Revised PA Bill Will Take Bite Out of Sporting Dog Breeders
A revised bill for proposed “puppy mill” regulations in Pennsylvania threatens to put sporting dog kennel owners and hobby breeders out of business if it is passed as currently written.
The new legislation, House Bill 2525, introduced today by Representative James E. Casorio Jr., D-Westmoreland, was crafted to address the issue of so-called “puppy mills,” abusive large-scale commercial dog breeding operations. In addition to regulating puppy mills, the measure sets up the non-elected officials of the state Agriculture Department as the unchecked, sole authority that controls puppy operations and all dog breeders, including smaller hunting dog kennels.
“We are concerned that future holders of these offices will not be accountable to the public or the legislature,” said Rob Sexton, vice president of government affairs for the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA).
House Bill 2525 permits the Agriculture Department, not the elected members of the legislature to:
Set kennel license fees;
Decide how kennels are to be operated;
Determine those acts that constitute a violation;
Set penalties for violations, which may include forfeiture of dogs without compensation and even jail time.
“The bill enables the career staff of a state agency to be lawmaker, judge, jury and executioner,” said Sexton. “The legislature has spelled out strict guidelines for other agencies, such as the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The Agriculture Department, when enforcing the dog law, should have the same guidance.”
Other concerns with the bill include:
Decreasing the amount of public input on changes to the dog law;
Allowing searches on residences not associated with the actual operation of a kennel;
Subjecting license holders to state penalties as a result of local ordinances.
In 2006, a coalition was formed by the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA), and its Sporting Dog Defense Coalition (SDDC), along with the Masters of Foxhounds Association, Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, and representatives of national, state, and local sporting dog kennels and associations. From the beginning, the coalition has wanted to be helpful in the effort to crack down on abusive “puppy mills” without impacting private kennels, including sporting kennels.
The USSA coalition contends that legislation can be written to effectively eliminate abuses without endangering the existence of legitimate sporting dog kennels.
What is needed, are clear standards and criteria so there can be an objective assessment as to whether the punishment handed down in a case is reasonably related to the severity of the crime. Anyone charged by the department could also incur the costs of the government housing their dogs during the resolution of the offenses and legal fees. These concerns should not be difficult to fix and still give the department the authority over abusive “puppy mills.”
“We’ve compromised with the department in the negotiations from the start,” said Sexton. “We’ve been clear all along that any legislation that enables the department to further regulate abusive puppy mills must not damage law abiding hobby breeders.”
The USSA coalition opposes the bill as written, but there are many aspects that might be amended to address its concerns without compromising the objectives of the legislation.
For a complete listing of issues and concerns with the bill and a listing of sportsmen’s opponents, go to www.ussportsmen.org and click on Pennsylvania Dog Law Alert!
The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance is a national association of sportsmen and sportsmen’s organizations that protects the rights of hunters, anglers and trappers in the courts, legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress and through public education programs. For more information about the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and its work, call (614) 888-4868 or visit its website, www.ussportsmen.org.