Tuesday, October 2, 2007

PA- 2nd Draft of proposed changes to Dog Law not yet ready

2nd draft of dog law not yet ready
The first proposed revision yielded 16,000 public comments.
By Tom Venesky
Sports Reporter

The state Department of Agriculture is making a second revision to the proposed changes to the dog law regulations and the proposal should be released by the end of the year.
There will be a few changes from the first draft, according to Jessie Smith, the department’s special deputy secretary for dog law enforcement. Since the proposal yielded more than 16,000 public comments, it should take time before a document that is ready for a legislative vote.
Smith said the majority of the comments were positive.
“People said we need to do something about substandard commercial breeding operations in Pennsylvania,” she said.
Many hobby breeders and those who raise sporting dogs believed the revisions included them, which resulted in a wave of opposition from those groups.
Smith said there is no reason for the concern because the changes won’t affect groups that conduct field trials or dog shows.
The current law calls for anyone who possesses more than 26 dogs in one year to obtain a kennel license – those are the people who would be subject to the changes, Smith said.
“If you’re not licensed now, you won’t fall under the changes,” she said. “It’s very important that people understand this is not requiring someone who doesn’t have a kennel license now to get one.”
According to the Agriculture Department Web site, 48 Luzerne County establishments have either a boarding or kennel license.
Among the changes that Smith said are being considered for the upcoming second draft is a provision requiring that dogs be exercised for 20 minutes a day. The concern among those who raise sporting dogs is the provision did not allow for hunting or training time to fulfill the 20 minutes of exercise.
Smith said the intent of the provision was for dogs in a commercial breeding facility that can be permanently in a 2-by-3-foot enclosure.
“That’s pretty small,” she said. “And there’s no exercise required.”
Smith acknowledged that time spent hunting and training should count as exercise and the language will be changed to include such activity.
Other changes will be made to the draft to lessen the burden of increased record keeping, especially for small hobby breeders, and allow dogs to be exercised on grass.
In addition to writing a second draft, the department also has to complete a public-comment response document, which is a response to each of the 16,000 comments received. After a public hearing is held early next year, a third draft will be written, followed by a short public-comment period. Smith said they have until April 2009 to complete a fourth draft and submit it to the House and Senate agricultural committees and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.
“We’re not trying to burden anyone, drive anyone out of business of stop anyone from hunting,” Smith said. “The idea behind this is to improve the health, safety and welfare of kenneled dogs.”
Tom Venesky, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7230.

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