Pennsylvania Fighting to Improve Dog Laws
For PA Gov. Rendell, improving the laws governing and overseeing the some 2,600 businesses with kennel licenses, ranging from small boarding operations to commercial breeding kennels housing hundreds of dogs has been one of his priorities. He, along with the Department of Agriculture have been working diligently against an April 2009 deadline are trying to draft legislation that will keep many of the initial opponents of the legislation, such as the AKC to many breed organizations, sportsman clubs and kennels, reasonably happy while still targeting the many unethical puppy mills in the state. He’s walking a thin line but aims to make some rather sweeping changes.
His strongest proponents are many animal advocacy groups that have been pushing for reforms for years in the face of puppy mill horrors.
But officials have yet to complete the more complicated and politically thorny task of taking steps to more strictly regulate the operations of Pennsylvania’s 2,600 licensed kennels. Working against an April 2009 deadline, they are in the midst of revising a first draft of new rules that all groups with a stake in the outcome have criticized.
Jessie Smith, the state’s special deputy secretary for dog law enforcement, said her office hopes to have a second draft ready for public comment by the end of the year. At the same time, it is still trying to respond to more than 16,000 people who weighed in before the March deadline to submit comments on the first version.
“Everybody cares about how dogs are cared for,” Smith said of the unusually strong interest in the regulations.
Dog breeders, kennels and animal shelters are anxious to see the new draft. Many of them contend the projected cost of complying with what has been proposed so far _ $5,000 to $20,000 per kennel _ could put some operations out of business.
Rendell has recommend broad regulatory changes such as requiring larger cages and 20 minutes of daily exercise for dogs and forcing operators to keep records of exercise, sanitation and feeding.
But obviously not everyone in support of the new legislation, for one reason or another.
Instead, the state should retool its bureau of dog law enforcement to better enforce the existing law, said Nina Schaefer, president of the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs. Schaefer is also one of 14 people whom Rendell dismissed from the state’s dog law advisory board in May 2006, citing dissatisfaction with the board’s direction.
“The entire package should be thrown out and the whole subject should be re-evaluated,” Schaefer said. “If you have a business and you have problems, you don’t sit around writing mission statements or fancy documents. You evaluate the business and figure out what you can do better with it.”
Kenneth Brandt, a lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Professional Dog Breeders’ Association, said the state should simply adopt standards similar to those of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That would provide an effective means of enforcement without unduly burdening kennel owners who are operating legally, he said.
“We stand with the governor on closing down the unregulated, unkempt, unlicensed kennels,” Brandt said. “They’re a bad mark on the ones that are doing a proper job.”
A state regulatory panel joined the chorus of critics in April, saying the proposal “significantly understated” the cost to breeders and failed to take into account the diverse types of kennels in the state.
Changes and refinement are needed and will be worked on but the biggest concern for animal advocates is that the original draft is not watered down to the point that many or the major points such as cage sizes and exercise requirements are lost.
“We’re not against breeding; we just want it done responsibly,” said Cori Menkin of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, based in New York City.
They are also trying to counter misperceptions that dog owners who are not subject to the current regulations _ such as small hobby breeders _ will need a license or have to submit to inspections under the new rules, said Bill Smith, founder and director of Main Line Animal Rescue in Chester Springs.
“We’re not talking about hobbyists who have a litter of pups in their kitchen,” Smith said. “We’re talking about people who have 800, 900, 1,000 animals in one barn.”
Jessie Smith said the new version would give licensees more options for complying with the requirement for exercising dogs and streamline proposed record keeping requirements that critics said would be too burdensome.
Finding the right compromise will take some time, and the regulatory process calls for a third draft before a final proposal is approved, Jessie Smith said.
“It’s a monumental task for a small agency,” she said.
Pennsylvania, the leading puppy mill state, needs to keep the new legislation strong enough to really make an impact on the puppy millers and either get them to clean up their act or close them down. Personally I think the majority needs to just be shut down with the thousands and thousands of dogs that die every year for want of a home.
I am not against ethical, quality breeding but producing 500,000 puppies a year in puppy mills across the country is just not necessary. Even when you take into consideration the death rate of puppy mill puppies, about one half die due to substandard conditions, there are still far too many puppies being ‘produced.’ When you add to that the fact that the puppies that are birthed to puppy mill parents tend to be sick and often disease ridden, the people who buy these puppies become puppy mill victims too.
Source – The Times Leader
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