Friday, March 12, 2010

More on the MN puppy/kitten mill situation

Senate Ag Committee Lets Special Interests Have Their Way with Puppies and Kittens
March 12, 8:38 AM
Minneapolis Pets Examiner
Mike Fry

Large-scale, commercial breeders are common in Minnesota and unregulated.

Photo by CAPS

His most recent USDA inspection report reads like something out of a horror movie. “The building known as ‘Kyles building’ had a strong ammonia level during inspection. The inspectors eye were burning from the levels present…”

The report also cites violations for lack of veterinary care, inadequate indoor housing facilities, inadequate primary enclosures, grouping of incompatible animals, issues with the housing facilities in general and other problems.

In one report a Chihuahua suffered from untreated injuries so severe that she could not close her mouth.

In spite of the gross violations reported in his USDA inspection reports, Paul Haag, operator of Valley View Kennel, and member of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, lobbied, with support from the Farm Bureau, to kill Senate File 7 and House File 253, a. k. a. “the puppy mill bill”, adding support to the growing idea that special interests have taken over the Minnesota Legislature.

Haag was not alone in lobbying against the puppy mill bill. His compatriots included other puppy mills, Minnesota pork producers and the NRA. They worked together with members of the Senate Agriculture and Veterans Committee to shoot down the proposed legislation that would require inspections of commercial dog breeders.

Senate File 7 and House File 253 are relatively simple propositions. If passed into law, they would provide the state authority to inspect large-scale, commercial dog and cat breeding operations in order to verify compliance with current state animal cruelty laws. The inspections would be based on an existing inspection process the State already requires of nonprofit animal shelters.

The program would be paid for through licensing fees required of the commercial breeders, which, according to a fiscal note prepared by the Board of Animal Health, would amount to about $1 to $2 for each puppy these breeders sold. Furthermore, according the Minnesota Department of Revenue, the bill would help the State collect about $1.3 million dollars in sales tax that are currently going uncollected. A review of commercial breeders by the Department of Revenue found that the majority of them were not in compliance with Minnesota Sales Tax laws.

Minnesota is one of the top 10 states in the nation for puppy mills, in part because the Legislature has refused to regulate the industry.

“Minnesota is a safe haven for large-scale, abusive breeders,” said Marlene Foote, president and founder of Animal Ark, Minnesota’s largest no kill animal welfare organization. “In Minnesota, even a breeder convicted of animal abuse and torture can continue operating a puppy mill.”

Kathy Bauck, according to animal welfare advocates like Foote, is one such example.

Repeatedly charged and convicted of multiple counts of animal cruelty, animal torture and practicing veterinary medicine without a license the USDA finally filed a motion in 2009 to have Bauck’s federal breeding license revoked. In Minnesota, however, in spite of her criminal convictions, Bauck is still allowed by the State of Minnesota to continue breeding and selling dogs. No license is required.

For these and other reasons, Senate File 7 and House File 253 have received strong support from a growing number of small, responsible breeders, many of which believe the failure to regulate the breeding industry is unnecessarily giving all breeders a bad reputation. Representatives from the Minnesota Purebred Dog Breeders Association testified before both the House and Senate Ag Committees in support of the bills.

In spite of these facts, the special interests appear to be getting their way. During a Senate Ag Committee meeting held March 9, 2009, Senate File 7 was voted down by a 5 – 7 vote, with two members absent and one abstaining.

“The irony here is that nonprofit animal shelters are open to the public, and, therefore, operate in a relatively transparent way,” said Foote. “Yet the State of Minnesota and we believe that inspecting and licensing animal shelters is a good idea.”

“Puppy mills generally operate in secret, behind locked gates and fences where no one can really see what is going on. And, in spite of the growing evidence that there are a lot of corrupt commercial breeders, breaking a variety of laws, the Senate Agriculture Committee has decided once again to bow to the special interests and give commercial breeders a free pass.”

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