Dog law regs clear final hurdle, go into effect July 2011

The commercial canine health regulations governing temperature, ventilation and flooring in Pennsylvania's remaining large breeding kennels have cleared their last hurdle and will take effect July 1, 2011.

Attorney General Tom Corbett, who is charged with reviewing all proposed regulations in the Commonwealth, last week returned the canine health regulations to the Department of Agriculture without action, effectively approving the rules.

Until now there were no specific requirements for air quality in large kennels, leaving many animals vulnerable to extreme temperatures and high ammonia levels. 

But many animal activists were angry about changes made by the Department of Agriculture allowing nursing mothers to stand on wire for weeks, if not months at a time, in what they said was a direct conflict with the new law banning wire flooring for all dogs over 12 weeks of age.

Corbett sent the agency a series of questions asking how it reached the conclusion that nursing mothers could stand on wire, when wire flooring was expressly prohibited in the 2008 dog law.

The Department of Agriculture responded that in essence said they had no choice because there was a "legislative determination not to extend the wire floor prohibition to puppies" and that it would exceed its authority to ban wire flooring for puppies

Bob Baker, an animal welfare advocate who has worked on dog law issues in Pennsylvania for 30 years, said he was "gravely disappointed" by Corbett's decision to sign off on the regulations. 

"This is a black letter law and it’s disappointing that the AG won’t support what the legislature passed and clearly intended to protect the dogs  and that includes no wire flooring, no stacking, doubling cage size and access to outdoor/or indoor exercise," Baker said.

Tom Hickey, a member of the Dog Law Advisory Board who helped draft the law, praised the regulations as a way to ensure that dogs in commercial kennels are treated humanely.

"Now with the passage of the new regulations kennels will be required to maintain humane temperatures in kennels, as opposed to the blistering heat that dogs have been forced to endure for so many years. And air quality standards will guarantee that dogs are breathing healthy air at all times," he said.

Hickey said he will work on legislation to fix the wire flooring loophole when the legislature returns to begin its new session in January.

An agriculture spokeswoman said the regulations will be published in a late November edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

The canine health board, a creation of the 2008 dog law and comprised entirely of veterinarians, prepared and approved the regulations. They were later amended by the agriculture department to allow the wire flooring for nursing mothers.

There are currently 111 commercial kennels in Pennsylvania, down from more than 300 before the new dog law was passed. A commercial kennel is defined as those that sell or transfer more than 60 dogs a year or sells a single dog to a pet store. Of those, 80 have been operating with waivers exempting them from requirements of the new law, but many of those waivers were set to expire last month.