Commercial pet breeders who get their state licenses by Sept. 1 would be exempt from having to comply with stricter cage-size requirements already in effect, according to the latest version of a bill that would do away with the Board of Commercial Pet Breeders.
The House of Representatives Conference Committee on Natural Resources unanimously approved House Bill 2921, which mostly transfers the pet board's duties to another state agency. The measure now goes to Senate conferees; if they approve the changes, it will go to the full Legislature for consideration.
Pet breeders who get their state licenses by Sept. 1 would be exempt from having to comply with any guidelines stricter than what are currently allowed under the latest version of the bill eliminating the Board of Commercial Pet Breeders and transferring its duties to another state agency.
Tuesday, the House of Representatives Conference Committee on Natural Resources unanimously approved the latest version of House Bill 2921.
Grandfathering in commercial dog and cat breeders who have their breeding licenses by Sept. 1 is a way to encourage them to register, said Rep. Phil Richardson, author of HB 2921.
Those who apply by Sept. 1 won't be required to meet any cage-size requirement more stringent than U.S. Agriculture Department standards, according to the measure. Any commercial pet breeder replacing or adding cages after Sept. 1 would have to comply with any updated requirements.
The main thrust of HB 2921 is to repeal legislation forming the Board of Commercial Pet Breeders and put its duties under the jurisdiction of the state Agriculture, Food and Forestry Department.
The Commercial Pet Breeders Board was formed two years ago to regulate and license certain dog and cat breeders. Some breeders have complained the board was heavy-handed in enforcing its rules.
Backers of the measure said the Agriculture Department, which inspects livestock operations, already has experience in conducting inspections and enforcing rules.
Any commercial pet breeder who has renewed its Commercial Pet Breeders license by July 1 would have the license automatically transferred to the Agriculture Department, said Richardson, R-Minco. No additional fee would be charged for the transfer.
The requirements do not apply to breeders with 10 or fewer nonspayed female animals.
Richardson said intact female dogs that a breeder is training and not breeding wouldn't be counted as a dog used for breeding. Some breeders who sell bird dogs, for example, include training as part of the sale; the dog owner brings the dog back to the breeder for training.
Older intact female dogs that had been used for breeding but now are pets also won't be counted as breeding dogs, he said.
“A lot of them are kept as pets and they shouldn't count,” he said.
Under SB 1919, the Agriculture Department would arrange for an annual inspection of each dog- or cat-breeding facility during normal business hours with the breeder or representative present.
It must inspect them before issuing an initial license and may contract with a local veterinarian, state agency or other person to inspect.
However, the department may not enter into a contract with any humane society group.
The department would be able to deny or revoke a license if the person is convicted of a crime involving animal cruelty, of violating pet breeder rules more than three times, of certain felonies, or was denied a U.S. Agriculture Department license because of improper care of animals.
Violations can result in an administrative penalty of between $100 and $10,000.
Another change in HB 2921 is to set up a revolving fund in the Agriculture Department that will be used to pay for the care of abused dogs and cats found by inspectors or puppies and kittens from a breeder whose operations were shut down.
Any money left in the Board of Commercial Pet Breeders' accounts would be transferred to the revolving fund, and private donations also may be made to the fund, Richardson said.
The Board of Commercial Pet Breeders has had a rocky start. It has gone through two executive directors, with its first director quitting in September just a few days before inspectors were to begin enforcing commercial breeding laws.
A second director was hired in December, but he resigned two weeks later.
The board has issued fewer than 300 licenses since it began enforcing its rules in October.
At one time, it was estimated as many as 1,900 breeders were in the state. It's believed some breeders have reduced their operations to fewer than 10 nonspayed females as a way to avoid having to be licensed by the state.