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WV: Problematic Breeder Bill Advances - Contact the Senate Judiciary Committee!

(Tuesday, March 26, 2013)

Yesterday, the West Virginia Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee passed an amended version of Senate Bill 437 – a bill that could have detrimental effects on West Virginia breeders and shelters. Among other provisions, those who currently maintain more than 50 dogs would be required to 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.

The bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it must be considered within the next few days. We strongly encourage West Virginia residents to contact the members of the Senate Judiciary 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. Additionally, 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...”
  • Amendment to allow unannounced inspections – The Senate Agriculture Committee amended the bill to remove the requirement that animal control or law-enforcement officers provide five business days’ notice prior to any inspection of “commercial breeders”. While this might be appropriate for large breeding facilities, a policy of unannounced inspections of private homes at least twice each year is not appropriate for individuals who maintain smaller numbers of animals, occasionally breed a litter in their homes, and do not maintain regular kennel business hours.

The AKC greatly appreciates the recognition that exhibitors, sportsmen, and other hobbyists should not be considered commercial dog breeders. However, we remain concerned that these exemptions are vague. It is not always possible to tell at a young age whether puppies will develop into proper show or sporting dogs. 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 asks the Senate to change the definition of commercial breeder to one more indicative of a truly commercial operation and ensure that hobbyists will not be unintentionally impacted.

The bill includes numerous other new requirements, including licensing. No primary enclosures or cages may be stacked, and they must have solid flooring. Breeders are strongly encouraged to read the bill in its entirety 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 Judiciary 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 Judiciary Committee is as follows:

Senator Cory Palumbo (Chair)
Phone: (304) 357-7880
E-mail: corey.palumbo@wvsenate.gov

Senator Gregory Tucker (Vice-Chair)
Phone: (304) 357-7906
E-mail: greg.tucker@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 Rocky Fitzsimmons
Phone: (304) 357-7918
E-mail: rocky@fitzsimmonsfirm.com

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

Senator Evan Jenkins
Phone: (304) 357-7956
E-mail: evan.jenkins@wvsenate.gov

Senator Art Kirkendoll
Phone: (304) 357-7857
E-mail: art.kirkendoll@wvsenate.gov

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

Senator Herb Snyder
Phone: (304) 357-7957
E-mail: herb.snyder@wvsenate.gov

Senator John Unger II (Majority Leader, Sponsor of SB 437)
Phone: (304) 357-7933
E-mail:
john.unger@wvsenate.gov

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

Senator Mitch Carmichael

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

Senator Bill Cole
Phone: (304) 357-7843
E-mail:
bill.cole@wvsenate.gov

Senator David Nohe

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

Senator Chris Walters
Phone: (304) 357-7866
E-mail: chris.walters@wvsenate.gov

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.