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An Indiana Senate committee has advanced a bill to
regulate large-scale dog-breeding operations in the state, but some want
stricter requirements on breeders.
The Senate civil matters committee changed a House-passed bill yesterday to
eliminate specific proposed standards for dogs in breeding facilities, such as
sanitary conditions and an hour of exercise a day. Instead, dog breeders would
fall under certain regulations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Senate panel unanimously supported the revised bill, saying current
animal-neglect laws that simply require dogs to have food and water are not
enough for prosecutors to go after so-called puppy mills.
Dog breeders in a packed Statehouse meeting room told lawmakers they approved
of the Senate change and supported the USDA regulations. They said the proposal
could discourage irresponsible, large-scale breeding facilities.
But several veterinarians and others opposed the change, saying USDA standards
were made for livestock – not companion animals. Opponents said the standards
would allow dogs to be kept in cramped cages, with feeding dishes cleaned out
only every two weeks and water bottles attached to cages similar to a hamster
Michael Staub, a veterinarian from Terre Haute, said livestock animals like
hogs spend time at farms until they are slaughtered for food. Under USDA
regulations, dogs could be treated the same way even though dogs used for
breeding are kept in the facility for a longer time.
“These puppies live in these facilities for years and years, breeding each
heat cycle, never seeing the outside, never seeing the light of day, never
being on grass, never having a whole lot of human contact,” Staub said.
“That falls in compliance with USDA regulations.”
Beth Topie, who works with an animal rescue group in Mooresville, told
lawmakers that her organization has been trying to find homes for dogs taken
from a Morgan County breeder with more than 300 dogs. She said most of the dogs
have social problems because they are not used to human contact.
“If they saw a person, they would cower in the corner and shake,” she
The House version of the bill would have required breeders to provide natural
or artificial light in areas where dogs are kept, as well as ventilation to
help reduce odors and moisture. Adult dogs would have had at least an hour of
exercise a day in an area at least twice as big as their cage, and wire cages
would be prohibited. Animal rights groups say it can be difficult or painful
for dogs to stand in wire cages and spend their entire lives in cramped
Some breeders opposed those specific provisions. Nakole Weber of Kosciusko
County said she’s a responsible breeder who supports her family with money from
selling poodles and Pomeranians. She has about 30 female dogs and about five
males for breeding, she said, and uses wire cages because they easily allow
waste to fall through, preventing disease. She said her dogs have never had
health problems because of wire cages, and said her dogs get exercise in her fenced
Weber supported the revised version of the legislation and said supporters of
the House bill want to put some breeders out of business.
“They want to see all of the shelter dogs distributed instead of purebred
dogs,” she said.
Committee chairman Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford) said the House bill had
elements of over-regulation and would have hurt the dog-breeding industry in
Indiana. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration. If it passes,
it could undergo more changes as the GOP-controlled Senate and Democratic-led
House try to reach a compromise.
Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Elkhart) estimated there are more than 3,000 large
breeders in the state, and said it’s a multimillion dollar industry.
Surrounding states have enacted stricter dog-breeding laws, she said, but
Indiana has become a haven for irresponsible breeders because the state has not
changed its law. She said the bill was a good start to give authorities more
power in going after irresponsible breeders.
“One bill won’t solve this problem,” she said. “What one bill
will do is provide us an infrastructure.”
Rep. Linda Lawson (D-Hammond), who introduced the
bill, told IBJ last week that the bill could produce millions of dollars in new
tax revenue from unregistered breeders by requiring more of them to register
with the state. Right now, many of them work on a cash basis and fail to report
their income, she said.
In February, Indiana State Police arrested two dog sellers in Cloverdale, about
40 miles southwest of Indianapolis, for allegedly failing to pay nearly
$193,000 in back taxes.