Rendell names Pittsburgh vet to health board amid flooring fracas

Gov. Rendell has named a Pittsburgh veterinarian with a specialty in holistic medicine to the state board charged with setting climate, flooring and lighting standards in commercial dog kennels.

Gwendolen Reyes-Illg, who practices at VCA Castle Shannon, joins the nine-member Canine Health Board amid a fierce debate over what constitutes humane flooring for dogs that spend their lives in cages.

Reyes-Illg replaces Bryan Langlois, staff veterinarian with the Humane League of Lancaster County, who was one of Rendell's original three appointees to the board in 2008.

Rendell suddenly removed Langlois earlier this month, midway through his three-year term, as advocates turned up the volume on their campaign to prevent paw-damaging wire flooring in kennels.

A source familiar with the board said the governor was seeking an individual who he was "confident would have a similar interpretation of flooring under the law" as his own. "Frankly, the governor wasn't sure what Langlois' interpretation was," the source said.

The law states solid or slatted flooring is acceptable in commercial kennels but left open the ability of the Canine Health Board to consider alternative flooring. At issue was whether Tenderfoot flooring - originally designed for hogs and being promoted by breeders and others - would be considered appropriate.

Many animal welfare advocates view the plastic-coated woven wire as little - if any - improvement over the current wire cage flooring that thousands of breeding dogs must endure for years.

The board was supposed to meet this week, but the meeting was cancelled because of the vacancy. A new date has yet to be set.

Reyes-Illg received her veterinary degree from the University of Florida and is a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. She also has done volunteer work at two primate sanctuaries in Africa.

The bipartisan, all-veterinarian board was created as a result of the 2008 dog law. Its members include three gubernatorial appointees, one each from the four legislative caucuses and one each from Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.