Thursday, January 18, 2007

Commentary on PA Proposed Dog Law Enforcement

A Commentary on Pennsylvania's Proposed Dog Law Enforcement
Proposed Rules and Regulations

Department of Agriculture
7 PA. Code Chapters 21, 23, 25 and 27
36 Pa.B. 7596
To Implement and Amend

For many years now, the animal rights and animal welfare groups have been telling the entire nation that Pennsylvania is the "Puppy Mill" capital of the east. I have always been suspicious of this emotionally charged, hot button term. The phrase was introduced in the 1980s and the HSUS has used it at every opportunity since. Perhaps the phrase was first used to describe genuine, sub standard kennels - but it has since morphed into a catch all term that has been used to demonize even the most reputable of breeders.

There is no doubt that large, sub-standard kennels exist in Pennsylvania. Laws were in place that should have regulated such kennels, but they were not strictly enforced. Because the animal rights activists tend to cry "puppy mill" even when there are none, we must question their motives and credibility. We cannot allow these ridiculously stringent regulations to pass into law.

Laws are made to cull out the bad apples. Unfortunately, the bad apples usually do not adhere to the law. Many have already shut down their operations entirely or moved them to another state. These proposed regulations will become a burden on those who have always maintained professional kennels. The honest person is being punished for the misdeeds of those that the regulations were written for.

What is so onerous about these regulations is that they are nearly impossible to follow unless you are fortunate enough to have a full time staff. They are time consuming and will incur great expense to kennel owners. The potential for the regulations to be subjectively enforced is of extreme concern and must be taken into consideration.

Ironically, reputable breeders joined the animal welfarists in the crusade to clean up or shut down unprofessional breeders. Unfortunately the line between hard core animal rights and genuine animal welfare is very blurred, and often the former merely poses as the latter. I warned readers many years ago that animal rights people do not compromise - they see things in black and white (i.e. all breeders are bad). They can't be trusted and the newly appointed dog law advisory board and their proposed regulations are proof positive.

The PA Department of Agriculture admits they have relied on and borrowed from provisions set forth in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and in the Military Dog Training Manual. Both of these documents were created by and operated by the federal government which has ample funds to adhere to them. The U.S. military certainly has the budget to maintain a state-of-the art kennel. It is not reasonable to place those same standards upon a private citizen.

Taxpayer money will be used to purchase equipment necessary for measuring lighting and ventilation. It is estimated that $15,000 per warden will be allotted the first year and $5,000 for the next four years, or $35,000 per each warden. The information I have has 79 dog wardens listed - there could be more. 79 x $35,000 = $2,765,000, nearly $3 million dollars.

The proposed amendments to the regulations will impose additional costs on those regulated. Licensed kennels will need to comply with very restrictive specifications regarding lighting, ventilation, space requirements, sanitation, housing requirements and record keeping. "Temporary homes" will also have to comply with these regulations. The new dog advisory board estimates the costs for each person and kennel to come into compliance with these proposed regulations will range from $5,000 to $20,000. That is excessive and unacceptable.

Dog owners of every type need to make their voices heard NOW. We cannot afford to hide our heads in the sand any longer. If we do, we will deserve the regulations that will be imposed on us. Please be sure to send copies of your letters and comments to your State representatives (both houses), a copy to your federal representatives (both houses) and to Governor Rendell. They need to know what the Pennsylvania dog-owning taxpayers have to say about these proposed regulations.

Comment letters should be sent on or before February 10, 2007 to assure receipt by the comment deadline. Please also send copies of your letter to your State Senator and State Assemblyman and to the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs. Names and addresses are available on the website at Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs

Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement
Attn: Ms. Mary Bender
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
2301 North Cameron Street
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9408
717-772-4352 (FAX)

Governor Edward G. Rendell's Office

225 Main Capitol Building; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120
To telephone the Governor call:(717) 787-2500

If you have not read these regulations yet, you need to do so. The link to them is at the top of this article. The first time I read them, my head was spinning. These should be guidelines for an ideal kennel; not law.

