@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Puppy mill regulation to return to lawmakers' agenda

Posted February 6, 2015 5:48 p.m. EST
Updated February 6, 2015 7:58 p.m. EST

An effort to pass laws that would regulate puppy mills in North Carolina will get another push this year.

For years, polls have shown widespread public support for regulating puppy mills. Gov. Pat McCrory even mentioned it in his State of the State address Wednesday.

“We have to protect our pets from abuse in puppy mills,” he said. “I'm embarrassed that North Carolina is not giving basic food and water and shelter to our puppies.”

But there is no regulation or oversight of commercial pet breeders in the state. Since 2011, 21 puppy mills have been busted in North Carolina, with 1,600 dogs and puppies rescued, according to Kim Alboum, state director for the Humane Society of the United States.

“There is just so much support for this,” she said. “It just is a common-sense bill.”

For the last two years, the state House has voted to require basic animal welfare standards for large pet breeders. Both times, the Senate has killed it.

The main opponent has been the American Kennel Club.

“The AKC gets a fee for every puppy registered to them, so it benefits them to support these high-volume breeders,” Alboum said.

AKC officials declined to comment Friday, but they’ve previously argued the bill unfairly targets breeders.

Alboum disagrees.

“We're really looking for people here that are profiting from animals with no regard for their health or welfare, which is a puppy mill,” she said. “Responsible breeders have nothing to fear from this bill. They're already exceeding the standards that would be in this bill.”

Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, who sponsored the proposals for the past two years, said he'll try again.

“I will not give up on this. This is an issue that's near and dear to me,” he said. “I've seen it firsthand just how awful the treatment of these animals are, and it's happening throughout our state. And it will not go away till we put a hammer down and do something in law that will address this issue.”

The bill would not apply to dogs being bred or kept as hunting dogs or show dogs and would only apply to breeders with 10 or more breeding females on the premises.

But the AKC has said it is unfair to regulate breeders more stringently than other dog owners, and it has objected to any state inspection of facilities.

Senate leaders opposed the bill last year, and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger's spokeswoman said Friday she won't comment on this year's version until House lawmakers send it over.

Saine said he thinks a bill would have a better chance this year.

“There’s a couple of things I think that are different,” he said. “We’re not facing a U.S. Senate race where that might have been used as leverage, maybe, in the past over our speaker from last time. Also, the mood is a little different than last time. There seems to be a lot of working together across both chambers. That leaves me hopeful. But I know it’s a very contentious issue, so we’ll see what happens with it.”

Alboum is also hopeful a bill will be passed this year.

“We have just an enormous amount of support from House Republicans. We’ve got a significant amount of support in the Senate, and I think that maybe this is the year that we’re going to come together and pass this bill,” she said.