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Why is AKC Opposing the North Carolina Commercial Breeders Bill?

(Tuesday, July 07, 2009)

On Wednesday, the North Carolina Senate will vote on Senate Bill 460, a bill designed to regulate commercial dog breeders and to "ensure the humane care and treatment" of puppies bred in our state.

This sounds pretty good: Who could oppose humane care for puppies?

So then, why is this bill so controversial? And why on earth is the Raleigh-based American Kennel Club, a not-for-profit organization "dedicated to promoting responsible dog ownership, advocating for the purebred dog as a family companion and advancing canine health and well-being" opposing this measure?

The answer lies in how the bill purports to achieve this goal.

This bill was quickly put together by Freshman Sen. Don Davis of Wayne County following a raid on an unlicensed commercial kennel operation in his district. The media was called in and the pictures released were heart-wrenching. It was clear—and it still is—that something needs to be done.

However, that something is not SB 460.

SB 460 places a second, duplicative layer of regulation on responsible dog owners and breeders in North Carolina, but it does nothing to improve the lives of dogs. At a time when budget cuts are already forcing larger class sizes for our children, furloughing of state employees, and cutting to critical state services, this measure conservatively adds an additional $2 million to our state budget.

The text of SB 460 shows little understanding of the difference between responsible and irresponsible dog owners. The bill defines a commercial breeder as "someone who owns 15 or more intact females ‘of breeding age’ and 30 or more puppies." It is unclear if these numbers refer to the number of dogs on the property at one certain time, or if this is cumulative over the course of a year. Although the bill exempts those who train show dogs, it is uncertain if someone who trains show dogs, but also sells puppies is exempt from the licensing requirement.

The vague definition of "commercial breeder" makes it very difficult for a dog breeder to know whether or not they need to be licensed. If they do require a license, the bill would allow for warrantless inspections of their private homes and property, while existing state laws covering breeder-dealers remain insufficiently enforced. The February kennel raid in Wayne County is a perfect case in point: The operator of this kennel, has been shut down and now faces 12 misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals. If no laws were in place to stop this behavior, the county could not have conducted this raid or filed these charges in the first place. Why not take a small portion of the money this new program would need and instead enforce our existing breeder-dealer laws?

SB 460 also creates an unfunded mandate that will further stress local animal shelters that are already stretched thin. The bill says, "Commercial breeding operations shall be subject to inspection by duly appointed employees of the Department or by local animal control officers." The bill does not, however, provide for any reimbursement of enforcement costs to localities. North Carolina taxpayers do not need this extensive level of regulation nor can they afford the cost necessary to enforce these new laws.

In 2008, the AKC licensed and sanctioned approximately 500 dog events in North Carolina, featuring over 68,000 canine participants. There’s no doubt we love our dogs and abhor animal cruelty. But at a time when we must make important fiscal choices, the citizens of North Carolina cannot afford an expensive bill that duplicates existing laws and punishes responsible dog owners just to make a point. Instead, let’s devote our resources to enforcing existing laws that punish neglect and cruelty.

Sheila Goffe
Director of Government Relations
The American Kennel Club

About the AKC: Established in 1884, the American Kennel Club is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible dog ownership, advocating for the purebred dog as a family companion, advancing canine health and well-being, and protecting the rights of all dog owners. As the world’s largest purebred dog registry we represent over 4,600 dog clubs nationally, including 132 clubs in the state of North Carolina. The AKC is the only purebred registry that conducts its own kennel inspections, inspecting all breeders who register more than seven litters a year. The AKC’s Raleigh operations center employs approximately 300 North Carolinians.