Lawmakers, AKC declare war on PA dog law

UPDATE - The House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee is not holding a hearing on the resolution; it is holding a meeting to vote on the resolution. Five of the six sponsors of the resolution supported HB 2525 (the dog law) in 2008. Only Stern voted no on final passage of the bill.

When it was signed by Gov. Rendell in Oct. 2008, the new Pennsylvania dog law was praised nationally for establishing the highest standards of humane care for commercial breeding kennels in the nation.

Now a group of Republican House lawmakers led byGordon Denlinger of Lancaster Co. and joined by Jim Cox of Berks Co. Jerry Stern of Blair Co, Mark Keller of Perry Co. Brad Roae of Crawford Co. and Bryan Cutler of Lancaster Co.) and backed by the American Kennel Club wants to gut the law.

They have introduced a resolution (HR 89) to direct the Joint State Government Commission to "study and review the economic impacts on the regulated community and on the Commonwealth of implementation of the 2008 amendments to the Dog Law and the regulatory standards which were adopted to implement the legislation."

Clearly this group is taking a cue from Missouri - puppy mill capital of the U.S. - where rural lawmakers have introduced legislation to kill an act established by a voter referendum in November that raises the level of care in commercial kennels.

The resolution notes the number of commercial kennels has declined by 75 percent. True, the numbers dropped dramatically (from about 300 to roughly 110) since the law took effect in 2009. Why? Because breeders were unwilling to make the investment in their kennels to afford dogs enough space to sit and stand comfortably, a solid floor to stand on, exercise and veterinary care.

Are these state Representatives and the prestigious American Kennel Club against providing breeding animals who must spend their lives - we repeat their whole lives - in cages a modicum of humane care?

The resolution also charges that breeders have lost millions because of the law. To this we ask, how much has the state lost in unpaid sales taxes for the last 30 years.

One need only review the plethora of "cash-only" sales want ads to know that many breeders do not pay sales tax.

To the assertion that hundreds of jobs have been lost, we note the vast majority of commercial kennels were - and still are - located in Lancaster County. Most are run by Amish and Mennonite breeders whose family members constituted the staff. We would eagerly await the assessment by both economic development experts and revenue department on tax and employment statistics in commercial kennels.

To the claim that veterinarians are "losing business," we must look at the law now in place which states breeding dogs in commercial kennels - the very dogs that have been rescued from puppy mills by the hundreds with rotten teeth, genetic and contagious diseases and mammary tumors - must now have twice annual check ups. That would clearly increase business for local veterinarians. 

There will be a meeting to vote on this resolution on Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Room G50 of the Irvis Office building in the Capitol complex in Harrisburg.