The Ohio Department of Agriculture has stopped enforcing a disputed law that subjected home-based hobby dog breeders to the same regulations as national pet store chains, including a $500 licensing fee.

The American Kennel Club announced Thursday that it had worked with a number of policymakers on the issue and will "continue to work with legislators for a permanent legislative solution," according to its website.

The Agriculture Department confirmed the update Friday.

"It’s our understanding the General Assembly is working to clarify the intent of previous legislation," Agriculture Department spokesman Mark Bruce said in an emailed statement. "In the meantime, our department will suspend the processing of pertinent applications, and no enforcement proceedings have been, or will be, initiated."

The controversy stemmed from a combination of two Ohio laws aimed at curbing illegal and inhumane dog breeding practices.

The first, Senate Bill 331, which became law in 2016, regulates dog sales and licensed pet breeders. The measure defines a pet store as any individual retailer who sells dogs to the public, excluding animal shelters and humane societies. It requires breeders to register as pet stores and pay a $500 licensing fee.

The second, House Bill 506, which became law in 2018, revised regulations for pet stores and high-volume dog breeders — those who sell five or more adult dogs to businesses, or 40 or more puppies directly to the public, in one year.

The updates prompted the Agriculture Department to recently notify those suspected of violating the code. That led to an outcry from the home-based hobby breeders who received notices. They said the fee, meant to regulate large operations such as Petland, threatened their small businesses.

"This is not a way to make money if you're doing it correctly," said Alexandria resident John Martin, 72, who has reared Chesapeake Bay retriever puppies with his wife, Patricia, for nearly 25 years. They welcome a litter only every two to three years, he said.

Martin said he's hopeful the law will be changed permanently.

"It was a good idea in principle, but it was totally misconceived and mishandled," he said.

The office of Sen. Brian Hill, a Zanesville Republican, and the primary sponsor of House Bill 506, said it wasn't Hill's intent to target home hobby breeders.

Last month, Hill's representatives said they'd discuss implementation of the law with the Agriculture Department and address the issue.

 

Alissa Widman Neese can be reached at awidmanneese@dispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AlissaWidman.