Senate Bill 130, puppy mill legislation reintroduced in General Assembly

By Kristy Helscel ’11

In 2004, senior Mary Clare Yerke and her family left their dog in a local kennel when they went on vacation. But when they came home, the condition of their dog led to incredulous speculations.

“The animal kennel my dog stayed at was a puppy mill. What happened was when my family and I left for vacation we kept my dog in the kennel, we came home early and when we went to get him he reeked of urine, which led us to believe he was kept in a dirty, unkept cage,” Yerke said.

Although, the coined phrase “puppy mill”, also referred to as high volume breeding facility, is particularly vague, Kellie DiFreshia and the Columbus Dog Connection, a local dog and cat rescue, has defined a puppy miller as a dog breeder or kennel owner, like in Yerke’s case, who puts profit before the well-being of a dog.

“Dogs are housed in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization,” the Columbus Dog Connection website said.

Ohio is quickly gaining the reputation as the puppy mill capital of the Midwest, and according to a Columbus Dog Connection recount of a Humane Society undercover investigation, Ohio not only has the second largest number of puppy mills behind Missouri, but the most deplorable conditions within.  According to Andy Bowsher, the legislative aide of Ohio Senator Jim Hughes of the 14th District, currently, there is no legislation regulating high volume breeders in Ohio, which can be attributed to the community being unaware of the deplorable conditions of Ohio puppy mills and the extent of government control. However, the week of March 14, 2011, Jim Hughes helped to reintroduced legislation to regulate high volume breeders, Senate Bill 130, in the 129th General Assembly.

According to Bowsher and the General Assembly analysis of the bill, the main ideas of the bill deal with the amount of space between cages, the types of cages, the number of dogs in a cage, the time outside allotted for exercise, as well as the size of the space in which they have to exercise, the temperature of the cages and access to veterinary care. Yerke said that she believes these basic needs should be provided, always.

“I believe every animal should have the right to the best health care they can get. There is a ripple effect of what goes through the puppy mills, goes through pet stores and then goes to a family,” Yerke said. “If the puppies are not receiving the best care, they have the potential to being predisposed to something harmful that could affect them in the long run.”

With regards to changes in the legislation, the largest alteration to the bill was the deletion of the clause concerning a ban on dog auctions.  Even then, those opposed to the bill have argued that the bill is over stepping its bounds.

“It has been argued that this bill has gone too far.  There are a lot of new ideas that have never been in law and it’s very hard to start with something really big, and sometimes you need to start a precedent,” Bowsher said.  “Those who were opposed to the bill were primarily voting for their constituents. Members from areas of the state where there are high concentrations of breeders, particularly in southern and southeastern Ohio, were hesitant to pass the legislation [in May of 2010] because they felt it was far reaching.”

Another factor interrupting passage of the bill is its affect on business, especially pet stores.

“I think this bill will raise the prices of dogs in the pet store, which will affect the amount of puppies purchased,” Yerke said. “Although there will be a raise in cost of the animals, in the long run, we should be looking into the best intentions for the animals and their health.”

Yerke said she believes that most people do not support the mistreatment of animals.

“Although I don’t know too much [about puppy mills and animal abuse], I find any mistreatment of animals disgusting,” Yerke said. “Animals have the ability to be a great asset to human health and others, but I don’t believe humans have the right to overstep their boundaries and abuse these animals. If we take care of the animals, they will take care of us.”