WJTV News Channel 12 - Puppy mill bill passes House with overwhelming support

Puppy mill bill passes House with overwhelming support

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North Carolina first lady Ann McCrory watches as representatives pass a bill regulating commercial breeders. (Michael Barnard, WNCN) North Carolina first lady Ann McCrory watches as representatives pass a bill regulating commercial breeders. (Michael Barnard, WNCN)
House Bill 930, introduced last month, establishes standards by which commercial breeders must operate. House Bill 930, introduced last month, establishes standards by which commercial breeders must operate.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

As the state's first lady watched from the Gallery above, a bill regulating commercial breeders passed the House Thursday with 100 representatives showing support for the legislation.

House Bill 930 passed the House with a vote of 100-15, and will now move to the Senate. The bill, introduced last month, establishes standards by which commercial breeders must operate.

Similar bills have failed in the General Assembly in the past, but this time the legislation has the support of first lady Ann McCrory. McCrory said passing legislation regulating commercial breeders "is very important to me, and the people across our state."

"I hope you and other members of the General Assembly will continue to advocate for this bill," McCrory wrote in a letter addressed to the House Judiciary B Committee members. "These policies increase our quality of life in North Carolina and ensure better care for dogs across the state."

Following the vote, the chamber gave McCrory a standing ovation and thanked her for her support. The advocacy marked her first foray into public political advocacy in state government.

"I applaud the House for passing House Bill 930 with resounding support," McCrory said in a statement. "This legislation is a very important step in establishing basic standards of care for large commercial dog breeding facilities and helps ensure all dogs are treated humanely.

"I'm grateful for the leadership of the House in passing this bill and encourage the Senate to follow their lead to ensure the health and safety of all dogs in our state."

Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), who co-sponsored the bill, called the legislation "reasonable," adding, "I am pleased with the outcome."

"I look forward to working with members of the Senate to see this common sense piece of legislation move forward," Saine said.

The American Humane Society reports as many as 300 so-called puppy mills could be operating in North Carolina. But keeping track of those breeders has been a big problem, especially when it comes to the condition of those facilities.

"We have no regulations for people who sell dogs to the general public," said Kim Alboum, state Carolina director of the Humane Society of the United States. "So North Carolina has become a haven for people that don't want to follow rules; for unscrupulous breeders who run what we call puppy mills."

In defining a commercial breeder, H.B. 930 says, "Any person who owns, has custody of, or maintains 10 or more female dogs over the age of six months that are capable of reproduction and kept primarily for the purpose of breeding and selling the offspring as pets."

[PDF] House Bill 930

The breeder must provide the animals with daily exercise, access to fresh food and water, appropriate veterinary care and a well-maintained enclosure that protects them from the elements.

The breeder must also provide the animals with food "at appropriate intervals to maintain a healthy weight" and "preventative care sufficient to keep dogs free from internal and external parasites."

"If passed, this legislation will help thousands of dogs living in commercial breeding facilities, and I am proud of our sponsors and supporters for their efforts to relieve suffering for so many animals in our state," Alboum said.

For the last four years, advocates have been trying to get laws passed to regulate commercial breeders, but the bills go down to defeat.

"Special interest groups such as the Farm Bureau and the Pork Council are against having standards in place for companion animals," Alboum said.

In 2009, Senate Bill 460 passed the Senate, but later languished in the House and died in the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations.

Opponents of previous legislation took issue with some of the bill's language relating to agriculture as a whole. Senate President Pro-Temp Phil Berger, for one, said the wording was too vague.

"Was there pressure from those groups? I don't know if there was pressure, but there were questions that were asked," Berger said.  "Does that have some unintended consequence on our pork industry ... other industries that are very important to North Carolina?"

Animal advocates hope they've addressed those concerns, tailoring the language so it has a better chance of passing.

"Our sponsors have been working with all the interested parties, and we hope this bill is a compromise for everyone that will not only protect animas but make all parties happy," Alboum said.

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