From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2012:
Political intervention weakens new puppy mill legislation in four states
AUSTIN, HARRISBURG, OKLAHOMA CITY, SPRINGFIELD–Recently passed laws meant to curb puppy mills appear to have been crippled by political intervention in four states.
The Pennsylvania Dog Law Advisory Board on April 25, 2012 met for the first time since Republican Governor Tom Corbett took office in January 2011. Among other duties, the board is charged with enforcing an anti-puppy mill law introduced in 2008 by previous governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat.
“One of the first things that Governor Corbett did is change the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement to the Office of Dog Law Enforcement, which in state government carries more weight,” executive deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture told the meeting. Since the passage of the law, Pechert said, “we’ve gone from nearly 350 commercial dog breeding facilities to 52 today.”
But board member Tom Hickey said that under Corbett he has seen “a complete breakdown in enforcement activities,” reported Tony Romeo of CBS/Philadelphia.
“Nearly a year after key regulations governing temperature, lighting, ammonia levels, and ventilation went into effect, there is little if any evidence that the Department of Agriculture is enforcing that provision of the law,” alleged Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Amy Worden on the eve of the meeting. “The agency, which is facing a deepening financial crisis, is failing to cite repeat violators,” and has allowed the wife of a convicted animal abuser to hold a kennel license, Worden continued.
“A review of inspection reports indicates no citations were issued to commercial kennels after June 2011,” Worden added, “when state agriculture secretary George Greig installed Lynn M. Diehl, a former bank manager with no animal-sheltering or law enforcement experience, in the $80,000-a-year job running the Office of Dog Law Enforcement. Inspection reports indicate that only a handful of the 60 remaining commercial kennels-there were more than 300 before the law took effect-have received even the minimum twice-annual inspections” that Pennsylvania law requires.
Cash flow problems within the Office of Dog Law Enforcement, Worden reported, have resulted in part because dog license billing was done months late in 2011, kennel license billing was also done late, and so was the billing for about $50,000 worth of dangerous dog permits.
The Oklahoma legislature on April 24, 2012 sent to Governor Mary Fallin a pair of bills, almost certain to be promptly signed into law, which will fold the Board of Commercial Pet Breeders created in 2010 into the state Agriculture, Food & Forestry Department. In two years of existence the Board of Commercial Pet Breeders had licensed only 230 of the 1,900 dog breeders who were believed to have been operating in Oklahoma when it was formed. The first Board of Commercial Pet Breeders executive director resigned in September 2011, just before the board was to begin enforcing regulation of breeding facilities. A second director, hired in December 2011, quit after just two weeks on the job.
The Humane Society of the U.S. on April 19, 2012 lauded the Missouri House of Representatives for voting 98-34 in favor of a bill to phase out by 2014 a tax on animal shelters and shelterless rescues that was imposed as part of an April 2011 breeder-driven rewrite of the Missouri Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act that was approved in 2008 by 52% of the electorate. The price of Missouri house repeal of the tax on shelters and rescues was that the bill also rolls back the licensing fee on commercial breeders to a maximum of $1,000, only 40% of the previous highest fee.
The Missouri bill stipulates that the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture may “deny any applicant of an animal shelter license or revoke the license of any animal shelter licensee, if it is determined by the director that the applicant or the licensee unreasonably profits from the charges for adoption or sales of its animals.”
Fox2 reporter Chris Hayes on March 12, 2012 reported that former Sunset Kennel operator Ovella Lange had surrendered her breeding license, after being cited by state inspectors for inadequately housing dogs and keeping them in filthy conditions. Her son Ryan Rumfelt had closed his Pampered Pets chain of mall-based pet stores. Instead, they were operating as a “rescue” called Seeking Furever Homes, offering mainly puppies. “A recent State Inspection cited Rumfelt for failing to prove his adopted dogs are being spayed and neutered after he sells them,” Hayes noted.
Ten months after the Texas legislature passed a bill requiring state regulation of dog breeders, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation during the last week of March 2012 voted 5-1 to adopt as the Texas regulations the federal standards already enforced by the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service under the Animal Welfare Act.
Texas Humane Legislation Network chair Skip Trimble told Minjae Park of the Texas Tribune that this circumvented the intent of the law, which says that Texas must enforce standards that “at a minimum meet federal regulations.”
“Essentially what is now in rule is the epitome of a puppy mill,” charged Humane Society of the U.S. Texas state director Nicole Paquette.
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