The 26 Dog Rule
Any *establishment that keeps, harbors, boards, shelters, sells, gives away or in any way transfers a cumulative total of 26 or more dogs of any age during 1 calendar year must obtain a license. Those which do not fall under this definition shall obtain individual, rather than kennel, licenses.

K-1 kennels are currently described by PA law as those with 26-50 dogs. These are small operations that will most likely choose not to renew their kennel license if they are subjected to the restrictive and expensive regulations that are being proposed. Large corporations, such as the Hunte Corporation, can afford to buy puppies from smaller breeders while maintaining facilities that meet all the proposed requirements. These regulations encourage such factory farms, that will in turn, sell puppies to pet shops across the east coast!

The below example illustrates how detailed the proposed regulations are.

*(An establishment includes the home, homestead, place of business or operation of any individual or person, including a dealer, which includes all of the land, property, housing facilities or any combination thereof, on, in or through which any dog is kept, bred, harbored, boarded, sheltered, maintained, sold, given away, exchanged or in any way transferred. Establishment shall encompass all of the individuals or persons residing thereon. It may be public or private and includes an individual, person, organization, business or operation, which utilizes offsite or temporary homes to keep, maintain, breed, train, harbor, board, shelter, sell, give away, adopt, exchange, or in any way transfer dogs. A housing facility includes any land, premises, shed, barn, building, house, trailer or other structure or area housing or intended to house dogs for any period of time.)

Obviously the new, improved PA Dog Enforcement team wants to be able to legally access an establishment owner's entire premise and be able to inspect everything which they own. Buying a kennel or dog license conveys an obligation attached to ownership rights which puts one under obligation to abide by the governing laws, rules and regulations. The potential to violate Constitutional rights is just too much to risk in my opinion.

Of course, each time the Department decides a regulation has been broken they can file an injunction against the kennel and may also impose a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500 for every day the kennel operates in violation of the act or regulations. (For instance, operating a kennel without a license, operating with a revoked license, suspension of a license, selling dogs without an out-of-state dealer license )

Seizure of dogs. The Department may seize, impound and direct forfeiture proceedings of dog(s) for the following reasons: Revocation, suspension or denial of a kennel license or an out-of-State dealer license. The owner shall pay for transportation costs, care and feeding of the dog(s) even though they are not in his possession.

These new regulations provide similar penalties that are used in alleged animal cruelty cases where animals have been seized. A person is judged guilty until proven broke. Remember, violation of any of these rules and regulations could theoretically result in punitive actions against a dog owner or kennel. There are procedures to appeal an ACO or dog warden's decision, but they are time consuming and expensive. Few people are able to retrieve their property (their dogs) once they have been forfeited. The holding fees are quite steep and unreasonable. Some of the animals die while in the care of a third party; some become diseased and others are sold or adopted out.

This is Administrative Law. The Dog Advisory Board not only writes and incorporates new rules and regulations into the statutes, it is also responsible for administering and enforcing them as well as judging whether they have been broken! It is difficult to fight such a system.

Extensive records on each dog kept at a licensed kennel must be maintained for at least 2 years. The records must be legible and be open to inspection and may be copied by any employee of the Department (with or without notice). All records must include the minimum information: the breed, color, markings, sex and age of each dog; the date on which each dog entered the kennel, and where the dog came from. Other information may be required depending on the type of kennel license one owns. The PA kennel license number or out-of-state dealer license is necessary for dogs that enter a kennel along with the name and address of the individual breeder or former keeper. Similar records are kept for dogs leaving the kennel including detailed vet records about the dog. (spayed, neutered, vaccinations etc etc)

Similarly, the housing requirements are quite detailed. Temperature control, safe housing, space requirements, protection from the elements, strict sanitation protocols, and even lighting specifications are set out in great detail for both indoor and outdoor facilities.

