Bill seeks restrictions on dog breeders


The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS

Reacting to a coalition of local and national animal-welfare organizations seeking to put dog-breeding regulations in the state constitution, Republicans are moving legislation to beef up oversight of high-volume breeders.

Addressing cage sizes, nutrition, socialization and other care standards, House Bill 506 passed out of committee last week and could see a House vote as early as Wednesday.

Rep. Louis Blessing, R-Cincinnati, said the bill would give the Ohio Department of Agriculture the tools to go after abusive puppy mills. He said there is an urgency to pass the bill because of the proposed constitutional amendment, which he said cannot be altered if it is approved by voters.

But the Humane Society of the United States, a leader of the coalition pushing the constitutional amendment, said the bill doesn’t go far enough.

“If these minimum protections aren’t enshrined in the constitution by the voters, future lawmakers can dismantle them,” said Corey Roscoe, the Humane Society’s Ohio state director.

Rep. Brian Hill, R-Zanesville, said he and stakeholders hammered out multiple changes to the bill, though he’d like to see the Senate later add language dealing with the regulation of dog brokers posing as rescues organizations.

“I think there’s a lot of progress in the bill,” he said.

A key component — the definition of a high-volume dog breeder — was changed to be defined as those with at least six breeding dogs, and who either sell five or more adult dogs or puppies to a retail store, sell at least 40 puppies in a year, or house 60 or more puppies bred on the premises in a given year.

Other regulations in the bill:

A cage must be the square sum of a dog measured nose to tail, plus 6 inches. For example, a 30-inch dog would need a 9-square-foot cage. The cage also must be at least 6 inches taller than the dog and have a solid resting area.

Food must be provided based on a veterinarian-recommended plan.

A dog must get the opportunity to go outside during the day.

Human “verbal and tactile” interaction with a dog is required.

Breeding would be allowed only if a dog has a normal body condition and is declared healthy by a veterinarian.

Kellie DiFrischia, of Columbus Dog Connection, said she has proposed changes, “many of which are consumer-protection related.”

Among her proposed revisions, she wants all kennel licenses kept by the Department of Agriculture and a system to track dog sales.

“We can pass the very best bill in the entire country, but if you don’t have a tracking mechanism to find the breeders that should be licensed and the bad actors in rescue, none of the rest of the bill matters,” DiFrischia said.

For years, animal-welfare groups criticized Ohio for lax oversight that cultivated its reputation as one of the worst states for abusive puppy mills.

Lawmakers approved a puppy mill law in 2012 that subjected large-scale breeders to new licensing and inspection rules. Animal-welfare advocates called it a good first step, but said it contained loopholes and weak enforcement penalties.

Patricia Haines of Wilmington, past president of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, said the new bill addresses shortcomings in current law and would “expand and codify many of the most critical care standards using science as a guide

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