ATLANTA -- The legislature is moving quickly to pass a bill that critics say would help puppy mills in Georgia. The bill would support stores that sell puppies – and overturn laws in cities and counties that don’t allow the sale of puppies. The bill has strong support – and is horrifying animal activists.

When investigators raided a puppy mill in Habersham County last spring – what they saw stunned them. Animals were packed into indoor spaces, authorities said, and living in their own filth.

READ | Puppy mill dogs 'feel air on their backs' for first time

The Humane Society of the United States says puppies sold in chain stores like Petland often get their start in life with high volume breeders. To discourage puppy mills, cities like Sandy Springs and Woodstock have banned the retail sale of puppies. Those local laws encourage folks to adopt pets from animal shelters like the Atlanta Humane Society, which sends to homes some ten thousand animals per year.

"As more and more people across the country are learning the source of that cute little puppy in the window, they don’t want those kind of businesses in their community," said Debra Berger, Georgia's director of the Humane Society.

But two bills in the legislature would overturn local laws that ban the sale of puppies. Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) sponsored the House version. "It’s about the free market, and for Georgia’s consumers to have the ability to choose what they buy," said Jasperse Thursday.

Jasperse says local governments have no business banning the purchase of otherwise legal retail items – including the purchase of commercially-bred puppies. Berger contends they do.

"Why shouldn’t a local community be able to say that they don’t want to bring in large amounts of commercially bred pets when they're already dealing with a huge homeless pet problem?" she asked.

"Taking away consumer choice isn’t the appropriate way to do it," Jasperse said. Asked if he was standing up for puppy mills, he responded: "Well, I’m not doing that. I’m standing up for consumer choice."

Jasperse has plenty of company. Two versions of the bill critics call "the puppy mill bill" have sailed through House and Senate committees.