions are killed in shelters."