By XINJUAN DENG
Capital News Service
LANSING– A new legislative proposal would regulate large-scale dog breeders who have more than 15 breeding females to ensure their animals receive proper treatment, including adequate food, water, shelter, regular exercise and veterinary care.
The bill would prohibit a dog having more than one litter a year.
Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, a co-sponsor of the bill, said, “Current laws do not outline the proper guidelines of care that large commercial breeding kennels have to administer to the dogs and puppies in their custody to ensure that their lives are protected.”
The bill’s sponsors are Sen. Steven Bieda, D-Warren; Sen. Tory Rocca, R-Sterling Heights; and Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake.
Michigan State University law professor David Favre who teaches animal law said, “It is a significant step forward for the welfare of commercially bred dogs in Michigan. If as a society we are going to allow massive breeding operations of between 16 and 50 dogs at one place, then society has a duty to impose those standards that will provide a minimum level and welfare protections.”
Under the proposal, violators of the so-called “Puppy Protection Act” could be jailed for 93 days, fined more than $1,000, and lose their breeding license.
The provisions of this act wouldn’t apply to animal shelters that rescue neglected animals. Jones said, “This legislation only applies to breeding kennels because these are for-profit establishments that intend to bring more puppies into this world and the proper care for them needs to be instructed.”
Jamie McAloon-Lampman, Ingham County Animal Control and shelter director, said, “This legislation would gives us one more tool during our investigative process. The more tools you have to do a job, the better the chance is you’ll do a better job. This law will definitely help us do a better job.”
McAloon-Lampman said, “It would hold commercial breeders accountable for the amount of room the animal has, or fresh food and clean water to drink — we can put a stop to their poor breeding practices.”
But some breeders are worried they wouldn’t be financially and physically able to comply.
“I think it will negatively impact responsible breeders. In this economy where everyone is already struggling, a $500 annual license fee is ridiculous,” said Sara Chisnell-Voigt, legal counsel of United Kennel Club, Inc., the largest all-breed performance-dog registry in the world, registering dogs from all 50 states and 25 foreign countries. The club is based in Kalamazoo.
“It may also overreach and be used to lump other non-breeding kennels into the definition–such as professional trainers, sled dogs, hunting kennels, etc. — where there may be many intact dogs but few or none actually being used for breeding.” She also said it would require hobby breeders to open their homes to inspection.
“I do think our current laws are sufficient. Michigan has some of the strongest anti-cruelty and anti-neglect laws in the country,” Chisnell-Voigt said. “The problem is not with the law, it’s with enforcement.”
Retired veterinarian of Williamston Dr. Al Stinson said the bill’s goals are “impossible to accomplish”.
“ It is too broad, it regulates all the people who are making a living off dogs, trading the dogs, hundreds of pet owners, medical owners of dogs who trade them,” said Stinson, who is also a breeder and exhibitor. “They should deal with the puppy problem more individually rather than deal it with in state action or national action. They should focus on how to improve the whole industry,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is reviewing the legislation.
Public Information Officer Jennifer Holton said it’s premature to discuss potential or possible enforcement or practices. The legislation is pending in the Senate Agriculture Committee.
© 2012, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.
By XINJUAN DENG