Of the over 800 animal policy bills introduced in state legislatures this year, none were arguably more prominent – or controversial – than the so-called “breeder bills”. These 41 bills were introduced in 25 different states and sought to place strong restrictions on breeding practices, standards of care, and even caps on animal ownership. A majority also allowed for unannounced, warrantless inspections of a breeder’s personal home and property without probable cause while doing little or nothing to protect the safety of dogs or their well-being.
While these problematic bills have received much attention in 2009, they have met with little success. The AKC Government Relations Department assisted the efforts of thousands of fanciers and breeders nationwide to defeat or amend these bills. This collaborated effort has resulted in successfully amending or defeating 95 percent of these breeder bills so far this year.
On the surface these bills appear to many in the general public to be a good idea. Anyone who hears a story or sees a picture of dogs being mistreated wants to help and to see their owners held accountable. The AKC takes a very strong position on this issue. The standard penalty for anyone convicted of animal cruelty is a fine and a 10-year suspension of all AKC privileges.
Most of the bills we have seen this year, however, do not help the dogs kept in deplorable conditions. Many of the care standards mandated in this type of legislation, including specific breeding ages and kennel temperatures, do not take into account the difference in types of dogs or the fact that one unenforceable formula for all dogs won’t work. Arbitrary enclosure sizes are also problematic. For example, one bill provided a formula that determined crate size based on weight. It is conceivable for someone to have a tall dog that, based on the weight requirements set out in the bill could legally be kept in a crate that is too short (For example, the enclosure requirement for a 60-pound Bulldog should be different than that of a 60-pound English Setter).
Much of the breeder legislation introduced this year also placed caps, or limits, on animal ownership. Like other arbitrary standards of care, these limits do not help protect dogs. Limiting the number of dogs an irresponsible dog owner may possess will not automatically make him a better owner. These limits only infringe on the property rights of responsible owners who take excellent care of their dogs.
A balance must be created between ensuring the health and welfare of dogs and protecting the rights of responsible dog breeders. The majority of bills introduced in state legislatures did neither. When possible, the AKC worked with otherwise reasonable bills to educate legislators and to amend legislation to stay true to the legislative intent while addressing our concerns. When this was not an option, the AKC joined local clubs and breeders to defeat the problematic bills. We are pleased to have had considerable success on both fronts this year.
The AKC loves dogs and wants to see them cared for in healthy, safe, and loving environments. We also value responsible owners and breeders and detest seeing their rights violated simply because they breed dogs. Responsible breeders are an important asset and educational resource in our communities. They should not be treated as criminals or lose their right to due process simply because they choose to breed dogs. Instead of limits, unenforceable and arbitrary requirements, and warrantless inspections, the AKC advocates for improving the enactment and enforcement of animal cruelty and neglect laws. This will address those who are mistreating their animals without placing arbitrary limitations on responsible, law-abiding citizens.Tell your legislators you support reasonable breeder legislation! Download our printable one-page flier that details AKC’s position on breeder bills.