Ohio Valley Dog Owners, Inc.
Protecting dogs, dog owners and our neighbors
In 2007, Ohio State Representative Jim Hughes and State Senator Gary Cates joined forces with dual introduction of a 35-page kennel licensing bill in both houses of the Ohio General Assembly. The lawmakers and their cosponsors claim that their bills are aimed at those nebulous "puppy mills," but they actually target all breeders who keep more than eight intact dogs regardless of kennel conditions. The House bill is moving through the committee hearing process; SB 173, the Senate bill, is not currently set for hearings.
HB 223 was heard in the House Government and Elections Committee, not the agriculture committee as is customary with animal bills. Sponsor testimony was heard on September 11; proponents spoke on October 4, and opponents packed two hearing rooms on October 11. See the OVDO opposition testimony.
No further hearings have been set, and the word is that the bill is being rewritten in attempts to satisfy opponents.
The current version of HB 223 places inspection and enforcement authority in the hands of a 10-member panel that includes only two members of the regulated businesses. This committee will hire a director to enforce the licensing law. In addition HB223 micromanages housing and veterinary care, bans the use of dog crates for temporary housing, forces license applicants to undergo criminal background checks, sets up a state bureaucracy that places financial burdens on kennel owners, and forces owners of more than eight intact dogs to prove the dogs are not kept for breeding.
Along with provisions that treat dog breeders as potential abusers, HB 223 duplicates current animal welfare law and fails to provide a source of revenue beyond kennel license fees for hiring a director, a staff to process applications, and inspectors to check out the kennels. There's no estimate of the number of kennels that will be licensed, so there's no way to determine how much money the licenses will bring in.
HB 223 is the bill currently moving through the legislative process. Letters of opposition to HB 223 should be sent to Representative David Daniels, chairman, House State Government & Elections Committee, 77 S. High Street,11th Floor;Columbus, OH 43215-6111; telephone: (614) 466-3506; fax : (614) 719-6986; e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Letters of opposition to SB 173 should be sent to the Senate Committee on State and Local Government and Veterans Affairs and to your own representative and senator. Chairman of the Senate committee is Senator Gary Cates, Senate Building, Room #040, Ground Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215; telephone: 614/466-8072; e-mail: SD04@mailr.sen.state.oh.us.
OVDO met with Senator Cates on July 10 to discuss our opposition to HB 223 and SB 173. We made most of the following points in our discussion and in a follow-up letter.
The language describing who should be licensed is contradictory. While the definition of "breeding dog" specifies that the dog or bitch has been bred at least once in a calendar year and is kept primarily for breeding, the bill language actually requires that everyone with more than eight adult dogs (dogs over the age of eight months) "kept for breeding" (not primarily for breeding) apply for a license. Since intact dogs are potential breeding dogs, a breeder with more than eight unsterilized dogs could be forced to prove that no more than eight of those dogs would be bred in the coming year.
Animal care is as much an art as a science and should be measured by the general conditions of the animals, not whether the breeder uses a drip bottle or an open bowl of water; provides water 24 hours per day or periodically through the day; does his own vaccinations with or without consultation with a vet; treats his own dogs or seeks veterinary care for minor illnesses and injuries; provides a resting pan in a dog run or gives the dogs a blanket to sleep on. Many breeders have the experience and knowledge to allow them to make these decisions, and they should be allowed to do so as long as their dogs are in good condition.
Fingerprinting and criminal background checks of applicants assumes that those who breed dogs as a business are potential criminals.
There are no fiscal notes to aid in determining the cost of establishing the kennel control authority and hiring a director and staff to process applications, inspect kennels, and follow cases to a conclusion. Surety bonds don't help unless they are redeemed if a kennel owner violates the law. There is no accurate count of the number of kennels that will be required to register, so income from kennel licensing fees cannot be estimated.