The following are just a few of the details covered. Outdoor dog shelters must be raised off the ground and built to be draft free, and yet must be well ventilated. They must have clean and dry bedding at all times. There must be a wind and rain break at the entrance and a mud free area with no standing or pooled water nearby. It must be easy to clean and sanitize. Dogs may not be housed in drums or barrel houses.

Shade must be provided by a permanent fixture; not a tarp. The shade area must allow for air movement in excessive heat and protect the dogs from the direct rays of the sun. The shade areas must adhere to strict space requirements.

Both indoor and outdoor facilities must be equipped with waste disposal and drainage systems built on a slope and in the best possible manner to wash away animal waste and allow for quick runoff. (At least 1/8" per foot) Outdoor kennel runs must be sloped to a gutter outside of the end fence of each run. Drains and gutters shall be sanitized daily then flushed with water.

The exercise run associated with each dog box must be at least five times the length of the largest dog in that run and two times as wide as the length of the largest dog in that run. Outdoor runs and exercise areas may be constructed of concrete, gravel or stone. Again, the regulations set for very definite specifications. Outdoor facilities, including runs and exercise areas shall be kept free of grass and weeds. Grass and weeds shall be cut back from the sides of runs and exercise areas to a distance of 5 feet to help prevent tick, flea and other parasite infestation.

Each dog shall receive 20 minutes of exercise per day. Dogs shall be walked on a leash by a handler or put in an exercise area. The exercise area must be fenced, shall be kept in good repair, and equipped to protect dogs from becoming wet, matted or muddy during their exercise. Outdoor facilities must be fenced and be constructed to minimize or prevent vermin, animal, insect and pest infestation and other vectors of disease.

Records shall be kept regarding dates and times:
When the housing facility was cleaned.
When the housing facility was sanitized.
When each individual cage, dog box or primary enclosure was cleaned.
When each food and water bowl was sanitized.
When new food and potable water was provided each dog.

Every keeper of a kennel shall keep a record of the following for each dog housed in the facility:
The date, time and detail of daily feedings, cleaning of kennel, and changing and refreshing potable water.
The date, time and detail of exercise activity of the dog.
The date, time and detail of any medication administered to a dog.
Any accident or incident in which the dog is injured.
The date and time of any veterinary care administered.
Records of veterinary care for each dog.
Any veterinary ordered or voluntary protocol for vaccination, medication or other recommendation for medical treatment of the dogs.

Tethering rules are set forth for dogs that are outside. Accessible hot and cold water, sinks, showers, towels and soap are mandated for animal caretakers. Dogs housed in indoor and sheltered kennel facilities shall be provided a regular diurnal lighting cycle. Primary enclosures must be placed to protect the dogs from excessive light. A minimum of 10-foot candles for kennel building and primary enclosures; 20-foot candles for bathing, grooming and toilet areas and 70-foot candles for food preparation and storage areas are required. Electrical systems in wash down areas must have ground fault circuit interrupters and all others must be the all-weather type with a spring cover.

Dogs not acclimated to current weather conditions shall be kept indoors Puppies not born in the receiving kennel facility shall be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days. Adult dogs entering the kennel from another place shall be quarantined. Dogs must be separated according to sex, size and temperament during prescribed daily exercise times.

Detailed provisions regarding dangerous dogs are described. Dangerous dogs must be registered, restrained and under strict supervision. Liability insurance is required. Violations may result in misdemeanors, confiscation of the dog and its euthanization.

We have very briefly touched on the main subjects covered in these extremely oppressive regulations. The regulators need our input. These proposed rules must be modified. Left as they are, there is too much room for them to be unfairly enforced and administered. There is too much room for them to be enforced subjectively without common sense. We, who read the news, see this happen each and every. Such ideal guidelines cannot be legally enforced without causing harm to innocent, law abiding citizens.