Raleigh, N.C. — A bill that would attempt to regulate some puppy mills in North Carolina is headed for the House floor, but only after being so watered down that even its supporters aren't sure exactly what it would accomplish.
House Bill 930passed the House Judiciary B Committee Wednesday on a unanimous vote. It would apply basic welfare standards for food, shelter, veterinary care and exercise to breeders who have 10 or more breeding female dogs on the premises.
However, it would not apply to breeders of show dogs, hunting dogs, sporting dogs or field dogs.
"I'm a gun guy. I appreciate hunting," explained sponsor Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln. "I didn't want to encroach on the good actors. People who use dogs for hunting, they take care of their dogs. They spend money on those dogs."
An amendment unveiled Wednesday also exempts any kennel that provides boarding or training, no matter how small a fraction of the business it is.
That means a puppy mill breeder with one dog in the kennel that's a show dog, a gun dog, boarding or in training would be exempted from the basic welfare standards.
"Without those exclusions," Saine said, "I think it's more heartburn than any of us as legislators want to endure."
Saine said he has been accused by some bill opponents of "elevating dogs to the level of people," a charge he denied.
The measure, he said, "is designed to be minimal for that very purpose of avoiding some of the controversy in dealing with puppy mills."
Animal welfare advocates say the American Kennel Club pushed for the exceptions. The American Kennel Club denies that accusation.
The AKC has been critical of the proposal since it was introduced, saying reasonable care standards should not be imposed only on large commercial breeders but should apply to all dogs.
Still, SPCA of Wake County director Hope Hancock called it a "victory." Her organization has helped to place dozens of dogs seized in puppy mill raids over the past year.
"I think it's the right step, although it's watered down a bit," she said after the committee hearing. "It's better than nothing."
Hancock said the AKC should be supporting, not fighting, efforts to regulate puppy mills.
"It's costing taxpayers money," she added.
The proposal now moves to the House floor.