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Puppy Mill Bill Passes Committee and Moves Forward

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An Ohio House committee has passed a bill that would put restrictions on puppy mills. As Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, there is mixed reaction to the legislation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Vicki Deisner of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been following puppy mill legislation in Ohio for six years now. She says she’s seen enough of the cramped cages and the filthy conditions that lead to animals being injured or coming down with bad diseases. Deisner says the new puppy mill bill, which requires registration of animals and veterinary care checks would improve those conditions.

Disener: “You know cages that don’t have wire floors. It would eliminate the stacking of the cages. You would have situations where they would have proper cleanliness with the water that they drink and the food that they eat. They would get vet care. They would get their skin conditions, their eye conditions cleaned up. And the bottom line is you would have consumers then having puppies coming from animals that are healthy and taken care of.”

But Deisner says the bill isn’t strong enough to earn her group’s endorsement. She says the bill has been watered down considerably from the original version. She says take penalties for example.

Deisner: “They have been increased right now from $25 to $100. But at $100, that’s the cost of doing business for these breeders.”

Deisner says she’s also concerned with the inspection process for high-volume dog breeders.

Deisner: “The best optimal situation would be for state employees to do it. Then there would not be a conflict of interest. Right now, what is on the table is for the local veterinarians to do the inspections. So often times it would be a local vet who takes care of this kennel so there’s a conflict of interest.”

Still Deisner and other animal welfare supporters say the bill is a step in the right direction even if it isn’t enough to necessarily put puppy mills out of business. Abe Miller with Professional Dog Breeder Society of Ohio approves of the bill the way it stands. But Tom Coleman, a Knox County breeder who says he has 300 dogs, thinks the bill is a bad idea. He says it’s too much government regulation.

Coleman: “If you have a USDA license, you’ve got -- that's four, four regulatory people or agencies looking you over. Now we’re going to get House Bill 130. And I have two brothers that are attorneys. I sent a copy of this bill to them and the first thing they called me and said, 'The first thing you better do is hire an attorney to interpret it. They said it’s going to be very hard to interpret, it's going to be egregious, it's going be onerous, it's going to drive a lot of people out of business. It's going to drive a lot of the dog business underground.”

In fact, Coleman, who is under fire from animal rights activists, says he doesn’t like to hear people refer to his operation as a puppy mill.

Coleman: “I know that there's bad kennels out there, but I know also that most of those kennels, within two or three years, are out of business.”

The bill passed out of the committee almost unanimously. Republican Representative Jim Buchy was the only lawmaker to vote against it.

Buchy: “This is another example of growth of government that’s not needed. We have -- in this particular industry -- we have enough laws and regulations on the books to handle all the misfortunes that are experienced. And from a code standpoint, there are ways to address people who are not acting in a lawful manner in the raising of dogs. And I see this also, as a way that because of the costs involved, with the fee structures -- which are tax increases -- that you'rere going to see some good operators that are not going to be able to continue to produce really good animals. And I don’t like that.”

The bill now goes to the full Ohio House, where it is expected to pass. Then it’s up to the Senate to approve or reject the changes made by the House.