Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Has Pennsylvania's Dog Breeding Law Been Thrown In The Garbage

MLAR: Rendell Refuses to Enforce His Own New Dog Laws. Millions of Dogs in PA to Remain Trapped Inside Cages in Hot Barns, Forced to Stand on Painful Wire Flooring

Shock soon turned to anger as animal advocates attending last week's Dog Law Advisory Board meeting were told by Governor Rendell's Special Secretary Jessie Smith and Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement's Sue West that important elements of Pennsylvania's hard fought new dog law would not be enforced. Almost two years ago, Governor Rendell, at the urging of the General Assembly and citizens throughout the Commonwealth, signed a law that would require among other things that breeding dogs in commercial kennels have unfettered access to the outside (indoor/outdoor kennel runs), and that all dogs over the age of twelve weeks not be housed on wire flooring (solid or slatted floors only). Historically, dogs in Pennsylvania's puppy mills have been forced to spend their lives standing on painful wire strand flooring in too-small cages often without any access to the outside. Governor Rendell's new law was meant to improve conditions for millions of dogs in PA's commercial kennels in the years to come. Instead Smith and West have decided to ignore the Governor's wishes and the new law, by creating a policy that would allow pregnant and nursing mothers to be forced to stand on the now-outlawed wire strand flooring up to six months of the year and deny these poor animals unfettered access to an outside exercise area.

Members of Pennsylvania's animal welfare community are asking for Jessie Smith and Sue West's immediate removal and see their new policy as just one more attempt by the Bureau to protect the commercial breeders rather than the dogs of Pennsylvania. In October of 2009, as the new dog law went into effect, Smith and West issued waivers to 81 of the 111 commercial kennels, exempting over two thirds of PA's commercial kennels from Pennsylvania's new dog laws. Some of these waivers were for up to three years. "The Governor should be outraged by what his staff is doing. If the Governor does want to help the dogs of Pennsylvania, he would demand that his Special Secretary and his Director of Dog Law enforce his new law rather than searching for loopholes to help the breeders keep their dogs on wire flooring" said Bill Smith, founder of Main Line Animal Rescue and an ASPCA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner. The ASPCA permitted HSUS' Sarah Speed to express their opposition to the Bureau's new policy at last week's DLAB meeting. The Humane Society of the United States, United Against Puppy Mills, North Penn Puppy Mill Watch, Animal Law Coalition, Main Line Animal Rescue, and Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter's Nancy Gardner have all expressed their opposition to the Bureau's new policy of allowing kennel owners to circumvent the new law.

"Everyone who worked so hard to pass these new laws in an effort to improve conditions in PA's mass dog breeding facilities should know all their hard work was for nothing - now that the administration plans not to enforce them" said one angry volunteer who helps rehabilitates rescued puppy mill dogs in Lancaster County. "And after all the Governor's promises, dogs continue to suffer - breeding dogs trapped inside barns in 101 degree temperatures." In spite of Jessie Smith and Sue West's announcement last week that dogs could remain on wire, the two administrators listed breeding dogs removed from wire flooring as one of the Bureau's accomplishments in their 2009 report to PA's General Assembly. Only last month, PA's Canine Health Board, consisting of nine veterinarians, also voted against the use of wire flooring in commercial kennels. "I feel like I live in North Korea" said one advocate for the animals. "The government can do as they like - and in this case, not only are they not enforcing the law, they're encouraging people to break it."

The requirements for solid flooring and unfettered access to the outside exercise area are two of the more important aspects of the new law, and many believe anyone who feels that it is alright to keep dogs trapped inside hot barns and standing on wire flooring has never been to a puppy mill and is hardly qualified to comment or shape new policies. "The governor once said that he knows how bad these kennels are - he didn't need to see them" said Bill Smith "Well, I think its time the governor visit a few of these places, see 700 dogs unable to walk properly after spending their lives on vinyl coated chicken wire. How can the administration claim that Pennsylvania now has the toughest dog laws in the country if the governor is not insisting they be enforced?" Animal advocates are planning a rally to protest the Bureau's ongoing policy of continuing to allow PA's puppy mill dogs to suffer - either in Harrisburg or Philadelphia's City Hall near the governor's Broad Street offices.

Main Line Animal Rescue 610-933-0606

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