Ohioans testified Thursday in front of the Ohio House Finance Committee in Columbus on Senate Bill 331 — a bill that would affect dog sales at stores and the regulation of retailers who sell dogs — with some expressing concern that the bill has been fast-tracked and will be passed by the end of the year.
Senate Bill 331 is sponsored by Ohio Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House) and State Rep. Gary Scherer (R-Circleville).
Petland, headquartered in Chillicothe, supports the bill and has been actively engaged in strengthening public relations around the bill, with animal welfare advocates calling Senate Bill 331 the “Petland bill.”
The Petland bill passed the Senate in May with a vote of 21 to 11.
At the Commercial Dog Breeding Advisory Board meeting Wednesday at the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Corey Roscoe, Ohio director for the Humane Society of the United States, said many advocates have voiced their opposition to the Petland bill.
“The bill was hastily pushed through in the Senate in about seven days,” said Roscoe of the Petland bill. “However there are signs that this bill is likely to pass. We’re discouraged but we’re going to keep on fighting.”
Roscoe was at the Commercial Dog Breeding Advisory Board meeting Wednesday to ask the board to list Ohio’s high volume dog breeders on the Ohio Department of Agriculture website.
“It’s something we’ve been asking for for awhile,” said Roscoe. “We just think when local county humane societies get a complaint about a potential cruelty situation at a puppy mill, it would be helpful to know if that facility was already on the radar of the ODA, if they are already a licensed facility. Also if the consumer was interested in purchasing a pet, if they knew that their animal came from a licensed facility. It would maybe have some comfort to know they are annually inspected by the state department (of agriculture).”
Currently, the ODA lists dog rescue groups on its website, but not high volume dog breeders. “It would be so helpful, I think, if we saw all of the high volume dog breeders listed on the website so we know who they are, we know they are being inspected so that if we have a concern about one of them, we know the ODA has a relationship with them. And if they’re not on that list, that might be an entity that we might point out to the ODA,” said Roscoe.
Senate Bill 331, the Petland bill, does not, however, regulate dog breeding on high volume dog breeders. The Petland creates framework for regulating the sale of dogs and sets up certain standards of practice for stores to follow that do sell dogs. It also amends some provisions of the laws already in place regarding dog sales. But in regards to dog breeding, those laws were passed in 2013 with the passage of Senate Bill 130 — the state’s “Puppy-mill bill” — a bill that was seven years in the making, according to Kellie DiFrischia, co-director of Columbus Dog Connection.
“I co-wrote the Puppy-mill bill,” said DiFrishcia at Wednesday’s Commercial Dog Breeding Advisory Board meeting.
She said she has concerns about the Petland bill.
“No animal groups are supporting it,” said DiFrischia. “Why is it getting jammed through when it took the Puppy-mill bill seven years, and this is getting jammed through in just a couple of hearings? It passed the Senate in two hearings and it’ll pass the House in two or three.”
“If it’s an animal protection bill, why aren’t animal protection organizations supporting it?” said Roscoe. Roscoe said the Petland bill doesn’t offer any meaningful protection for animals.
“It has weak provisions for enforcement. A violation has to be proven to be negligent before the violation can be proved. There’s a loophole for low-volume hobby breeders, that low volume, un-licensed hobby breeders could still sell to pet shops,” said Roscoe.
According to the most recent text of the bill on the Ohio House website, the bill will allow the director of agriculture to grant licenses to dog retailers and high volume dog breeders who have been convicted of animal welfare crimes in other states or by the federal government.
According to the Humane Society, Petland sources their puppies from The Hunte Corporation, who buys dogs from across the United States.
“We’re definitely hoping that the voice and the will of the people will not be marginalized,” said Roscoe.
“This bill is dangerous,” wrote Lee Schrader, DVM, and director of the Fayette County Humane Society, in a letter to the Record-Herald editor recently. “And it promotes the inhumane and outdated model of profit-motivated intensive dog breeding. These high volume commercial breeding establishments provide minimal care for the parents of the puppies. As a practicing veterinarian for the past 36 years, I have seen multiple dogs obtained from pet stores. Many puppies suffer from both physical and social defects. Chronic infections, congenital defects, and poor socialization are common. It is usual for high volume dog breeders to deny the dog’s social and physical needs. The dogs are kept in small cages and bred until their bodies give out, at which point they are either killed or sent to a rescue.”
Reach Ashley at (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @ashbunton