Iowa Alert: Bill Would Punish Responsible Breeders and Hobbyists

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A bill recently introduced in the Iowa Senate would likely have an extremely damaging impact on breeders and fanciers. 

This bill is expected to move very quickly.  It is imperative that Iowa dog owners and breeders contact their State Senator TODAY and ask them to oppose Senate File 168.  Click here to find the name and contact information for your State Senator.  Contact information for the full Senate can be found here

Background – Understanding Current Law:

Current Iowa law defines a "commercial breeder" as someone who sells, exchanges, or leases dogs (or even offers to do so) in return for consideration. While those who keep dogs or cats for "hunting, for practice training, for exhibition at shows or field or obedience trials" are exempted, if a person has four or more intact dogs and receives any kind of consideration for breeding or transferring even a single dog, they are considered a commercial breeder and must be licensed and comply with commercial breeder laws. This could include offering a stud dog and receiving any compensation or "consideration" (such as a puppy back) from the resulting litter. The term "consideration" is not defined.

Current law also defines a “pet shop” as “an establishment where a dog… is bought, sold, exchanged, or offered for sale.”  The only exemptions to this would be those who receive less than $500 in a year for the sale of animals or those who sell/exchange fewer than 6 dogs. 

Summary of Senate File 168:

Senate File 168 creates many new regulations and requirements for those who meet the broad definition of “commercial breeder”.  Some highlights of the significant changes include:
 

  • Mandating inspections of all “commercial breeders” – Current law allows the state’s agriculture department to inspect those licensed as “commercial breeders”.  Under this bill, anyone who meets the definition of “commercial breeder” must make their premises available for inspection during normal business hours as a condition of obtaining or renewing a license.  The bill would further require the Agriculture Department to inspect all “commercial breeders” a minimum of once a year.  Breeders would be required to provide a copy of the inspection report to all who purchase a dog from them.

    This should be of particular concern to people who keep a few dogs in their home and do not have “normal business hours” because they could find themselves in violation of state law simply for keeping intact dogs and not being home when the inspector comes.  It is also an unnecessary and costly drain on state resources.
  • Vague “Special Type of Commercial Breeder’s Reserved License” – A less-costly license is available for those who qualify for a “special type” of license, which is for those who are a “small breeder, competitive show breeder, or specialized breeder.”  None of these terms are defined, so it is very unclear who would qualify or how one would prove they meet this definition.  The bill does say that this would not apply to those who hold a public auction or own or keep dogs that produce 3 litters or 30 puppies, whichever is greater. 
  • Significantly increasing license fees to pay for animal seizures – Currently, the registration fee is $175. This covers the state department of agriculture’s administrative costs for managing the commercial breeder program.  SF 168 requires “commercial breeders” to pay that amount plus an additional amount based on the number of dogs kept on your property.  This includes any dogs “kept for breeding” (it is assumed this means intact dogs) that happen to be on your property during an inspection.  The additional amount – unless you have a “special type of license” – starts at $100 and increases to $7,500 depending on the number of dogs.  The lowest threshold is for those who have one dog or cat.  It is unclear why it mentions those who keep one dog when the threshold for commercial breeder is four dogs.

    If a person falls into more than one category, then multiple licenses will need to be purchased.  This includes licenses for foster care and rescue efforts.  It could also apply to those who meet the broad definition of “pet shop”.

    The fee increases will be deposited in a new “animal rescue remediation fund” to reimburse local authorities for “expenses incurred for the rescuing of an animal from a commercial establishment” (this includes breeders, rescues shelters, grooming facilities, etc.), as well as the “maintenance” of the animals and their “disposition” if required by the court after a hearing.  Current law already allows the court to require someone accused of cruelty to post a bond during the hearing to pay for the care of the animals.

    The uncapped fee increases are unnecessary, and create a significant burden on breeders and small businesses. Furthermore, the provision would defame in statute the integrity of anyone who might be considered commercial breeder under this law. 
  • Prohibiting breeders to be involved in certain rescue activities– The bill prohibits any “commercial breeder” from owning, operating, or maintaining a controlling interest in an “animal shelter”.  “Animal shelter” is defined as an organization operated by a local humane society, animal welfare society or other nonprofit organization devoted to the welfare, protection, and humane treatment of animals that is used to receive, rescue, house and transfer animals.  Those with a “special breeder license” are permitted, but, as stated above, this definition is very unclear and AKC is uncertain who would qualify.  It is unclear how a “controlling interest” is defined, and whether it would impact breeders who also serve as foster homes and are engaged in other rescue activities on behalf of non-profit rescues and shelters.  This could also impact parent club rescues if they are registered as a non-profit organization.

AKC Government Relations will continue to provide more information on this bill as it becomes available.  Contact AKC GR at (919) 816-3720 or doglaw@akc.org for more information.