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WV: Problematic Breeder Bill Reintroduced: Contact Your Legislators

(Wednesday, March 06, 2013)

Yesterday the West Virginia Senate Majority Leader introduced a bill that limits dog ownership and would impose onerous restrictions on those who own 11 or more intact dogs. Among other provisions, those who currently have more than 50 dogs must come under the limit within 30 days – a provision that could be an enormous burden on West Virginia shelters. Also, although some exemptions are included, the AKC believes they are vague and may still impact hobbyists who are not truly commercial breeders.

West Virginia has a short legislative session, and AKC GR expects this bill to move quickly, as it has in past years. We strongly encourage West Virginia residents to contact the members of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, as well as your State Senator TODAY and ask them to not support Senate Bill 437 as currently written. Scroll down for talking points and contact information.

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.

The AKC appreciates that some of the concerns we expressed about this bill in past years have been addressed. However, Senate Bill 437 would still impose numerous restrictions on individuals who “maintain” eleven or more unsterilized dogs (males and females) over one year of age and breed dogs exclusively as household pets.

AKC’s specific concerns include:

  • Ownership Limit – The bill 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.

    Those who own over 50 dogs will have 30 days to relinquish or sell dogs in order to come into compliance. This could be an enormous strain on West Virginia shelters and is not a reasonable requirement if the dogs are being kept in safe, healthy conditions.
  • 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 herding or guarding livestock animals, hunting, tracking or exhibiting in dog shows, performance events or field and obedience trials…”

    The AKC greatly appreciates the recognition that exhibitors, sportsmen, and other hobbyists should not be considered commercial dog breeders. However, we believe that the exemptions are vague. 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 also unclear if a breeder would be required to somehow “prove” they are keeping dogs for this purpose, or if breeders 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 is asking the Senate to raise the threshold to a number more indicative of a truly commercial operation and ensure that hobbyists will never be unintentionally impacted.

The bill includes numerous other new requirements, including licensing and twice yearly inspections for all who meet the definition of “commercial breeder”. No primary enclosures or cages may be stacked, and they must have solid flooring. Breeders are encouraged to read the bill and communicate to legislators how it will impact your ability to properly breed and raise dogs.

Talking Points:

Click here for a Sample Letter to Personalize
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”

How You Can Help:

Contact BOTH the members of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and your State Senator and ask them to oppose Senate Bill 437 as currently written. Enter your Zip Code at this link to find the names and contact information for your Senator. When contacting your Senator, be sure to mention that you are a constituent.

The contact information for the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee is as follows:

Senator Ronald Miller (Chair)
Phone: (304) 357-7959
E-mail: ronald.miller@wvsenate.gov

Senator Bob Williams (Vice-Chair)
Phone: (304) 357-7995
E-mail: bob.williams@wvsenate.gov

Senator Robert Beach
Phone: (304) 357-7919
E-mail: bob.beach@wvsenate.gov

Senator Sam Cann
Phone: (304) 357-7904
E-mail: sam.cann@wvsenate.gov

Senator Donald Cookman
Phone: (304) 357-7980
E-mail: donald.cookman@wvsenate.gov

Senator Daniel Hall
Phone: (304) 357-7807
E-mail: daniel.hall@wvsenate.gov

Senator William Laird IV
Phone: (304) 357-7849
E-mail: william.laird@wvsenate.gov

Senator Gregory Tucker
Phone: (304) 357-7906
E-mail: greg.tucker@wvsenate.gov

Senator Mitch Carmichael
Phone: (304) 357-7855
E-mail: Mitch.Carmichael@wvsenate.gov

Senator David Nohe
Phone: (304) 357-7970
E-mail: dcnohe@suddenlink.net

Senator Dave Sypolt
Phone: (304) 357-7914
E-mail: davesypolt@wvsenate.com

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.