DAYTON: Legislation to crack down on puppy mills under consideration by state lawmakers could end up hurting legitimate breeders and even put some small breeders out of business, breeders and industry advocates said.
Bills being considered in the Ohio House and Senate would create a regulatory regime for kennels, levy annual kennel fees based on the number of puppies born and set age limits on breeding dogs. The legislation is designed to stamp out breeders who raise dogs in cramped, filthy conditions with little or no medical care.
But Polly Britton, legislative agent for the Ohio Association of Animal Owners, said the bills could hurt large breeders by increasing their operating costs and knock small breeders out of business.
''They're out to shut down dog breeding, period,'' Britton said.
State Sen. Jim Hughes said the bill he is sponsoring will help respectable breeders by getting rid of the bad ones. He said he won't pull back on his effort.
''The issue won't go away by sweeping it under the rug,'' Hughes said. ''If you don't like something I have, I am more than willing to make a good piece of legislation better.''
The bills, which are in committee, would try to stop abusive breeders who keep dogs in cramped, dirty or disease-ridden kennels and who breed dogs with genetic problems or illnesses.
The legislation would also establish age limits and state inspections.
''If they're doing a good job, then there are no problems with this,'' Hughes said.
But breeders and industry advocates said the bills as proposed would hurt legitimate breeders with additional costs and rules.
Britton said her organization supports inspections but wants them done at the county level. The association would support fees to pay for them, she said.
Large-scale dog breeding occurs only in a few areas of Ohio, such as Holmes and Geauga counties, said Mark Kumpf, director of the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center.
Kumpf said people who purchase dogs with congenital health problems often drop the animals off at the shelter because the owners cannot afford to care for them.
A flurry of lawsuits and countersuits in recent months between Chillicothe-based retailer Petland, consumers and animal-rights activists has brought a spotlight on the business of puppies.
On Friday, a federal district court in Arizona dismissed a class action lawsuit against Petland Inc. and the Hunte Corp. Unhappy pet owners had filed the suit alleging the retailers sold unhealthy puppies raised by big distributors in substandard conditions.
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