North Carolina County Passes Ordinance to Regulate Puppy Mills

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North Carolina County Passes Ordinance to Regulate Puppy Mills

From Animal Law Coalition

Update October 21, 2010: By a vote of 8-2 the Guildford County, North Carolina Board of Commissioners has approved the new ordinance to regulate commercial breeders! This final vote followed an October 7 initial vote of 8-3, not enough for passage at that time.

Read Animal Law Coalition's reports below for more on the ordinance and efforts by the county and animal welfare advocates to pass this ordinance despite strong opposition from the American Kennel Club....

Update October 9, 2010: The Guildford County, North Carolina Board of Commissioners has tentatively approved the new ordinance to regulate commercial breeders. Tentatively because the vote was 8-3 and not unanimous. A second vote is now required but only a simple majority is necessary for passage.

The breeders showed up in force at the October 7 commissioners' meeting to protest the proposal. Commissioner Linda Shaw responded to criticism that the ordinance was simply a tax designed to drive "good" breeders out of business. She explained, "It's not a tax...Anytime someone is in business, you have to file for a business permit and you have to pay the state to operate a business. This is the same thing. These kennels don't have to pay anything to operate at this point....Why shouldn't kennels be inspected?...Why shouldn't the animals be brought to a vet to show proof they have had their parvo and rabies (shots)?"

For more on this proposed ordinance, read Animal Law Coalition's report below.

Original report:

The North Carolina legislature was unable to pass a bill to control puppy mills this past session. The bill was even watered down in an effort to appease opponents. Guildford County, North Carolina has decided not to wait and has been considering a new ordinance to regulate commercial dog breeders.

Much of the impetus for Guildford County's proposed ordinance came from the seizure earlier this year of 97 dogs from what Sheriff BJ Barnes described as a "puppy mill out of control", the euphemistically named Pleasant Garden kennel. The sheriff used the word "nastiness" in describing the kennel.

The sheriff said fourteen complaints were filed by local customers who claimed they were sold puppies that were ill. One customer described that when he asked to see the puppy's mother and father, the mother could barely stand and the father was dragged out by a chain and vomited.

The dogs seized were suffering from injuries including one with a torn left eye socket that was untreated and left the dog blind. Another dog was suffering from a puncture that permitted air to escape from her lungs. Yet another dog was missing part of her lower jaw and most of her teeth. Others also suffered from missing teeth as well as starvation, malnutrition, tumors, bloody diarrhea, skin conditions, heartworms, neurological disorders, wounds and bruises.

These were dogs used for breeding.

Sheila Marie Rush Savage, the owner of the puppy mill, and an employee, Robert Landreth, were ultimately charged with a handful of counts for misdemeanor animal cruelty. For more on the dogs, their seizure by the sheriff's department, the owner's forfeiture and the charges, visit this site.

A draft of the proposed ordinance indicates commercial dog breeders in the county would be categorized as: (1) "High-Volume Dog Breeder" if they own more than 7 intact female dogs at a time. (2) "High-Volume Dog Retailer" if they sell, re-sell, or transfer more than 50 dogs per year.

The American Kennel Club is adamantly opposed to the county regulation. Supporters accuse the AKC of trying to "scare" people from supporting any regulation. Curiously, an earlier version of the ordinance would have exempted breeders that were approved by the AKC. That would have meant thousands of dollars of revenue to AKC who would have charged the breeders for inspections and a certificate of approval. But the city of Greensboro objected, its city manager Rashad M. Young pointing out it is a "conflict of interest because the AKC is a for-profit, private organization which derives significant amount of its funding from the registration of puppies bred by breeders". Rashad also expressed doubt the AKC could provide the inspectors necessary to ensure breeders meet humane standards. In other words, AKC might simply collect the fee and give approval to a breeder without real inspection or monitoring.

Kind of like its registration program. Consumers may think that because the AKC or other registry issues "papers" that a puppy is a purebred in good health, that it must be true. But the AKC issues purebred registration papers to anyone who submits an application and pays a fee. The papers simply indicate the purebred lineage the breeder stated on the application. The AKC has said it "is the largest and only significant not-for-profit dog registry ...in the US. We register nearly 1 million purebred dogs and over 400,000 litters of purebred puppies every year." With registrations selling for about $20-$25 or more, you do the math. Though the pet stores and breeders may not tell consumers this, the AKC has announced it "cannot guarantee the quality or health of dogs in its registry."

More on the proposed ordinance

Breeders that are not high volume breeders or retailers could be required to comply with requirements applicable to high volume breeders or dealers if they violate provisions applicable to all dog owners - nuisance laws, dangerous or vicious dog laws, animal fighting prohibitions, and laws prohibiting mistreatment and abuse.

The new regulation would require high volume breeders and retailers to pay fees to obtain a permit and would be subject to unannounced inspections but only at least once a year to assure they meet minimum standards. Actually, despite AKC's protests, the standards are fairly minimal. The ordinance appears to be a combination of Animal Welfare Act standards particularly for housing and the recently released model bill by the American Veterinary Medical Association for commercial dog breeders.

Note the housing requirements: "adequate space appropriate to the age, size, weight, and breed of the dog and that allows the dog to engage in normal body movements, including the ability to sit, stand up, turn about freely, or lie fully recumbent in a natural position". Space for nursing puppies would be required to be 5% of the space for the mother though the County could approve even less.

Not exactly spacious, so what exactly is the AKC's objection here?

Indeed the space requirement per dog is based on the very minimal requirements of the AWA.

Part of the flooring could be wire.

The sheltering provision would simply require "protection from harmful extremes of temperature, air movement, moisture, light and other climatic elements to ensure proper health and well-being of the dog.... Dogs shall be protected from extreme temperatures so as to maintain their health and render their environment comfortable. When climatic conditions pose a threat to a dog's health or wellbeing, taking into consideration such factors as the dog's age, breed, overall health status and acclimation, appropriate measures must be taken to alleviate the impact of those conditions."

Maybe they don't think dogs should have a whelping box or a retreat area, both of which would be required.

The new provisions would increase space in outdoor enclosures for all owners. An outside enclosure would be required to provide each dog less than 25 pounds with a kennel of at least 3 feet x 10 feet in size, and each dog 25 pounds or greater with a kennel of at least 5 feet x 10 feet in size. Animal Control can determine if the space is "suitable" for the number and size of dogs housed in an outdoor enclosure. All owners would be required to provide "adequate" space and shelter for animals including birds.

The new ordinance would also place some restrictions on chaining animals:

No animal may be chained outdoors unattended without a chain/cable designed and placed to prevent choking or strangulation. Such chain/cable or restraint shall not be less than ten feet in length with the area free of obstacles so that the animal may have access to his food, water and shelter.

Nothing that should "scare" anyone.

The proposed ordinance contains requirements that high volume retailers and breeders have adequately trained and sufficient staff who haven't been convicted of animal cruelty within a year of employment, nutrition, proper handling of dogs, socialization, daily observation and assessment, enrichment, proper grouping, exercise where dogs can reach a "running stride", also a proposed requirement under the PUPS Act pending in Congress; "necessary routine and preventive veterinary care", "prompt treatment of illness or injury" and humane euthanasia, at least limiting the methods to those approved by the AVMA.

Does the AKC object to socialization and enrichment standards recommended by the AVMA? Is the AVMA now an "animal rights" organization to be targeted by the AKC?

Other requirements focus on sanitation, cleanliness, waste disposal, pest control, lighting, ventilation, and safety.