Before I start picking on Ohio, I want you to know that I have family and friends in the Buckeye state. I have fond memories of Columbus and Steubenville. However, I can write volumes about the dog auctions, puppy mills, breed discrimination, and cruel factory farm practices in the state. Ohio isn’t alone; animal advocates in many other states are working hard for better treatment of animals. Yet, I get hundreds of e-mails from Ohioans and others pointing to animal cruelty in Ohio.
The problem stems from unregulated backyard breeders. “In Ohio, there are no state regulations for breeders.” says Laura Allen, lawyer and blogger at Animal Law Coalition. “On the other hand, if you foster one dog from your local animal shelter, you would be subject to state regulation.”
Huh? I don’t get it either. And to further confuse matters, a new bill (S.B. 95) that targets high volume breeders and rescues is dubbed the “puppy mill support and anti-rescue bill.” S.B. 95 passed a Senate committee by a 7 to 1 vote, and it looks like it will be taken up by the full Senate before summer recess.
According to Laura, “S.B. 95, would create a central Kennel Control Authority that would regulate (1) all animal rescues including anyone used to foster animals in their homes, (2) all animal shelters, (3) boarding kennels, (4) dog retailers that buy or sell dogs wholesale or for resale or provide dogs to pet stores, and (5) high volume breeders which are defined as commercial dog breeders that produce at least 9 litters and sell 60 or more dogs each year.”
All animal rescues would be regulated as well as people who foster animals for non-profit rescue organizations. In terms of general tax prep for the year, the new bill shouldn’t affect deductions for fostering animals. But other than retailers, all commercial dog breeders that produce less than 9 litters each year or sell less than 60 dogs directly to the public whether through the internet, newspaper ads or otherwise, would remain unregulated.
“Certainly animal rescues should be subject to strong animal cruelty and anti-hoarding requirements and other regulations for standards of care,” says Laura. “Under this bill there are a lot of bureaucratic requirements, a lot of paperwork, though, for rescues which are typically small organizations simply trying to save animals from pounds and shelters or situations of abuse and neglect and put them in good homes. They would even be required to provide the state with information about people who temporarily foster animals for the rescue.”
Since 2004, Ohio Dog Auctions have grown into anything but run-of-the-mill. Breeders who participate in these auctions are raising large numbers of dogs and puppies with profit as the primary motive for existence. Many of them are found to be unhealthy, not screened for genetic diseases, do not show resemblance to the breed standard, and lack good temperament. Participants at this auction travel from many surrounding states, including some, such as Pennsylvania, where public dog auctions are illegal.
A Bright Light
The one bright light in all of this is the Coalition to Ban Ohio Dog Auctions. According to Mary Shaver, a dedicated volunteer (and one of my heroes), the Coalition has so far collected 15,472 signatures. The Coalition needs 120,700 signatures to put the Ohio Dog Auctions Act–a proposed law–before the Legislature in January 2011.