Pennsylvania puppy mill law: State forces breeders to work with DVMs

Pennsylvania puppy mill law: State forces breeders to work with DVMs

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Nov 01, 2008

Harrisburg, Pa. — Pennsylvania legislators passed a controversial law aimed at improving conditions for dogs in so-called puppy mills.

After years of wrangling, the measure cruised through the state House by a vote of 183-7 and the Senate 49-1. Gov. Ed Rendell, who pushed for the bill for two years, signed it into law Oct. 9.

The measure went through many incarnations since it was introduced.

The Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA) fought to make sure the bill was in the best interest of animals and faced heavy opposition to its stance on the original bill, according to Charlene Wandzilak, executive director.

"PVMA was proud to lend its support to the improvement of this bill over the course in the Legislature and to its final passage," according to Wandzilak. "HB 2525 is an excellent step in ensuring the welfare and health of the dogs housed in commercial breeding kennels."

The bill provides that dogs will no longer be in cages stacked on top of each other. The minimum size of cages will be increased, and wire flooring banned.

In addition, kennel owners are required to establish a plan with a veterinarian to provide for care and exercise of the dogs — a major sticking point for PVMA, because different breeds of dogs have different health and exercise requirements.

Another key issue was making sure only veterinarians are permitted to euthanize dogs. While the bill has most of the requirements animal-welfare advocates wanted, they still view it as somewhat watered-down.

The revamped bill requires that officials meet a standard similar to probable cause in criminal cases if they seek a warrant to raid a kennel. In addition, it adds members to a new Canine Health Board that would make judgment calls on individual kennel cases and requires that one of the new members be appointed by the president of PVMA.

Legislators who championed the bill still consider it a coup for animal welfare.

"The people of Pennsylvania demanded a dog law with teeth, one that would protect these dogs and ensure they are treated in a humane way and not simply as a cash crop," says Rep. James Casorio, D-Westmoreland, the legislation's sponsor. "This legislation, while certainly not perfect and not as strong as many of us would have liked, nevertheless is a huge step forward for the tens of thousands of dogs currently living in commercial kennels in Pennsylvania."

The veterinarian-approved health plan and euthanasia rules take effect immediately. Commercial kennel owners have one year to comply with the new housing regulations. Extensions may be granted for those needing to overhaul their facilities.

PVMA is working on a program with the Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania to help commercial breeders who feel they can't comply with the new law by offering some type of placement service for the dogs, which would include veterinary care and placement in permanent homes through the network of shelters.