Raleigh, N.C. — Members of the state House added language to the state budget Thursday that would define what constitutes a puppy mill. The amendment is an effort to fight puppy mills, operations that quickly breed young dogs but keep them and their mothers in unsavory conditions.
Strictly speaking, the puppy mill language is a policy not directly linked to the state spending laid out by the budget. However, both the state House and Senate frequently include policy items in the budget in a bid to force the other chamber to consider them.
Profanity-laced recording of NC senator's meeting cited in death of puppy mill bill In this case, the House passed a puppy mill bill last year but the Senate has been unwilling to take up the measure.
The state House took up floor debate of the budget Thursday afternoon. Budget writers had already planned to move the state's animal welfare section from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Department of Public Safety. The idea behind that move is to put the section's emphasis on enforcing the law and remove the specter that the regulations might affect agricultural operations.
But Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, said that, without the ability to regulate breeders, the move would do little good.
"North Carolina is one of the most popular states in the nation for puppy mill operations," Saine said, pointing out that reports of a raid in Rutherford County were in the news even as lawmakers debated.
That prompted a retort from Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin.
"If there's anybody on the floor of this House surprised that there's a raid going on today, then I've got some nice highway-front property in Goshen to sell you," said Dixon, suggesting the raid was conveniently timed to help the amendment's chances.
But those concerned about breeding operations won the day.
Rep. Rick Catlin, R-New Hanover, recalled adopting his dog after she was rescued from a dog-breeding operation. The dog, he said, could not walk at first because she was kept closed up in a cage for so long.
"Her feet were brown from standing in her own waste," Catlin said.
That prompted a question from Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash, who pointed to the fact that raids were ongoing.
"If we already have laws in place where we can raid the puppy mills and take care of the problem, what's the need for this bill?" Collins asked.
Catlin explained that it would give sheriffs and others more authority to inspect breeders and avoid problems before they get out of hand.
The amendment passed 75-41.
The House is expected to give final passage to the budget by Friday. After that, the House and Senate will meet in a conference committee to craft a compromise spending plan.
Gov. Pat McCrory has supported a puppy mill bill and praised the House action Thursday.
"Today’s rescue of more than 50 dogs from a suspected puppy mill in Rutherford County further demonstrates that North Carolina continues to be a haven for puppy mill operators," McCrory said in a statement. "By applying existing common-sense standards for dog breeders, we can help stop unscrupulous puppy mill operators who take advantage of our state’s lack of regulations."