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Friday, November 21, 2014

Ohio Agricultural Bill Would Strip Protections For Commercially Bred Dogs

Posted By on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 10:56 AM

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Ohio has a particularly vile and rampant history of puppy mills operating mostly in rural counties and with the support of the state. (See here and here.) 

There's never been much in the way of protections for the dogs themselves; in fact, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has gone to great lengths to help the breeders via deregulation. In theory, that was supposed to change Jan. 1 of this year, when a long-in-the-works "puppy mill bill" went into effect.

That law didn't do much, but animal protection advocates in Holmes County and across Ohio told Scene that, hey, it was a start. For example, the law mandated that kennel operators offer dogs "at least the minimum amount of floor space," as dictated by the current USDA standards. In the gray area of vague legislation, breeders can find plenty of methods of interpretation. Sweeping reform that was not.

But this week, the Ohio House of Representatives approved an amended HB490, which covers all sorts of agricultural law (including provisions to cut down on manure spreading into water sources). Tucked deep in the 267-page bill are modifications to the Ohio Commercial Dog Breeders Act (the official name of the aforementioned legislation). Per the bill, background checks for breeders would be far easier to waive; breeders would not have to submit photos of their kennel when renewing their application with the state; and the bonding requirement would be cut from $50,000 to $20,000, which would inevitably lay a larger burden of financial support for state-seized dogs at the feet of Ohio taxpayers. Breeders would skate on simpler rules, were this bill to pass fully.

In our 2013 feature on Ohio's puppy mill problem, we focused a bit on State Rep. David Hall. He's the chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, which is where all of these measures are formed. He also co-sponsored HB490. He also lives in Millersburg, which is in Holmes County, which is the epicenter of the puppy mill machine. Financial records show that he's also well funded by groups that favor few regulations and loose enforcement, like the Ohio Professional Dog Breeders Association. None of that should be surprising, but it's still quite nutty. See how these things work?

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) will head up the next round of testimony and debate on this bill next week. 

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