On September 1, 2012, the Texas Dog or Cat Breeders Act will go into effect. The bill, signed into law in 2011, requires certain individuals to obtain breeder licensing, submit to facilities inspections, and meet standards of care provisions.

Dog breeders who have 11 or more adult, intact female dogs, who are in the business of breeding those animals for direct or indirect sale, and who sell or exchange at least 20 dogs in a calendar year are the targets of the new law. Only those who meet all three criteria are required to obtain a breeder license.

Anyone breeding dogs used primarily for herding livestock, other agricultural uses, hunting, or competing in field trials is exempt from the law. A license lasts one year and costs $300, both on a new application and a renewal. Each facility must be inspected before a license is issued, unless the breeder holds a USDA dealers license. Inspections are then conducted at least once every 18 months.

Both the American Kennel Club and Responsible Pet Owners Alliance Inc., the Texas-based AKC federation, opposed Texas HB 1451 before it was passed.

Some wonder if the new Texas law will someday make small hobby breeders who supply happy, healthy puppies to the public obsolete. Photo © www.canstockphoto.com.

In addition to meeting federal regulations, standards of care required by the new law include these provisions:

  • An adequate period must elapse between breeding cycles of each adult intact female.
  • The breeder must provide basic grooming to each animal to the extent required to maintain the animal in a state of good health, including bathing and nail trimming.
  • Every animal over 12 weeks of age must have at least one hour of daily exercise in an area at least three times the size of the dog’s primary enclosure; with adequate drainage, on natural turf or soil, with protection against harsh weather, including sun exposure.
  • Primary enclosures must be composed of materials that are safe for the animal, have adequate space for the animal to stand, sit, turn around and lie down in a natural position; have adequate drainage; and, if composed of wire or slats, be free from sharp surfaces and be designed so the animal’s paws can’t extend through or get caught in the floor.
  • Primary enclosures cannot be placed one on top of the other unless there is a barrier between them that prevents the transfer of liquid or material waste between enclosures.
  • Primary enclosures can only be stacked three high.
  • Each breeding animal must have a regular veterinary exam at least once a year.
  • The breeder must maintain at each of his/her facilities a written health care management protocol addressing routine and preventive care.
  • The breeder must ensure that each animal receives routine preventive care, and appropriate care and treatment for any disease or illness, so that each animal is maintained in a state of good health.
  • Euthanization and surgical birth must be performed by a licensed veterinarian.
  • Any person whose duties and responsibilities include handling or care of animals in the breeder’s facility must receive appropriate training.
  • No animal may be sold, traded or given away before 8 weeks of age.

Reactions from Breeders

Texas breeders have mixed views on the new law. Cara Campbell is a practicing veterinarian in Pearland, Texas, south of Houston, and has successfully bred Wire Fox Terriers for decades, including specialty and all-breed Best in Show winners. She acknowledges that members of the Houston Kennel Club, to which she and husband Mike Doleski belong, are very concerned about the new law. Although they have nowhere near 11 intact breeding bitches, Cara senses from the reactions of others in the dog sport that some people will be affected by the legislation.

However, she feels that people who advertise dogs for sale should be regulated. “I don’t really care if it’s a ‘big time breeder,’ a puppy miller or a backyard breeder,” Cara says. “I feel there should be standards of care for all animals that we keep.” Her contention is that breeding dogs for profit while giving them the proper care is an almost impossible feat. “You’d have to produce so many dogs, and charge so much for them, to make raising dogs profitable, that unfortunately for the dogs, most purebreds in kennels don’t live the lives they deserve.”

From a veterinarian’s perspective, Cara is also inclined to support the new law. “The majority of veterinarians don’t care so much about AKC, but they do care about dogs and cats that are raised in deplorable conditions,” she says. “From a veterinarian’s standpoint, I think breeders who sell commercially should be regulated.” It isn’t just dog breeders whom she thinks need to be monitored. “I think that people who own ‘living property,’ whether it is cats, dogs, birds, fish, amphibians or reptiles, should also be regulated, at least in the respect that humane treatment and care must be maintained, and that animal abuse be subject to criminal charges.”

