Addendum to the article published today: To submit comments to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission regarding the proposed Canine Health Board regulation, email CHBComments@state.pa.us. To view the proposed regulations and to see the comments already submitted click here.
Tougher dog rules raise hackles of group that had input
By Amy Worden
Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG - In a last-minute effort to pass the state's dog law last year, lawmakers included the creation of an all-veterinarian health board to mollify the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association.
The PVMA, which represents 1,900 veterinarians, argued that the legislature was not qualified to set standards for commercial kennels.
In 2006, Gov. Rendell proposed toughening the state law governing about 2,000 licensed kennels after reports of mistreatment of animals and poor conditions at substandard kennels, or "puppy mills."
The bill, signed by Rendell last October, called for a nine-member Canine Health Board to draft broad regulations governing temperature, flooring, ventilation, and lighting to improve conditions for dogs in commercial kennels.
Those regulations require an extensive review by agencies and the legislature that could last up to two years.
The major provisions of the dog law, which bans cage stacking and wire flooring and requires larger cases, exercise, and semiannual veterinary care, went into effect last week.
But at a public review hearing held Friday by the Department of Agriculture, the scope of the proposed regulations generated surprising criticism from the PVMA, which has an appointee to the board and board members among its membership.
Robert Lavan, chairman of the PVMA's governmental and regulatory committee, said the regulations lacked "scientific basis" and go beyond "the limited scope of the board's authority."
Lavan also said they would increase costs for breeders and the price of puppies.
His testimony stunned one board member, who called it "completely uninformed."
"These are the most complete set of regulations for pet dogs ever written," said Karen Overall, a research associate in neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, appointed to the board by Rendell. "The PVMA's legislative committee has stepped over the line and turned into lobbyists for dog breeders."
Lavan said after the hearing that he did not oppose the board per se, but had issues with its administration and a lack of consultation with commercial kennel owners. He also said there was "dissent" among the board members.
Overall said that while there was some disagreement over certain aspects of the regulations, the differences had been worked out, and that the full document had won unanimous approval.
The regulations are based on model building design and mechanical standards and were drafted in consultation with experts, and a lawyer, to meet the requirements of Attorney General Tom Corbett, Overall said.
Each of the four legislative caucuses, the PVMA, and Penn's Veterinary Medical School appointed members of the board. Rendell appointed three members.
The Professional Dog Breeders Association, which uses the same lobbying firm as the PVMA, also opposed the regulations, calling them "excessive."
Several animal-welfare groups, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; DogPac, a political action committee in Philadelphia; and United Against Puppy Mills, of Lancaster, testified in support of the regulations.
Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or firstname.lastname@example.org