Under the Dome

NC House OKs bill to curb puppy mills

Ricky Bobby, a Dachsund rescued in the raid on a breeder, rests outside. He's attached to a cart his new owner made from PVC pipe and parts of an old dog stroller.
Ricky Bobby, a Dachsund rescued in the raid on a breeder, rests outside. He's attached to a cart his new owner made from PVC pipe and parts of an old dog stroller.

The N.C. House voted 85-29 Wednesday for new regulations on commercial dog breeders – aimed at cracking down on puppy mills.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jason Saine of Lincolnton, has replaced his original bill with language from a “puppy mill bill” that passed the House two years ago but stalled in the Senate.

Saine removed a set of more detailed regulations governing dog breeders, as well as provisions that moved responsibilities from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Public Safety.

“In the spirit of compromise, we put forth the bill that passed in 2013,” he told committee members. “It simply provides basic standards for commercial dog breeders.”

Requirements for animals include daily exercise, fresh food and water, protection from the elements, and pens that are “large enough that each dog can sit, stand, lie down, or turn around comfortably with no overcrowding.”

Rep. Michael Speciale, a New Bern Republican, said those regulations will be hard to enforce. “Please define access to exercise in a legal manner,” he said. “You can’t. This whole thing is ambiguous.”

And the N.C. Sporting Dogs Association and the N.C. Federation of Dog Clubs are opposing the measure. They argue that the state should better enforce existing animal welfare laws.

“It’s already against the law to starve an animal, to torment an animal, to be cruel to an animal,” said Henri McClees, a lobbyist for the groups. “That’s not what this bill does. What this bill does is create a bureaucracy that, in the long term, will mean more regulations against animal owners.”

Saine says he’s hopeful the bill will fare better in the Senate this year. “We have some movement and some interest over there in addressing this issue,” he said.

But Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a Warsaw Republican, said he’s skeptical of that. “We all know what’s going to happen to it when it goes across the hall,” he said. “It’s dead on arrival, to which I say amen.”

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