Lawmaker 'outraged' at state loan for kennel expansion

The House lawmaker who sponsored Pennsylvania's new dog law said today he was outraged to learn that a commercial kennel would receive state funding to expand its operations.

Last week Gov. Rendell announced the Commonwealth Financing Authority approved $18.4 million for 31 renewable energy projects around the state that he said would help create jobs and conserve energy. Among them is a $30,819 loan to help TLC Kennels in Lancaster County expand its operations.

"This industry has been the scourge of Pennsylvania for decades," said Rep. James Casorio (D., Westmoreland). "Last year, we passed a sweeping new law to protect the animals trapped in these commercial kennels, and now we're giving these facilities state money to expand even more? And at a time when critical services and programs for children, seniors and other people are being cut or eliminated altogether?

"Whatever kind of guidelines are in place that allow commercial dog kennels to apply for and obtain state financing need to be re-examined."

TLC Kennels in Elizabethtown, owned by James and Shirley Hershey, will receive the low interest loan to install a geothermal system as part of a kennel expansion,  according to the state's press release. The kennel is licensed by the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which allows it to sell to pet stores, dozens of them in New Jersey, according to New Jersey Consumers Against Pet Shop Abuse.

The kennel, had 220 dogs on its premises and sold 493 dogs in the last year, according to its most recent inspection report in June. Shirley Hershey pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges of failing to have a dog vaccinated against rabies. Last year the kennel was issued a warning about record keeping and repairs to wire cage flooring where the vinyl had worn off. [Wire flooring is illegal under the new dog law which goes into effect on Oct. 9]

The kennel's Website lists ten different breeds of puppies and has a page for "older reduced puppies."

"These factory-type breeding operations are inhumane by definition," Casorio said. "They are the kind of operation that leads to incredible suffering for the dogs that are sentenced to spend their entire lives breeding in them, and for the hundreds of puppies each year they produce that end up unwanted or in abusive situations. Pennsylvanians looking for pets should be avoiding these puppy mills, and the state certainly should not be financing them."

Casorio said he found it ironic that the loan for the kennel was announced on the same weekend that a federal judge upheld key parts of Pennsylvania's new dog law.

"Unfortunately, the good news for kennel dogs that Friday's federal court decision brought was tempered by the news that the state government that is supposed to be protecting kennel dogs is in fact willing to finance the breeders that are the problem," Casorio said.