Friday, May 30, 2008

PA- Dog Legistation Raises Red Flags

Pennsylvania Dog Legislation Raises Red Flags
Legislators Must Hear from Responsible Owners and Breeders

May 28, 2008

Legislation designed to crack down on so-called "puppy mills" has been introduced in Pennsylvania that would have broad, sweeping implications for all dog owners and breeders. Governor Rendell's strong support for HB 2525 has given the bill significant momentum and a hearing is expected to be scheduled quite soon in the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

NAIA strongly supports the goal of improving substandard kennels and breeding operations, and we stand behind the spirit and intent of HB 2525 to eliminate poor and irresponsible practices, but upon closer review, we feel compelled to point out some areas where the bill could lead to misinterpretations, enforcement problems, and rights violations.

HB 2525, sponsored by Representative James E. Casorio Jr., D-Westmoreland, sets up stringent licensing and standards of care for commercial kennels. Although high volume breeding operations are the primary focus of the bill, it also establishes new rules for non-commercial kennels and individual dog owners.

A "commercial kennel" is defined as any kennel that breeds or whelps dogs and sells or transfers any dog to a dealer OR sells or transfers more than 60 dogs per year.

A "kennel" is defined as an establishment in or through which at least 26 dogs are kept or transferred in a calendar year.

A "dealer" is a person who publicly or privately sells or offers for sale any dog belonging to another person for consideration, a fee or a commission or percentage of the sale price or transfers dogs at wholesale.

A "private kennel" is a kennel not meeting the definition of commercial kennel at in or adjoining a residence where dogs are kept or bred for the purpose of hunting, tracking and exhibiting in dog shows, or field and obedience trials.

HB 2525 is improved over last year’s proposed regulations and it clearly reflects the input of many stakeholder groups that met with the department before they finalized the legislation. However, it still subjects all dog owners, all hobby breeders, all show kennels, all sporting dog kennels and all boarding kennels to overbearing and unnecessary laws.

Our primary concern is that this bill contains the scope and authority necessary to eliminate substandard kennels, without causing any undue, collateral harm to the law abiding, responsible breeders and kennel operators.

The following provisions in HB 2525 raise concerns:

It allows searches on private residences not associated with the actual operation of a kennel, which strikes us as unnecessarily invasive.
It gives the Department of Agriculture the ability to gain a search warrant simply for even a small violation of their written policies or procedures.
The bill permits the department to levy fines up to $1,000 and imprison violators on criminal charges for the first offense under the law or regulations, no matter how minor the transgression. As written, such severe penalties could be applied at the department's sole discretion for failure to keep a collar on your dog while traveling in your car or making an innocent error in your license application or in your records. The department needs discretion in enforcing the law, but it also needs better guidelines to shape its discretion. First offenses should have the option of a warning.
Under this bill a small breeder could have a single litter or purchase a single dog that brings it under the licensing requirements. However, in the case of the birth of a litter, they will not know if they exceed the limit until the litter is born. Delays by the department for the required inspection and the administrative actions to issue the license means that these small breeders would either be required to get a license unnecessarily or would have to operate without a license for a short period through no fault of their own.
It permits the department to require the divestiture of dogs below the kennel threshold without providing any reason for reducing the number below 25 dogs. At that number, the establishment is not a kennel (unless it thereafter goes over the 25 dog limit) and should not be subject to the department’s authority over kennels absent a clear and well-defined danger.
You can read the entire bill by clicking here .

The time is now to take action to secure the future of the dog fancy in Pennsylvania. Legislators are being overwhelmed with pressure from the media and others to pass a bill quickly. Unless they hear from us, legislators will pass a bill that hurts all of us, even if it is unintentional.

Please use the talking points below or CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION NOW and write members of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee encouraging them to amend this bill.

We need you to weigh in today in favor of reasonable dog laws!

For more information, we invite you to read our letter to the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

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