An official from the Toledo Area Humane Society was among those testifying in Columbus on Tuesday regarding legislation aimed at regulating dog-breeding kennels and retailers.
John Dinon, executive director of the humane society, testified before the House of Representatives’ agriculture and natural resources committee on Senate Bill 130, which has already passed the state Senate.
The bill is a step toward regulating high-volume dog breeders with the goal of protecting the welfare of the dogs in their care, Mr. Dinon said.
“The lack of regulation of dog breeders in Ohio has made our state a magnet for this often cruel industry,” Mr. Dinon told the committee.
The committee hearing and vote scheduled for today have been canceled, according to Mary O’Connor-Shaver, the founder of the Coalition to Ban Ohio Dog Auctions, which submitted written testimony on behalf of itself and two groups, the Nitro Foundation and the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates. She said a new substitute bill is to be drafted, hearings are to resume after the November general election, and Gov. John Kasich has now become a "stakeholder" in helping to move the legislation.
Other groups that were expected to testify during the hearing include the Humane Society of the United States, the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Ohio Association of Animal Owners, the Ohio Professional Dog Breeders Association, and representatives from the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
The Ohio Senate on Feb. 1 unanimously approved the bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Hughes (R., Columbus). Dog advocates, however, expressed disappointment with the amendments to the original bill, especially those giving the agriculture department the power to enforce the proposed law. The original bill set up its own regulatory board that would be funded from kennel-licensing fees and would have its own inspectors.
The department of agriculture appears to be championing another version of the bill after a substitute bill was handed out on department letterhead during a stakeholders’ meeting on Sept. 4.
Variations of SB 130 have been around for several sessions, ultimately collapsing amid disputes among breeders, veterinarians, animal-rights advocates, farmers, and others. Disputes arose over fees, whether the bill would unfairly punish responsible breeding operations, and whether regulations could be expanded beyond just dogs. Among changes, the substitute bill removes animal rescue groups and retail pet stores from the list of those that would be regulated.
Mrs. O’Connor-Shaver said the substitute bill has the same flaws as the original bill passed by the Senate in that it does not effectively target “puppy mill” breeders. Having the agriculture department regulate dog breeders is not appropriate since dogs are not “agricultural animals” as defined by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, she said.
“The vast majority of our constituents strongly believe that breeding dogs will now be viewed as ‘livestock’ and the agency will have no incentive to close down high-volume puppy producing facilities whose primary existence is profit over the humane treatment of breeding dogs and their offspring,” she said.
Mr. Dinon told the committee that one area that needs to be corrected is fines.
“The fines are way too low,” he said. “They need to be real penalties or else they won’t deter bad behavior.”
The bill states “a person who has violated any other provision of this chapter or rules adopted under it shall pay a civil penalty of $25. Each day that a violation continues constitutes a separate violation.”
High-volume breeders are likely to look at a low fine like $25 as just part of “the cost of doing business,” Mr. Dinon said.
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