Of course, other breeders have very different views. Susan Lybrand lives on almost four acres north of Dallas, and has been breeding Bearded Collies since 1989. She now shares her place with the Beardies, Havanese, a Frenchie, a Newfoundland, two pet pigs and a smattering of other creatures.

“I don’t have 10 intact bitches anymore, but I feel this new law steps on my civil rights as a citizen of this country, in mandating what I can and cannot do on my own property,” Susan says. “While it may impact some unscrupulous so-called ‘breeders,’ this law also targets the caring and responsible breeder who does all the health testing, whose dogs live as members of their families, that have access to home and yard, are well-fed with regular vet care, those who carefully screen each prospective new home to make sure each of their puppies is going to be well taken care of for its entire life in order to minimize the chance that puppy or dog will ever end up in shelter situation.”

Susan contends that hobbyists who don’t breed their dogs season after season in order to support themselves will be unfairly impacted. “We breed with a goal in mind of producing better than the sire and dam of the litter,” she says. “We spend countless hours socializing each of our puppies so that they are of sound mind and fit easily into the homes they are going to.” Breeders like Susan are also a big part of informing the public about being responsible dog owners. “We work to educate prospective families as to whether our breed is the right one for them and about the care the dog requires before allowing that family to purchase one of our ‘kids.’”

So often, it seems, the local and state officials who make the laws don’t really understand exactly what the unintended consequences will be of the legislation they put into place. “We need laws to support those of us who do things the right way, and for all the right reasons, and to penalize those who don’t,” says Susan. “What is amazing is that there are those who supported and helped pass this law who think they are doing a wonderful service for the welfare of the animal world,” she says. The best opponents of these laws can do is make their voices heard through the ballot box. “When election time comes around, I can attempt to make sure they no longer have the right to make such asinine decisions again,” Susan says.

Ruby Harris, who no longer breeds but does follow dog-related legislation around the country, agrees that fanciers have to stay informed and do their best to educate the city, county and state representatives who ultimately help make these kinds of laws.

From a small town in east Texas, Ruby didn’t breed Best in Show winners, but she bred a fair number of champions, and, more importantly to her, always had a long waiting list for pet puppies from people who were looking for a happy, healthy dog to be part of their families. Many people came back to her for their third and fourth puppies when they would lose a beloved family member who had come from her small kennel.

“I never had 11 bitches at one time that I was breeding, but now and then I had that many ‘intact bitches’ if I included young females that I kept to show, plus one or two older retired dams that became my house dogs,” she says. “I doubt that I ever sold 20 puppies in a year, but if you’d added retired dams that I placed in pet homes to the puppies I sold, a few years there were likely 20 dogs that left my place”

“We didn’t make a living selling dogs, and whatever I made from puppy sales supplemented my husband’s income only after the many expenses of raising and taking care of my dogs properly,” Ruby admits. “I really did it all those years because I loved living with my ‘babies,’ grooming them, raising puppies and having wonderful, happy little dogs that became treasured pets for other people.

“I’m grateful for the many happy years that I was able to raise and show dogs, and to provide families with several generations of wonderful pets,” Ruby says, “but I worry about those who are trying to do the same today.”

She asks a relevant question that has to be considered. “Will breeders today, who have just a few litters a year, continue on if they begin to have to follow laws that make it very difficult for them? I’m just not sure,” says Ruby. “Of course, we all want every dog, and all animals, to be treated with care, but it usually isn’t the small breeders who need to be regulated. I worry that someday the only people left breeding purebred dogs will be commercial kennels and puppy mills. Small-time breeders won’t be able to meet the demands made on them.”

It is up to purebred dog fanciers, working in conjunction with the American Kennel Club, local and state federations, and breed and all-breed clubs, to help educate the public and their legislators about the difference between puppy mills and responsible breeders. Those who live in Texas and breed dogs have to accept and work within the new law, and perhaps in some way it will make life better for some dogs. But many people believe that it is a slippery slope we traverse when legislation is passed regulating dog breeders.