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September 5, 2019

The Hamilton County Commission has scheduled a public hearing for Monday, September 9, to obtain input on numerous proposed changes to the animal control code, including further regulations of hobby breeders and troublesome new definitions of “backyard breeder” and “puppy mill”.

Those who reside or participate in events in Hamilton County are strongly urged to attend Monday’s hearing and also reach out to the commission to express concerns (scroll down for hearing and contact information).

Summary:

Current county law is already very restrictive, including mandatory sterilization of all dogs over 6 months of age unless a person has a county breeder permit.

The proposal under consideration would add more restrictions, as well as further regulations on all dog owners.  For more information on the background, and to view a fact sheet and copy of the current proposal, visit the county’s Civic Alert page for this ordinance.

Highlights of proposed changes include:

  • Proposed new definitions and regulations of “approved breeders”– The proposal replaces the existing “breeder permit” with a permit for “approved breeders”, defined as hobby breeders “who focus their efforts on the health and betterment of the breed.” These breeders must have fewer than 20 unaltered females over 1 year of age and must comply with the “AKC’s Guidelines for Responsible Breeding”.  The AKC greatly appreciates that the county recognizes the AKC for high standards in breeding and dog care; however, this particular document was not intended to be developed as government regulations and will prove difficult to enforce.

    “Approved breeders” would be required to obtain a breeder’s permit and when selling a dog, must provide a spay/neuter clause.  The AKC is unclear if this requires all dogs sold to be sterilized.  This could adversely impact those who are purchasing a puppy and might in the future participate in dog shows, performance events, etc.  Even though the purchaser may qualify for an exemption (see below), it is still unclear.  AKC is also concerned that this would also impact a situation where a breeder sells a dog to someone outside the county, and that person would not be permitted to purchase a puppy from someone in Hamilton without a spay/neuter contract.

  • New exceptions to the county’s mandatory spay/neuter policy – The proposal does expand the exemptions to the county’s mandatory sterilization laws. This includes those with an approved breeder’s permit and those whose animal is considered a “competition” dog or cat.  AKC is unclear how this is defined or how this will be determined.

    A free breeder’s permit may also be obtained if a person breeds a litter but does not have an approved breeder permit.  A person may also obtain this breeder’s permit and be exempted from the MSN law if they have a dog or cat over 6 months of age that is not sterilized – but this is only permitted until the animal is 9 months old.  AKC opposes this as studies are increasingly demonstrating that juvenile spay/neuter can be detrimental to a dog’s long-term health.

  • New definitions of “backyard breeders” and “puppy mills” – “Backyard breeders” are defined as those with fewer than 20 females who “allow for the careless home breeding of more than one female dog at a time”, those who breed a female more than once a year “for non-commercial reasons”, and whose who do not provide dogs with adequate care as outlined in the proposal.  These breeders, who are prohibited in the county, would also be considered those who sell puppies under 8 weeks of age or dogs that are diseased.

    The proposal defines a “puppy mill” as a “commercial animal establishment” of any size that breeds more than one female dog at a time and does not adhere “to good breeding, care and sale practices.  This includes selling puppies without screening the purchaser, not providing adequate care as defined in the proposal, and isolating dogs from human interaction.  AKC’s concern with this definition is that it also includes anyone who sells a puppy to a retail pet store.  AKC believes that consumers have the right to choose a pet that is best for them – be it from a breeder, shelter, rescue, or a pet store. A humane, reputable breeder should not be considered a “puppy mill” simply because they allow a pet store to sell their pets.  The type of sale should not be presumed to reflect the level or quality of breeding.

    Further, the AKC does not support memorializing these pejorative terms in county code.

  • Shelter requirements that include specific temperatures – All owners and keepers of animals (excluding livestock) in the county must provide the animals with proper shelter, food, water, and space when the temperature is at or below 40 degrees, or at or above 80 degrees. The proposal also states that when the weather is colder than what a breed or specific animal can tolerate, this must be provided.

    The AKC absolutely agrees that animals should be provided with these basic needs.  However, it is unclear with this requirement why specific temperatures are also included, as this temperature threshold could be different for different dogs.  AKC is respectfully recommending that the specific temperatures be removed, and instead simply require that proper measures be taken when the animal cannot tolerate the temperature.

    AKC does appreciate that the proposal clarifies that an animal may be outside temporarily to relieve itself or for exercise, so long as the animal is monitored by a competent person.

Other requirements include policies on tethering, mandatory permanent identification for all dogs and cats, and regulations regarding dangerous and nuisance animals.  Residents are encouraged to review the link above to see how the proposal would impact you.

What You Can Do:

  • Attend the public hearing on Monday, and express your comments and concerns. Those who wish to speak may sign in when entering the meeting (prior to the start of the meeting) and will be given an opportunity to speak during a public comment period.  The meeting information is as follows:

    Hamilton County Commission Meeting
    Monday, September 9, 2019
    1:00 pm
    Commissioners’ Courtroom, Hamilton County Government and Judicial Center

1 Hamilton County Square,
Noblesville, IN

AKC and its state federation, the Indiana Purebred Dog Alliance, are closely following this proposal.  For questions or more information, contact AKC GR at doglaw@akc.org.

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