House bill targets state’s dog breeders

St. Paul — For those who produce hunting dogs and other canine pets in the state, particular legislation has become a persistent problem in recent years when the Minnesota Legislature has convened. This year is no different.

John Schroers, past president of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, is a one of the leading opponents of a bill that aims to require licensing and inspection of certain dog-breeding businesses, specifically “commercial” breeders – those that possess “10 or more ‘intact’ animals and whose animals produce more than five total litters of puppies or kittens per year.”

The bill, HF 84, is sponsored by Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul.

Schroers said the bill contains language often used by animal rights groups, particularly the Humane Society of the United States. He calls the legislation – and legislation like it proposed elsewhere – the “crown jewel” of the HSUS’s national agenda.

“It’s been opposed by us (MOHA) every year it’s been introduced,” he said.

“This is just bad, bad,and bad.”

The bill, if passed, likely would result in several small-time dog breeders going out of business due to new expenses, specifically related to registering and licensing of dogs and facilities.

Further, Schroers adds, it would “add a whole new layer of bureaucracy,” as the state Board of Animal Health would be responsible for monitoring the dog-breeding operations.
Importantly, there’s no data that suggests there’s a problem, he said.

“Generally people are playing by the rules and have clean facilities,” Schroers said.

According to Lesch’s legislation: “A commercial breeder must obtain an annual license for each facility it owns or operates. … The initial prelicense inspection fee and the annual license fee is $10 per animal, but each fee must not exceed $250.”

Schroers also points out the Board of Animal Health also would be required to inspect each facility annually via “unannounced inspection.”

The legislation also provides for standards of care. Examples include:

  • “Animals must be provided daily enrichment and must be provided positive physical contact with human beings and compatible animals at least twice daily.”
  • “The commercial breeder must provide adequate staff to maintain the facility and observe each animal daily to monitor each animal’s health and well-being, and to properly care for the animals.”
  • “The commercial breeder must not knowingly hire staff or independent contractors who have been convicted of cruelty to animals …”

Schroers said many of the facilities that would be affected by the legislation are those from which hunters obtain their dogs – facilities whose goal is to maintain good genetics in various breeds of dogs.

A representative of breeding dog operations, who requested anonymity due to past harassment by animal rights groups, said their claims frequently are based on false premises – that all dog-breeding facilities are unclean.

The consequences of breeding facilities closing shop could be dire for hunters who use dogs, she said. “If people who breed them are put out of business, it will never come back,” she said.

Schroers said the bill is part of a “shotgun approach” regarding law that targets animal agriculture. Dog breeders are just part of a broad-ranging plan. “If they get us (dog breeders) along the way, so be it,” he said.

Currently, the Board of Animal Health isn’t involved in dog-breeding facilities, according to spokesperson Bethany Hahn. The BAH does, however, inspect some facilities that take in stray animals.

The bill, Hahn said, would give the BAH the authority to “license, inspect, and register” commercial dog-breeding operations.

The agency hasn’t taken a position on the bill.

“We are ready to do what we are asked to do,” Hahn said.

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