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Curbing ‘Puppy Mills’ in Ohio

November 20, 2012
By The Intelligencer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

For years, Ohio has been known as a haven for "puppy mills" - dog breeders who often subordinate the welfare of animals to the desire to maximize profits. That may be coming to an end.

State legislators have been attempting for several years to pass bills regulating high-volume dog breeders. A measure approved by the state Senate, SB 130, languished for months in the state House of Representatives. Then, last week, the House approved its version of the bill.

As those concerned about puppy mills have pointed out, the House version is substantially weaker than the Senate bill. Indeed, it is full of shortcomings.

But the bill is something, after many years in which unscrupulous breeders were not held to account at all.

If the amended bill is approved by the Senate, then signed into law by Gov. John Kasich, it will regulate businesses that produce at least nine litters of puppies or sell 60 or more dogs each year. They will be required to be licensed by the state Department of Agriculture.

Annual inspections of licensees will be required. Critics have noted the inspections can be performed by veterinarians who are retained by the very dog breeders they are supposed to be watching. At some point, that provision ought to be strengthened to provide true third-party inspections.

Another provision of concern involves how breeders' dogs are treated. The House bill permits use of cages that provide virtually no room for animals to move around. But the measure also allows the agriculture agency to alter that requirement to provide more space in cages. If the bill is enacted, the department should do that.

Even with its faults, however, the House bill is a start toward eliminating puppy mills in Ohio - and insisting that if puppies are to be produced in large-scale operations, some consideration must be given to the animals. Senators should approve the bill and the governor should sign it.

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