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A bill to regulate pet breeders is scheduled to be voted on by the House Business and Labor Committee on March 24.

House Bill 608 seeks to establish licensing, inspections, regulations, fees, and penalties for dog and cat breeders.  It would define a “commercial breeder” as:

  • A person or entity who owns, keeps, or harbors eight or more intact dogs or cats 9 months of age or older used for breeding, or
  • A person or entity who sells, exchanges, leases, transfers or offers to sell, exchange, lease or transfer 31 or more dogs in a calendar year.

Please note that the “or” in the definition of “commercial breeder” is significant. As HB 608 is written, a person who owns eight intact dogs or cats (male or female) and who breeds a litter could potentially be required to be licensed, regulated, inspected, and charged fees as a “commercial” breeder, even if no puppies or kittens are sold.

Under HB 608, a “Board of Commercial Pet Breeders” would be established to govern licensed pet breeders. The board would grant and deny breeder licenses, set and collect fees, set and assess civil penalties of up to $1000 per violation per day, and write rules governing extensive standards of care for pets owned by breeders. “Other designees” of the board would be authorized to enforce any rules promulgated by the board.

Unlike all other professional boards in Montana, only one member of the regulated profession would be allowed a seat on the “Board of Commercial Pet Breeders”.  However, three of the eight board seats would be designated for an animal control officer, a representative from a “humane organization”, and an animal shelter operator.

Additional provisions of concern with HB 608 include, but are not limited to:

  • As noted above, the bill would require licensing as a “commercial breeder” based on ownership of eight or more unsterilized cats or dogs that might occasionally be bred, regardless if any of the offspring are sold. This is not descriptive of a “commercial” entity.
  • Licensing as a “commercial breeder” would also be required if, in any calendar year, 31 or more dogs were sold or transferred, regardless if any intact dogs or cats are owned.  This would impact rescue organizations that rely on foster homes to assist in rehabilitating and transferring dogs to adoptive homes.
  • Home-based hobby breeders and foster homes that were designated under HB 608 as “commercial” entities or facilities would be disallowed under many zoning codes, and if allowed, could be subject to minimum setbacks from adjoining property lines and other specific requirements.
  • Licensees would be required to submit to inspections of “any part of the premises where it is reasonably believed that breeding animal are housed” upon applying for a license, at least annually thereafter, and whenever a complaint is filed. For home-based hobby breeders, this would include private residences where dogs have access.
  • Administration would be allocated to the Department of Labor and Industry rather than the Department of Agriculture, which is the department with knowledge and experience with animal breeding and animal husbandry.

What You Can Do

Contact members of the House Business and Labor Committee to express your concerns and ask them to not advance House Bill 608.

The best way to send a message to every member of the House Business and Labor Committee is via an online messaging form. Click here, then:

  • Enter your information
  • Click the button for “Committee”
  • Select House Business and Labor from the “Choose a Committee” drop-down box
  • Select HB from the “Select the Bill Type” drop-down box
  • Type 608 in the “Enter the Number of the Bill” box
  • Next to “Vote”, click on “Against”.
  • You may also type in a personalized message to the committee members.

House Business and Labor Committee Contact Information

Attend the committee hearing and express your concerns:

Date: March 24, 2015
Time: 8:00 a.m.
Location: Room 172, State Capitol, 1301 East 6th Avenue, Helena, MT 59601

Resources

For questions or more information, please contact AKC Government Relations at doglaw@akc.org or (919) 816-3720.

A bill to regulate pet breeders is scheduled to be voted on by the House Business and Labor Committee on March 24.

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