Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina first lady Ann McCrory urged lawmakers Wednesday to take action on a bill that would establish basic standards of care for large commercial dog-breeding facilities and help ensure that dogs are treated humanely.
McCrory was joined in an afternoon news conference by Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, the sponsor of House Bill 930, as well as Ernest and Ricky Bobby, two dogs rescued from puppy mills in eastern North Carolina.
“Our state has become a magnet and safe haven for bad puppy mill operators that are harmful to animals, and they are impacting responsible breeders, animal shelters and our communities,” McCrory said. “Now is the time for the Senate to take action on House Bill 930. Passing legislation to establish basic standards of care for large commercial dog-breeding facilities is a very important issue to me and to the people across our state."
She pointed out that West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee already have laws on their books dealing with large commercial dog breeders.
"I don't want North Carolina to be the state known as, 'Hey, it's OK to send the dogs here and let them be abused,'" she said. "It's simply not OK, and I think anybody could agree with that."
The bill, which the House passed six weeks ago, would require food and water, daily exercise, appropriate housing, veterinary care when needed and humane euthanasia when needed for dogs in facilities with more than 10 breeding females.
It wouldn't apply to kennels or facilities in which "the majority" of the dogs are being bred or trained "primarily for hunting, sporting, field trials or show" or "are being kept primarily for purposes other than the sale of offspring as pets."
Saine said the bill's "narrow approach" seeks not to infringe on any legitimate animal-related businesses in the state.
“This consensus legislation deals with the importance of addressing puppy mills in our state," he said. "It protects consumers, families and anyone that purchases puppies."
The American Kennel Club opposes the bill, saying lawmakers shouldn't single out commercial breeders. All dog owners should be required to provide basic care, according to the organization, which is pushing the state Senate to kill the bill.
Senate leaders say they aren't sure whether they'll take up the bill before the legislative session ends in the next few weeks.
McCrory is a very private person who generally doesn't get involved in political debates – Wednesday marked her first news conference in the 20 years her husband has been in politics.
But she is a dog lover – she and Gov. Pat McCrory own a rescued Labrador retriever named Mo. She said Mo means the world to her, which is why she chose to speak out on the puppy mill bill.
She said she is mystified by efforts to stall the bill, calling it a simple issue of decency.
"I know there are so many important things, especially with the session about to end, and people's minds are on something else. This again, it's a non-political issue. It's a no-brainer in my opinion," she said.