Pet breeder regulations advance in Minnesota Legislature
By Don Davis/ Capitol Bureau
St. PAUL -- Stories about dog and cat breeders who abuse animals hit the news a couple of times a year, providing a reason Minnesota lawmakers are considering regulations.Similar bills have been debated for at least seven years, without passing. But this year bills are moving through the House and Senate and appear to have the best chance ever.
"A bill that is a long time coming," Sen. John Marty, D-Roseville, said of his proposal that passed a Senate committee Monday on a split vote, with one panel yet to consider it before it reached the full House. A similar House bill has passed one committee.
Marty's bill would place professional dog and cat breeders, those who have at least 10 adult animals, under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. The board would license and inspect breeders' operations.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also regulates breeders, but Keith Streff of the Animal Humane Society said that the federal program does not work. As an example, he said that Minnesota's three biggest pet breeder cruelty cases in recent years came at federally regulated facilities.
"I cannot recall a single situation involving an intervention by the USDA," Streff said.
Breeders told the Senate state and local government committee that they oppose the Marty legislation.
Julie Gerdes of Elk River, a pet breeder for more than 25 years, said local governments already place requirements on breeders before they may obtain business permits. The Marty bill may have some good points, she said, but it needs to include every organization that houses pets, not just major breeders.
"I'm not asking any of you to vote no today, but I am asking you to vote not yet," Gerdes said.
Valorie LaBeau, a golden retriever breeder from near Clearwater, said her township inspects her operation and a legislative bill only dealing with professional breeders "grossly discriminates" against them.
Fewer than 500 breeders would be affected if the Marty bill passes.
"We are not saying most breeders are bad breeders," Marty said, but the bill is needed to protect animals from those who may abuse them. "We are trying to address people in some cases ... who are doing things that are really cruel."