Animal activists to PA Dept. of Agriculture: Where are the inspection reports?

It’s been almost two months since the major provisions of the new Pennsylvania dog law took effect and the public does not yet know how many, if any, of the nearly 300 commercial breeders in the state are in compliance.

The law, which took effect on Oct. 9, was designed to end inhumane kennel conditions legal under the old law, among them, wire flooring, which causes painful paw ulcers, and the unsanitary practice of cage stacking. It also would give dogs considerably more space than the rabbit hutches shown at left and effectively ends outdoor-only kennels like those shown because there is now a temperature requirement.

Breeders had one year to make improvements, but it is unclear if they have done so because no commercial kennel inspection reports have appeared on the Department of Agriculture's online database dated after Oct. 9. In an email, a department spokesman told me on Nov. 1 that the agency was trying to fix software problems with the new inspection forms and that reports would begin to be posted that week. When I asked again this week, I was told they would be posted "soon."

"It's like running a marathon and reaching the finish line and still not finding out the results," said Bill Smith, founder of Main Line Animal Rescue, a leading advocate against puppy mills. "I wanted to see those animals taken off wire on Oct. 9."

Here's what the new law requires: that cage sizes be doubled, that dogs have access to water and an outdoor exercise area at all times and that the temperature in the kennel cannot fall below 50 degrees. Dog cages may no longer have wire floors and the cages may not be stacked on top of one another. In addition, breeding dogs, who spend their lives in kennels, be examined by a vet at least twice a year.

The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement announced on Oct. 8 that it planned to send teams of dog wardens to inspect commercial kennels through Dec. 31. Spokesman Justin Fleming says inspections are taking place, but a review of the kennel database for Lancaster County - home to the majority of the commercial kennels - shows the only commercial kennel inspection reports posted since October are for several kennels in the process of closing.

A commercial kennel is defined under the law as one that sells or keeps more than 59 dogs a year or sells one or more dogs to a pet store. The law does not apply to the hundreds of smaller kennels that retail their dogs through classified ads.

Some commercial kennels have a temporary out thanks to the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association and the farm lobby which successfully lobbied for waivers to be allowed under the new law. The bureau was flooded with last minute waiver requests asking for as much as three years to complete the required changes. In order to qualify kennel owners may not have been convicted of dog law violations and they have to show they have made improvements to their facility. Fleming said this week that 184 waiver applications have been received and nine have not yet been acted on, but did not respond to a question asking how many had been granted.