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WV Senate to Vote on Breeding Restrictions, Ownership Limits

(Friday, February 17, 2012)

The West Virginia Senate is expected to vote early next week on Senate Bill 406, a bill which, as amended by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would impose onerous restrictions on those who own 11 or more intact dogs. While some exemptions are included, the AKC believes they are vague and may still impact hobbyists who are not truly commercial breeders.

It is imperative that responsible dog owners and breeders in West Virginia contact their State Senators TODAY and ask them to vote “no” on Senate Bill 406. Enter your Zip Code at this link to find the name of your Senators. When contacting your Senators, be sure to mention that you are a constituent.

Summary:

AKC takes a strong line on animal cruelty, and does not believe any dog should be kept in conditions where its basic needs are not met. This is why AKC supports current West Virginia law (§61-8-19), which, among other provisions, makes it unlawful for anyone to withhold proper sustenance, protective shelter and medical treatment.

Senate Bill 406 as amended seeks to impose numerous restrictions on “commercial dog breeders”, defined as those who “maintain” eleven or more unsterilized dogs (males and females) over one year of age and breed dogs exclusively as household pets. The bill does provide some exemptions; however, the AKC believes these exemptions are vague and difficult to enforce.

AKC’s concerns with the bill include:

  • Definition of “Commercial Dog Breeder” – This bill defines a “commercial breeder” as one who owns 11 intact dogs over the age of one year and breeds dogs exclusively as household pets. It also exempts anyone who keeps or breeds dogs “for the purpose of hunting, tracking and exhibiting in dog shows, performance events or field and obedience trials…” This would seem to imply that a person must keep dogs for all these purposes in order to be exempt, as it says “and”, rather than “or”.

    Furthermore, it is not always possible to tell immediately if dogs from a litter will develop into proper show dogs, sporting dogs, etc. Many breeders will wait to watch the puppies grow before they determine if the dogs will be used for these purposes. It is unclear if a breeder would be exempt if they intend to keep or breed dogs for one of these purposes, but may ultimately decide to sell or keep puppies as pets. In the same way, a person may decide at some point to cease their hobby and “retire” their dogs, thereby keeping them as pets. The AKC believes that instead of vague exemptions that will prove difficult to enforce, the Senate should instead raise the threshold to a number more indicative of a truly commercial operation and ensure that hobbyists will never be unintentionally impacted.
  • Ownership Limit – The bill also limits ownership to 50 intact dogs. Laws that limit animal ownership are ineffective, arbitrary, and do not address the underlying issue of responsible ownership. Limiting the number of animals a person may own will not automatically make them a better owner. Furthermore, both the dogs and West Virginia taxpayers lose, as owners may be forced to give up their dogs to a local shelter in order to comply with the limit (particularly since those over the limit would only be given 30 days to come into compliance), and the dogs will be housed and/or euthanized at great cost to local communities.
  • Arbitrary Breeding Ages – SB 406 would only allow females between the ages of 18 months and eight years to be bred. Arbitrary limitations on breeding ages do not adequately address the needs of individual dogs. Breeding is a health care decision that should be made by the dog’s owner in conjunction with a veterinarian. AKC has asked the committee to remove the breeding ages, and instead to require the breeder to have the female be examined by a veterinarian prior to breeding.

Talking Points:
Read AKC’s Issue Analysis "The Value of Responsible Dog Breeders"
Read AKC’s Issue Brief on Responsible Breeding Practices
Read AKC’s Issue Brief on Dog Limit Laws
View AKC’s handout “Limit Laws: Better Alternatives”

AKC Government Relations (AKC GR) will continue to closely monitor this legislation and provide more information as it becomes available. For questions or more information, contact AKC GR at (919) 816-3720 or doglaw@akc.org.