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Bill designed to increase standards for dog breeders heads to governor's desk

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    A shih tzu peers from his crate at the Island Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary in Port Clinton after being rescued from a puppy mill in Ohio in 2012. A piece of legislation headed to the Ohio Senate would subject dog breeders to stricter standards for care of the animals and stiffer penalties for violations.

    THE BLADE/ROBERTA GEDERT
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    Debbie Long holds up a sign during a puppy mill protest at The Family Puppy Store in Toledo in 2015.

    The Blade
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COLUMBUS — A proposed ballot issue to etch into the Ohio Constitution new standards for dog breeders has been dropped in favor of a legislative compromise that could soon get Gov. John Kasich’s signature.

The Ohio House last week voted 85-6 to give final approval to House Bill 506, which would redefine who would qualify as a “high-volume dog breeder” subject to stricter standards for care of the animals and potentially stiffer penalties for violations.

“One of the major things, I think, that was important for many of us was that there was going to be a ballot issue on this, this fall,” Rep. Brian Hill (R., Zanesville), the bill’s sponsor, told his House colleagues before the vote.

“One of the agreements that came out of this was [the Humane Society of the United States] would pull their ballot issue off not only this year but they would stay away for 10 years,” he said.

CTY-sanctuaryPROVANCE-jpg

A shih tzu peers from his crate at the Island Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary in Port Clinton after being rescued from a puppy mill in Ohio in 2012. A piece of legislation headed to the Ohio Senate would subject dog breeders to stricter standards for care of the animals and stiffer penalties for violations.

THE BLADE/ROBERTA GEDERT
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The now-shelved ballot issue had been partly in reaction to a law championed by Chillicothe-based global retailer Petland that passed last year and had the effect of negating ordinances in the city of Toledo and the Columbus suburb of Grove City designed to prohibit retailers from acquiring the dogs they sell from such breeders.

Under House Bill 506, pet retailers or dog brokers would have their suppliers sign a document attesting they comply with Ohio’s standards of care when it comes to the feeding, housing, veterinary care, exercise, and human interaction of their animals.

“We’ll see how it plays out,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the humane society’s national Stop Puppy Mills Campaign. He helped to negotiate the compromise.

“Ohio will be the first state in the nation to say that a sourcing requirement, where sellers get puppies, will be taken into account as well as the conditions in which breeding dogs live,” he said. “Ohio is one of the most populous states in the nation, and there aren’t a lot of commercial dog breeding kennels in other states that meet these standards.”

Both sides said they hope the tighter standards in Ohio will lead to similar national standards..

House Bill 506 also recently passed the Senate by a vote of 32-1. It would define a “high-volume dog breeder” based on the number of puppies sold as opposed to the number of litters produced as under current law.

Such a breeder would be one that keeps six or more breeding dogs and either sells five or more a year to brokers or retailers, sells 40 or more directly to the public, or keeps at any given time 40 or more puppies younger than 4 months that were bred on the premises.

Annual licensing fees would be tied to the number of dogs sold and would range from $150 to $750. Civil penalties for violating the law would be increased fivefold to $2,500 for the first offense and doubled to $5,000 for subsequent violations.

“No one believed that a ballot issue amending the state constitution for dog standards was the right way to go,” said Mike Gonidakis, lobbyist for Petland, who participated in the negotiations. “We put our differences aside, and now we have legislation that we believe can be shopped around the country as the new standard in all 50 states.”

The House last week also voted 89-4 for House Bill 552 to all but prohibit the use of gas chambers to kill animals. The only time a gas chamber could be used would be if the state certifies that there is a shortage of drugs.

Mr. Goodwin said most dog wardens in the country have already done away with gas chambers.

The bill would also allow dog wardens who acquire the proper certification from the Ohio Board of Pharmacy to use tranquilizer guns to capture animals without having veterinarians present.

“Currently, if our dog wardens encounter a dangerous dog their only options are to find a way to manage the dog with the use of a control pole or, if the situation escalates, to shoot the dog,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sarah LaTourette (R., Chesterland).

“This not only puts our dog wardens at unnecessary risk, it is cruel to the animals they are trying to handle,” she said.

The bill now goes to the Senate but is unlikely to see action before both chambers recess for the summer on Wednesday.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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