Local News

Wilson County shortens leash on pet breeders

Posted April 6, 2009 11:15 p.m. EDT
Updated April 7, 2009 7:10 p.m. EDT

— Wilson County commissioners on Monday unanimously approved new regulations for pet breeders.

Sheriff Wayne Gay requested that the county increase oversight of pet breeders to prevent puppy mills from being set up. Some Shih Tzus were seized last August from a local operation that authorities have described as a puppy mill, and the owner was charged with animal cruelty.

"The living conditions are not good for the animals," said Mickey Wilson, director of Wilson County Animal Enforcement.

Authorities seized hundreds of dogs in February from suspected puppy mills in Wayne and Sampson counties, and Wilson said he knows other puppy mills operate in Wilson County.

"Right now, under the guidelines, there is nothing we can do about it," he said.

The new regulations require veterinarians to review dog and cat kennels each year. Kennels will have to have a letter of recommendation from vets, and owners will pay a fee of $45 to $100 to renew their annual county registration. The amount of the fee depends on the number of animals housed in a kennel.

Dog and cat breeders will also have to keep more detailed records of animal births, sales and adoptions.

"It gives us more room to come in to seize animals or to come in and make more charges," Wilson said.

The regulations don't apply to animal shelters or the owners of hunting dogs and show animals, and Wilson said the goal is to shut down puppy mills with poor conditions and not to hurt all breeders.

Cindy Romine, who has been breeding Chihuahuas for the last seven years, said she supports the new regulations to clean up the pet-breeding industry.

"I welcome them to come check the kennel once a year, and I will gladly pay the fee," Romine said. "The bad apples make it tough for all the good people that do it."

There is no state law regulating puppy mills, but House Bill 733 could penalize commercial breeders for failing to provide adequate care for their animals.