Ohio Valley Dog Owners, Inc.
Protecting dogs, dog owners and our neighbors
HB 223 and SB 173, the 35-page kennel licensing bills introduced in the Ohio General Assembly, are being promoted as anti-puppy-mill bills, but what they really do is label dog breeders as ignorant at best and potential criminals at worst.
HB 223 and SB 173 license breeders who maintain a kennel of more than eight breeding dogs, pet stores, and dealers who buy and sell dogs; require criminal background checks for license applicants; set strict requirements for dog confinement and care; and place high license fees and insurance or bond mandates on license applicants.
Both bills describe a breeder as someone who keeps more than eight dogs "primarily for reproductive purposes" which in turn is described as a female that has whelped a single litter and a male that has sired a single litter in a calendar year. Those who have more than eight dogs must prove that they are not required to be licensed.
Anti-puppy mill activists are pushing for passage of these bills and are using dubious interpretations of current law and the bills' language to convince Ohioans that passage is necessary to protect dogs. Ohio Valley Dog Owners Inc. believes that dogs can be protected by adding simple standards of care to current law without an elaborate licensing scheme that includes a new state bureaucracy, a heavy financial burden for kennel owners, loss of the right to determine vaccination and health care plans for owned dogs, and loss of income for local dog and kennel funds.
Current dog licensing law (Ohio Revised Code 955.02 and 955.04) requires kennel licenses for those "professionally engaged in the business of breeding dogs for hunting or for sale." Many hobby breeders with more than five dogs also purchase kennel licenses because they save money over the cost of individual licenses.
Activists supporting the bills claim that 11,000 kennels are licensed under current law and imply that these are breeding kennels with dozens or hundreds of dogs kept in bad conditions solely for the purpose of making a profit. However, it is highly likely that the majority of these licenses belong to hobby breeders, hunters, and small commercial breeders with fewer than a dozen dogs and that those dogs are kept in adequate or better conditions.
All dogs in Ohio must be licensed each year. License fees are set by counties and the fees are deposited in the county dog and kennel fund. This fund pays for the county animal control program, i.e., hiring dog wardens, purchasing trucks and other equipment, and paying for housing for stray and unlicensed dogs. Kennel licensing fees are generally five times the fee for an individual dog license. For example, Warren County charges $15 for an individual dog and $75 for a kennel; Hamilton County charges $13 for an individual dog and $65 for a kennel.
HB 223 and SB 173 collect all kennel licensing fees and kick back at least $50 of each fee to the county where the kennel is located. The bills set license fees for breeding kennels as follows:
In addition to these license fees, applicants with more than 16 breeding dogs will be required to purchase surety bonds or insurance in amounts ranging from $5000 to $50,000, depending on the number of dogs they house.
A major purpose for these bills is to merge kennel licensing law with animal welfare law so that state inspectors have the authority to enter licensed kennels and check for violations of animal welfare standards. They accomplish this purpose by placing administration and enforcement in the hands of the state department of agriculture and requiring local humane agents and dog wardens to report violations to that agency instead of pursuing the case locally. Ohio animal welfare laws already require food, water, and shelter and prohibit cruelty, so HB 223/SB173 would duplicate existing law and split enforcement between state and local agencies depending solely on the number of dogs involved.
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