The Minnesota Dog and Cat Breeder bill cleared its first step in the legislative process this morning by passing the State House Civil Law Committee. The bill, HF 84, is authored by Chairman of the Civil Law Committee John Lesch (DFL-66B).
The bill would require commercial dog and cat breeders in Minnesota to be licensed, give the Minnesota Board of Animal Health the legal authority to inspect and enforce state laws to make sure standards are met, and impose penalties for those that break the law. Currently, Minnesota has no law to license, inspect or regulate the dog and cat breeding industry.
In introducing the measure, Chairman Lesch talked about the six-year-saga of trying to get this legislation passed, and the number of compromises that have been made over the years. He spoke about his own Boston Terrier, and his asking his twelve-year-old daughter why she felt this bill was important. According to Chairman Lesch, his daughter answered, “You wouldn’t put your kid in a place like this; I don’t know why you’d put your animal in a place like this.”
Chairman Lesch spoke passionately his bill, and introduced Diane Dunker and her dog Gert to the Committee, a dog that Dunker adopted as a shelter volunteer, after learning about the dog’s advanced age and long life in a puppy mill.
Also speaking in favor of the bill was Dr. Lisa McCarger, a veterinarian who testified about the horrendous conditions that animals that come out of puppy and kitten mills. Keith Streff, Senior Investigator for the Animal Humane Society, described having to wear HazMat suits due to the hazardous amount of urine and feces built up in mill facilities, as well as the staggering costs of seizing animals from these facilities once their environment becomes unsafe enough to constitute a catastrophic event.
Member of the Civil Law Committee Representative Jeff Howe (R-13A) offered several questions and challenges to the bill, particularly with regard to logistics and costs of inspection. Other questions came from Committee Members Representative Mary Liz Holberg (R-58A), who raised concerns about the bill being overly cumbersome for hobby breeders, and Representative Johnson (R-32A), who asked questions about municipal and federal requirements. Representative Peggy Scott (R-35B) asked if the voting on the bill could be delayed to give more time for discussion. Representative Jim Newberger (R-15B) and Representative Barb Yarusso (DFL-42A) expressed concerns about potential unintended consequences of the bill in discouraging animals to be sold for profit, as opposed to giving them away for free or at a low cost.
Nine members of the public showed up to speak in opposition to the bill. These included opposition to the Julie Gerdes, a professional dog breeder, who testified on behalf of the Minnesota Pet Breeders Association, who stated that the bill was unnecessary because the issue is already handled at the city and county level, that all dogs should be protected—not just those owned by breeders, and the bill was excessive in its requirement and could have unintended consequences. A few self-defined hobby breeders, including Valerie Mugley, Natasha Podras, and Andrea Piper also testified in opposition to the bill. In the interest of moving the bill forward, Chairman Lesch moved to remove the hobby breeder registration provision until it could be discussed further in subsequent committees.
With time running out before another committee was scheduled to meet, and most of the concerns not relating to the civil law jurisdiction of the Committee, Members of the Committee passed the bill at 10:00 AM.
HF 84 must successfully pass several more steps before it can become law. Both supporters and opponents will have ample opportunity to raise concerns, as it moves through the process. Senate companion bill, SF 36, has not been slated for consideration.
More information about HF 84/SF36, and an upcoming rally on February 19 for bill supporters, can be found here: http://www.examiner.com/article/past-due-minn-breeder-law-needed-now