For seven years, Ohio lawmakers have debated legislation that would regulate commercial dog breeding in the state. And for seven years, they have failed to pass a law aimed at stopping the cruelty that too often prevails in "puppy mills."
Last week, a state House committee canceled debate and put off a vote on yet another bill that would regulate large-scale dog breeders. Reportedly, a substitute bill will be introduced after the November election.
The latest failed bill, which the state Senate had approved unanimously, was flawed in many ways. It treated dogs as livestock, and left enforcement to the state Agriculture Department.
It set fines so low that unscrupulous breeders could absorb them as a cost of doing business. And it did not adequately regulate high-volume breeders.
The lack of regulation has made Ohio a haven for breeders who care more about profit than proper animal care. Authorities last month removed more than 250 dogs from a puppy mill in Shelby, Ohio. The animals, many of them crowded into stacked, feces-laden cages, were infested with fleas. Some were seriously ill.
Lawmakers must not ignore their responsibility to clean up Ohio's reputation as a state that cares little about animal welfare. Gov. John Kasich has become a stakeholder in the legislation, which could increase the sense of urgency in Columbus to pass a good bill.
That bill should restrict the number of dogs a breeder can own, ban dog auctions, and require standard inspections. Inspectors should not have a financial relationship with the breeding facilities they monitor.
The legislation should set minimum standards for animal identification and record keeping. It should ensure that kennels are clean, uncrowded, and large enough for dogs to move around.
It should mandate regular veterinary care. And it should require commercial breeders to socialize the dogs in their care among people.
Ohio lawmakers can look to Missouri for model commercial dog-breeding legislation. Then they need to look within themselves to find the will to do the right thing for man's best friend.
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