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Legislative Updates: New Jersey Law on Hold; Bill Passes in Pennsylvania

The ownership and breeding limits proposed for Delaware Township, N.J., on which we reported on September 30, 2012, will be returned to first reading following the October 1 meeting of the board of health.

AKC reports that, thanks in part to the work of the New Jersey Federation of Dog Clubs, AKC and concerned dog owners and breeders, the board of health will “reassess its animal control needs” before proceeding with a new law limiting the number of intact animals a person can house.

However, in a neighboring state, a bill passed that could infringe on the rights of animal owners. Based on information provided by legislative tracking service Legiscan, Pennsylvania House Bill 2409 passed through the house on October 3, 2012, by a vote of 192 to five. According to the Humane Society of Berks County, Pa., the law is designed to reduce the financial burden on shelters and other organizations, and provide “a means to obtain swift forfeiture of animals.”

HB 2409 states that if an animal is seized under Pennsylvania cruelty to animals laws, the owner of the animal will be responsible for paying a “costs order” to cover the daily care and feeding of the animal. The limit on the “reasonable costs of care” that can be charged per day, per animal, is $15, not including the costs of any medical care the animal may require as determined by a licensed veterinarian.

If an owner is unable to pay the costs order, the animal or animals in question will have to be surrendered. AKC strongly opposed this legislation because, during a lengthy legal process, owners may be forced to relinquish their animals even if charges against them are eventually dismissed.

Study Shows Animal Care Laws Are Not Enforced

A Pennsylvania state advisory board released a report on September 27, 2012, alleging that the state’s Dog Law Enforcement Office has failed to enforce laws adopted in 2008 to improve conditions in large-scale commercial breeding kennels in the state, often known as puppy mills. Among other provisions, those laws require facilities to increase cage sizes, and eliminate wire flooring and cage stacking. The laws also require large-scale breeders to provide dogs with daily outdoor exercise and biannual veterinary examinations, and to comply with new cleanliness and ventilation standards.

The Associated Press reported on Lehigh Valley Live that many kennels went out of business rather than comply with the laws when they began to go into effect in 2009. However, the study conducted by the Dog Law Advisory Board found that “the (Dog Law Enforcement Office) has failed in its enforcement of critical components of the dog law and canine health regulations.” Inspections by the department have decreased significantly over the past several years, very few citations have been issued, and no breeding licenses were revoked in 2011 or so far in 2012. The report further notes that the agency does not verify that “substandard kennels” claiming to have ceased operation have actually done so.

DLEO officials reported to the board that “severe budgetary restraints” have interfered with enforcement of the law, but that the agency is currently moving in a positive direction. Michael Pechart, DLEO acting director, requested the review of the agency’s operations, resulting in the recently released report, as well as recommendations from the advisory panel.

Best In Show Daily provides a biweekly look at dog-related legislation that is pending and has passed around the country. The American Kennel Club also posts regular updates in its Legislative Alerts section online.

Written by

Christi McDonald is a second-generation dog person, raised with a kennel full of Cairn Terriers. After more than a decade as a professional handler’s apprentice and handling professionally on her own, primarily Poodles and Cairns, she landed a fortuitous position in advertising sales with the monthly all-breed magazine ShowSight. This led to an 11-year run at Dogs in Review, where she wore several hats, including advertising sales rep, ad sales manager and, finally, editor for five years. Christi is proud to be part of the editorial team for the cutting-edge Best In Show Daily. She lives in Apex, N.C., with two homebred black Toy Poodles, the last of her Foxfire line, and a Norwich Terrier.