Rep. Tillberry pushes bill on animal breeder licensing
Friday, 20 March 2009
by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
Rep. Tom Tillberry expressed a degree of surprise over opposition to his dog
and cat breeders' bill.
"I would think breeders would want that," said Tillberry of annual licensing
and initial inspections of commercial dog and cat breeder facilities
prescribed in the legislation.
It could serve to weed out bad breeders, he explained.
"I definitely think it is something we need to be doing," said Tillberry.
Media and public focus on cases of animal abuse and cruelty in so-called
"puppy mills" has legislators authoring a number of animal breeder bills
No one knows exactly how many dog and cat breeders there in Minnesota,
That's because while federal law covers animal breeders selling to pet
brokers or pet stores, it does not apply to breeders selling puppies or
kittens on the Internet or to the family with the kid across town.
Try a Google search and see what comes up, suggested Tillberry of finding an
83 USDA licensed animal breeders
According to the Minnesota Responsible Animal Owners Alliance, there are 83
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) licensed Class A animal
breeders in Minnesota.
The issue is emotional.
At a recent House hearing Tillberry showed a video showing graphic images of
abused dogs and cats discovered in Minnesota.
Currently, there are no state laws that require licensing or inspection of
non-USDA regulated breeders.
Beryl Board, co-executive director of Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota, a
multi-state retriever rescue and rehousing group, spoke of an increasing
number of animal rescues.
Speaking before the House public safety committee last week, Board spoke of
collars embedded in flesh, missing eyes - puppies subject to both physical
and psychology abuse by breeders.
"They were sold, or were going to be sold, that way," she said.
Dr. Christine Gabel, a veterinarian representing the Minnesota Purebreed Dog
Association, gave tentative support of Tillberry's legislation.
"We do support the bill with some reservations," she told the committee.
Tillberry reworked his original bill.
Distinctions are drawn between commercial and hobby breeders - the latter
defined as possessing fewer than 20 adult animals or who produce fewer than
five litters of puppies or kittens a year.
Annual state license required
Commercial breeders under the bill would need to obtain an annual state
license for each facility it owns or operates, beginning in July, 2010.
The State Board of Animal Health would inspect facilities prior to
Other requirements are spelled out.
A number of people spoke out against Tillberry's bill last week.
Andrea Piper, a hobby breeder of French bulldogs from Brooklyn Park,
questioned how effective the legislation would be in controlling bad
"I don't think we're going to grab all of the bad people by making a big
bill," she said.
If people want a certain a animal, they'll find one, Piper opined.
"We're selfish people. We want what we want," she said.
Speaking more recently, Piper, who likes some of the bill, said if it's
intended to stop puppy mills, it should be more specific about husbandry
Why not restrict the number of litters animal can produce? she opined.
Real issue is animal cruelty
Dr. Robinette Dunahugh-Ralston, a veterinarian from Farmington, argued
before the committee that the real issue underlying people's concerns is
But the bill doesn't address that, she argued.
Others testifying, in the same vein, argued animal cruelty laws are already
on the books.
The Minnesota Veterinarian Medical Association could support the breeders'
legislation under certain conditions.
For example, the association wants the state board of animal health to
conduct inspections and enforcement.
The number of animals at a breeding facility has does not determine its
quality, the association argued in a position statement.
To that end, it wants inspections for all facilities, regardless of size,
upon valid complaint.
Dr. Tom Hagerty, a retired veterinarian who handles government relations for
the association, questions aspects of the Tillberry legislation.
"How do you find the breeders?" he said of regulating an industry that might
be conducted in the backyard. "How do you identify them?" he said.
Hagerty also questioned whether the licensing and inspections would be
self-funding - a special account is created to collected fees.
Not enough staff
But a Board of Animal Health official last week indicated she didn't believe
the board had enough staff to take on additional duties.
Tillberry's bill is scheduled for another hearing on Monday, March 23 in the
House civil justice committee.
Should it pass on Monday, it's expected to go the House agriculture
Tillberry, who views his bill as an example stakeholders achieving
compromise, is upbeat about its chances.
The bill easily cleared the public safety committee last week.
Sen. Don Betzold, DFL-Fridley, is carry similar breeders' legislation in the
Betzold believe his bill, which sits in the Senate agriculture committee,
could soon have another hearing.