PA kennels shed breeding stock before new law takes effect

Is a mass downsizing underway in Pennsylvania kennels?

Nearly 400 breeding dogs from Pennsylvania's largest commercial kennels are scheduled be shipped west to be auctioned in Ohio next week, in a move that animal welfare activists say is likely the result of tougher standards under the new state dog law.

Key provisions of new law (Act 119) take effect on the first anniversary of the signing of the legislation on Oct. 9, among them: larger cage sizes, restrictions on cage stacking, access to outdoor exercise and regular veterinary exams for breeding dogs.

The dogs, most of them Yorkshire Terriers, Poodles and Shih Tzus, from 12 licensed kennels are expected to be sold at the Buckeye Dog Auction on Oct. 7 in Farmerstown, according to Mary O'Connor-Shaver of Columbus Top Dogs.

Among the Lancaster County kennels which have listed dogs with the auction are: Glenwood Kennel in Ephrata, Gold Kennels and School Lane Kennel in Gap, R.E.Z Kennels and Conestoga Kennel in New Holland, James S. Zimmerman Kennel in Ephrata, Myer Kennels Inc. in Lititz, John S. Fisher Kennel and S & R Kennel in Gordonville, Nolt Kennel in East Earl.

Also listed selling dogs is Scarlet-Maple Kennel in Ronks. Its owner, Daniel Esh, had his kennel license revoked by the state after repeated unsatisfactory inspections.

A number of the other kennel operators selling dogs at auction have been convicted of violations of the state dog law which would make them ineligible for a waiver to extend construction time for the improved kennels. An attorney who represented commercial kennel operators in their unsuccessful federal lawsuit to stop the law from being implemented, predicted it could take hundreds of thousands of dollars to meet the new standards. But activists point out that breeders are part of a multi-million industry and should be able to handle the costs of compliance. 

Banned in Pennsylvania, dog auctions have taken off in Ohio's dog breeding capital, Holmes County, which is also home to one of the largest Amish populations in the country. Shaver and others - who have witnessed the mistreatment of dogs at auctions where some sickly animals sell for as little as $1 - are waging a ballot referendum initiative and advocating for legislative action to make dog auctions illegal in Ohio.

The video below, produced by the Humane Society of the United States, takes a close-up look at dog auctions.