Raleigh, N.C. — As expected, a bill that would regulate breeders with 10 or more female dogs began making its way through the state House on Wednesday.
The House Rules Committee gave the first official nod to House Bill 159, which mirrors a bill that passed the state House in 2013 but stalled in the Senate. Later in the day, the full House approved the measure 84-30. The bill now goes to the Senate.
As originally drafted, the measure would have required registration and stricter oversight of commercial breeders. However, Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, said that he had encountered signification opposition to that measure.
"In the spirit of compromise, we put forth the commercial dog breeder language that passed the House 101-14 in 2013," Saine said.
That old – and now current – bill requires basic standards for providing food and water, medical care and exercise.
"The bill doesn't impact anyone's right to own a dog or have any number of dogs. It simply provides basic standards for commercial dog breeders," Saine said.
Although the measure has been well received by members of the House and is backed by animal welfare groups, it is opposed by the American Kennel Club and the North Carolina Sporting Dogs Association.
"This creates another layer of bureaucracy for property owners," Henri McClees, a lobbyist for the two groups, told the committee.
She said the bill was not needed because mistreating animals is already against the law. The bill, she said, would open the door to future regulations that lead to curbs on breeding.
"I have to say the forces that are pushing these kind of bills ... have a grander scheme really against animal ownership," McClees said. "The long-term effects of this will be to draw people into these enforcement positions that don't really think I ought to own a dog, much less selectively breed a dog."
She added, "You don't have to have a puppy mill bill to prosecute and convict someone of animal cruelty."
However, organizations such as the Humane Society and some sheriffs have argued that animal abuse investigations can be time-consuming and hard to conduct, especially when it comes to puppy mills.
"Will Sen. Rabon permit me to vote for this bill?" asked Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, drawing snickers.
Blust's comment was a joke at the expense of Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, who famously, and at times vocally, has spoken out against puppy mill regulations. The comment was also a nod to the uncertain future the bill faces even it makes it to the Senate, where Rabon isn't the only skeptic of the measure.