Good news coming as Wisconsin steps up and looks like they are about to do the the right thing!
MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin would join the majority of states that regulate dog breeders under a compromise bill endorsed by groups that fought state oversight for more than a decade.
For years, animal rights advocates and others have pushed for regulations making it easier to close puppy mills and ensuring animals are healthy when sold. But they were blocked by breeders and others concerned about costs and how they would be affected by the regulations.
Meanwhile, other nearby states tightened regulations, and large-scale breeders moved to states like Wisconsin, where there’s virtually no oversight. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection gets hundreds of complaints a year but has no idea how many breeders are out there and is powerless to investigate or take action, spokeswoman Donna Gilson said.
“We really have become kind of a magnet for these dog breeding operations because of our lack of regulations,” Gilson said.
The bill considered Wednesday by Senate and Assembly committees in a joint hearing would change that. Hundreds of people supporting dog breeding regulations packed the hearing room.
Breeders who sell more than 25 dogs a year would have to be licensed. Animal shelters with at least 25 dogs and auctions that sell at least 50 dogs a year also would be licensed.
The state would investigate the breeder before issuing a license and could suspend or revoke the license if there were violations.
Breeders would have to meet standards of care, such as providing each dog with enough food, shelter and opportunity for exercise.
The penalty for operating without a license would be up to a $10,000 fine and nine months in jail. Violating standards of care would be penalized with a fine up to $1,000 for the first offense and up to $2,000 for a second offense within five years.
There are 25 other states that regulate or require licensing of dog breeders, according to the U.S. Humane Society. The proposal, should it pass the Legislature and be signed by the governor, would take effect in 18 months.
To reach a compromise, the proposal is much more narrow than previous versions.
It applies only to dogs and not other animals. And while the state would be allowed inspect dog breeding facilities and suspend or revoke licenses, it could not seize mistreated dogs. Instead, the agency would have to report that information to local law enforcement.
Breeders also would have to provide buyers with a certificate from a veterinarian saying the dog had been examined and showed no signs of infectious or contagious disease. Under previous proposals, those purchasing the dogs could have exchanged sick dogs, get refunds and collect reimbursement for vet fees.
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation executive director George Meyer said the group removed its opposition to the bill after an exemption was created to allow for up to three litters of dogs to be sold a year, even if they exceed 25 animals. The federation represents 168 hunting, fishing and trapping groups, including many that breed dogs for hunting.
The Dog Federation of Wisconsin, which previously opposed the bill, also now supports it.
Advocates were pleased with the compromise, even though they agreed it wasn’t perfect.
“This bill is a very common sense, moderate one,” said Alyson Bodai, Wisconsin state director of the Humane Society of the United States. “We feel like this is an effective bill to crack down on puppy mills in Wisconsin.”
Eilene Ribbens, head of the Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project, an advocacy group that formed 11 years ago to fight for tougher regulations, also said the bill was fair.
“I think it will help to stop the flow of bottom feeder breeders into Wisconsin,” Ribbens said. “We have really attracted an unsavory group of people who were able to turn this into a cottage industry.”
There have been numerous examples in recent months where charges have been brought against animal breeders in the state.
One of the largest was in May, when more than 300 dogs and about 20 other animals were impounded at a Richland County shelter. The owner was charged with 30 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and faces a February trial.