COLUMBUS: A new set of regulations meant to crack down on high-volume dog breeding operations in the state would ensure animals live in spacious, clean cages, receive veterinary care and are transported in safe enclosures.
The rules bolster the standards for treatment of animals housed in puppy mills and force the facilities to obtain state licenses. They were drafted by the state Department of Agriculture, but their implementation is being delayed for at least two weeks.
High-volume breeders had faced a Thursday deadline to apply for licenses. But the department has forgone it until the guidelines receive the approval of two state panels — one headed by Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor's office and the other consisting of a bipartisan group of legislators. The delay is expected to last at least two weeks.
"The nuts and the bolts are still going through the (approval) process," Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Erica Hawkins said Tuesday.
Hawkins said the license application requires the facilities to affirm that they are in compliance with all the proposed care and treatment standards, but the department can't force establishments to sign off on their applications because the regulatory panels could suggest changes to the guidelines.
Under the proposed rules, dog cages would have to be positioned in such a way that they won't be soiled by feces or urine from cages above them. The regulations also require high-volume breeders to give dogs "at least the minimum amount of floor space" calculated by "the square of the length of the adult dog or puppy in inches, as measured from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail, plus six inches."
Last November, 241 dogs were seized from a puppy mill in Sidney, 75 miles northwest of Columbus. Sheriff's deputies and a dog warden who raided the property said dogs of various breeds were found in very poor health and kennel conditions were determined to be unfit for housing them.
In December, Republican Gov. John Kasich signed the law that calls for the regulations. The law also requires high-volume breeders to pay licensing fees and carry liability insurance. It distinguishes these facilities from traditional dog kennels, which are not subject to the proposed care and caging standards but would have to register with the state.
The Ohio Association of Animal Owners was a strong supporter of the law during its legislative process. The group's lobbyist, Polly Britton, said it has long believed that dog breeding should be overseen by the state's agriculture department because dogs are defined as agriculture in state law.
Britton said the group would prefer that the department does not "rush" the rules' review process for the purpose of meeting a deadline.
Puppy mill owners would have to arrange for periodic veterinary care for the animals, according to a draft of the rules that the department is sharing with breeders to begin readying their facilities.
The rules provide that dogs would have to be transported in sturdy cages that provide them with enough space to turn normally while standing, to sit and stand erect and to lie comfortably. They also allow the director of the state's agriculture department to contract with local veterinarians to conduct inspections.
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