The director of the kennel control authority has broad power to deny a license if the applicant has violated the standards set in the bill; the regulations drafted to administer the bill; Ohio animal cruelty law or an "equivalent" law in any other state; or does not have the "expertise or capacity to comply with this chapter or rules adopted under it." This power can destroy a kennel that has been in operation for years with adequate conditions that do not meet the standards set in the bill. The breeder may challenge the decision by requesting an adjudication hearing with the same director who denied the license.
The standards included in the bills arbitrarily ban the use of crates for temporary housing unless they meet a certain size requirement appropriate for primary housing; allow only open bowls for water; require water 24 hours per day; require veterinary care for "any" disease, injury, or illness; specify the depth of straw bedding; require vaccinations as recommended by a veterinarian; and specify a temperature differential of five degrees between shaded and unshaded areas of an outdoor run. This micromanagement is unnecessary and will cause financial hardship to breeders who are forced to be licensed. Puppies can wallow in open bowls of water and spill it in their bedding; dogs don't need water all day and night; many breeders can treat minor illnesses and injuries without a vet visit; veterinarians themselves are not in total agreement about vaccinations; temperatures can change at different times of the day, etc.
Licensed breeders can appeal decisions of the kennel authority only in a specific court in Columbus, located in the center of the state. This makes it difficult for breeders of limited means who live several hours away to pursue claims of innocence. If a breeder wishes to appeal an order to seize his dogs, he must post an additional court-ordered bond for dog care (beyond the initial surety bond posted in order to get the license) before the appeal can proceed. There's no provision for returning the money if the appeal is upheld.
As elsewhere, shelters and rescues in Ohio do not generally have room to accommodate large seizures of dogs and keep those dogs while a case is investigated, decided, and carried through an appeal. Housing extra dogs can put a hardship on animal control and dog rescue activities in the areas where these confiscations take place, causing overcrowding, difficulty in keeping the shelters clean, and potentially causing other dogs to be euthanized to make room for those seized for alleged violations of the law.
The bills exempt shelters from the standards that breeders must abide by, thus potentially allowing removal of dogs from a kennel that violates those standards only to confine them in a shelter that does not meet those standards.
Although the current cruelty law can be used to close bad kennels, it could
be clarified with a set of general standards that would improve oversight of
kennels that keep dogs in poor conditions. Adding such standards for adequate
lighting, ventilation, temperature, housing, exercise, and sanitation would
fix this problem without creating a complex kennel licensing bureaucracy. The
Welfare Act regulations provide a useful set of standards that can be adapted
to kennels where dogs are raised as a business. (See a comparison between the
micromanagement of the Ohio bills and the AWA here.)
Ohio counties already provide humane agents to enforce state anti-cruelty laws, so we don't need a state bureaucracy to duplicate their responsibilities. We do need to give humane agencies the appropriate tools for doing their jobs, hold prosecutors accountable for pursuing cases of real neglect or abuse, and make sure that humane agents are trained in customary animal husbandry practices as currently required by law.
We do not necessarily oppose standards for dog care, but we believe there are better ways to set and enforce those standards than to regulate by the number of dogs housed or by singling out breeders. For example, a set of minimum standards included in the current animal cruelty law could be enforced by local humane agencies and dog wardens without an elaborate licensing scheme and could easily include all facilities where large numbers of animals are kept regardless of purpose. An office within the Ohio Department of Agriculture could serve as an oversight agency and could inspect local shelters and dog pounds to make sure they meet the standards.
For more information about these bills and breeder licensing bills in general,
A comparison of the federal Animal Welfare Act and Ohio HB 223/SB 173
6 things animal rights activists will like about HB223/SB173
Does Ohio need a new kennel licensing law?
Animal welfare or animal rights?
What is a puppy mill?
For a look at a reasonable approach to animal control/animal welfare laws, see the NAIA Guide to Pet Friendly Ordinances at http://www.naiaonline.org/pdfs/petfriendlyguide.pdf
AKC has a set of policies that deal with dog breeding, ownership and care. See them at http://www.akc.org/canine_legislation/position_statements.cfm
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