Puppy mill survivors make friends at NC legislature

07/23/2014 5:33 PM

07/23/2014 5:46 PM

The legislature went to the dogs on Wednesday.

(Sorry, Dome just couldn’t resist.)

Puppy mill survivors and their owners walked the legislature’s halls on Wednesday to encourage senators to support a House amendment that would tighten regulations on commercial dog breeders in the state, thank supporters of the measure and perhaps get a belly rub.

The House passed a bill last year that would create standards for commercial breeders but the Senate refused to take the bill up.

After animal rights activists leaked a tape of Republican Sen. Bill Rabon of Southport using crude language to deride fellow lawmakers for pushing the bill, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said the measure would not be taken up in the short session. (Rabon, a veterinarian, said after the tape was leaked that he didn’t like the legislation because it would do little to improve animal welfare. He instead pledged to use his power to get a tougher bill that bans animal gas chambers and funds a statewide abuse hotline signed into law in 2015.)

The House, however, tried anyway and included an amendment in its budget that would allow law enforcement to inspect commercial breeders that possess at least 10 female dogs. The amendment also shifts the state’s animal welfare oversight from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Public Safety, which allows law enforcement officials to inspect the breeding facilities.

Rep. Jason Saine, a Republican from Lincolnton and the sponsor of the original bill, said North Carolina has become a magnet for puppy mills because other states have started enforcing regulations.

“It’s a huge issue in North Carolina and ... it’s something the legislature will have to deal with because it’s a burden to local counties and local shelters.”

Since 2011, 17 North Carolina puppy mills have been shut down. The most recent raid occurred on the day the amendment was added to the House budget. Ashley Perkinson, a lobbyist for the ASPCA, said animals bred in puppy mills are often subject to severe conditions and neglect.

Raleigh resident Vanessa Budnick adopted Earnest, a French bulldog, from a puppy mill in Jones County. The dog had endured severe infections because he didn’t receive appropriate medical care, she said. Budnick said she hoped the Senate would agree with the House’s proposed solution.

Sen. Neal Hunt, a Raleigh Republican and supporter of the legislation, welcomed 13 dogs and their owners into his office. Hunt said he would like to get the bill passed and said he didn’t know why it had been stalled in the Senate for so long.

“My position is that there’s no reason not to do it, and there’s plenty reason to do it,” Hunt said, noting that he would continue to urge other senators to back the legislation.

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