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Sweeping Dog Breeding Bill Introduced In Florida

0 Comments Posted by Alyssa Noonan in Pet Law on Friday, March 6th, 2009.

State legislators in Florida this week introduced a pair of sweeping (and surprisingly strict) bills that impact dog breeders and owners in a variety of different ways.  The two bills, HB 1249 and its companion, SB 2002,  call for regulations on nearly every aspect of dog breeding, from animal behavior to dimensions of crates and enclosures. You can read the full text of the bill here, but major provisions include:

  • Prohibiting anyone from “owning, possessing, controlling or having custody” of more than 50 intact dogs more than four months of age at any time.
  • Prohibiting ear cropping and tail docking except by licensed veterinarians.
  • Construction specifications for crates (“…the dog must be able to lie down while fully extended without the head, tail, legs, face, or feet of the dog touching any side of the enclosure and without touching any other dog in the cage while all dogs are lying down simultaneously.”)
  • Exercise requirements (“…leash walking or giving the dog access to an enclosure at least four times the size of the primary enclosure…”)
  • Mandating that all dogs housed together are “compatible, as determined by observation by trained persons.”

Two portions of the bills are especially troubling. In addition to exempting animal shelters, humane societies, rescue groups, kennels and veterinary hospitals from the 50-dog limit, the bills also exempt “retail pet stores”. In addition, the bills allows for warrantless searches by “an animal control officer, other authorized public health or safety official, or law enforcement officer” based on “receiving a complaint or upon his or her own initiative…”

The legislation in Florida is just the latest example of the recent trend in restrictive breeding legislation that, while ostensibly targeting “puppy mills” and irresponsible breeders, ends up adversely affecting responsible breeders and pet owners. Similar legislation in Maryland was struck down earlier this week. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, HB 1332 offers similar restrictions, as well as regulations regarding transportation of dogs by out-of-state breeders and a provision for warrantless searches. Legislation has also been introduced in Washington, Indiana and Oregon.

The American Kennel Club maintains an extensive listing of pending pet legislation and has so far come out against all of the pieces of legislation mentioned above. While the AKC is stridently opposed to the neglectful treatment of dogs, the group maintains that the laws are too blunt and focus on arbitrary factors (such as limits of the number of dogs) and unfairly micromanage otherwise responsible breeders.

It isn’t only breeders and “puppy mills” that lawmakers are focusing their attention on. Everything from mandatory spay/neuter laws to various pieces of breed-specific legislation have been appearing in state legislatures across the country in the last few years. (And that’s not even counting the various new measures instituted because of the 2007 pet food recall.) Everyone, from veterinarians and pet owners to breeders and pet food producers are affected by these laws and animal lovers are quickly finding that the blunt instrument of the law doesn’t recognize the unique situations that arise when working and living with pets.

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