Rendell bounces vet from canine board

Just days before what was expected to be a contentious meeting of the Canine Health Board, came word that one of Gov. Rendell's three appointees was "no longer on the board" and that the board's April 27 meeting had been cancelled.

In an email Friday, the Department of Agriculture announced without explanation that Bryan Langlois, the staff veterinarian at the Humane League of Lancaster County, had left the board.

The board, created under the revised dog law in 2008, is charged with developing temperature, lighting and ventilation standards for commercial kennels and considering options for kennel flooring.

Neither the governor's office nor board chairwoman, Philadelphia veterinarian Jennifer Muller, would discuss the reason for Langlois' removal midway through his three-year term. 

The news came shortly before the board was to consider alternatives to solid or slatted flooring in commercial kennels and just six days after a vigil at Rendell's Philadelphia house urging him to demand his appointees not allow any type of wire flooring alternatives.

In an email response from Rendell's spokesman Gary Tuma said, "the Governor has wanted to appoint someone else to the board and needed to open up a slot. He did so by removing a current member."

But in a subsequent email, Tuma said the governor has not yet chosen a replacement.

At issue before the board are proposals for alternative flooring for commercial kennels, most of which used wire flooring to house breeding dogs and puppies, because of the ease of cleaning. The wire is required to be coated with plastic, but kennel inspection reports note frequently that the coating has worn off, exposing dogs to painful raw wire. Subjecting dogs to years of standing on wire has shown to cause injuries and cysts to their soft pads and makes walking on solid ground difficult.

Among the controversial recommendations under consideration by the board is Tenderfoot, a plastic-coated woven wire flooring product developed for hogs and calves. The product's web site says it offers a flooring for dogs with smaller openings.

But canine behavior experts, like Philadelphia-area trainer Mary Remer, a member of the governor's Dog Law Advisory Board, said Tenderfoot was developed for hooved animals and that the size of the openings does not provide the solid support needed for a dog to feel secure.

The nine-member Canine Health Board was created as part of legislative negotiations over kennel climate and lighting standards proposed under the revised dog law bill. The bill's passage was stalled by the objections of veterinarians, farm groups and breeders over language toughening those requirements for commercial kennel owners. 

As a result, the all-veterinarian board was formed to develop technical regulations on temperature, ventilation and lighting in commercial kennels. Their draft proposal announced last year is still under review and has drawn criticism from the very entities that demanded the board be created as burdensome and too costly to implement. 

The bipartisan board is comprised of three gubernatorial appointees, one from each of the four legislative caucuses and one each from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association.