Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Puppy Mill Regulation in Iowa Tightening

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Iowa is one step closer to tightening regulation of puppy mills, in a bill approved Wednesday by the House.

Iowa would pick up the responsibility to inspect roughly 450 breeders who currently are inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under House File 2280.

Advocates say the bill would save millions of dogs from cruelty at the hands of irresponsible breeders who have little oversight.

Opponents argue that the federal government has failed in its responsibilities and that that failure will cost innocent Iowa operations - such as nonprofit pounds and animal shelters - new $75 fees.

In total, the bill would cost Iowa businesses $335,000 a year, mostly in new license fees. It also would require the state to hire five new inspectors.

"Yes, I love dogs, and yes, I care about whether or not they're getting the proper care, but there needs to be more work put into this bill," said Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant. "The way it sits right now, I can't support it."

Advocacy groups such as the Iowa Voters for Companion Animals have lobbied for several years to tighten regulation of some Iowa breeding facilities. Documentation in video and public records on the group's Web site show emotional scenes, such as a dog that grew permanently deformed because she lived too long in a small cage.
"We have an epidemic," said Rep. Mark Kuhn, D-Charles City, whose wife rescues dogs from puppy mills. "There's an overpopulation of these animals. If we are concerned about the humane treatment of these animals, it's imperative that we pass this legislation."

A 10-member study committee of Democratic and Republican lawmakers voted unanimously in September to recommend that the 2010 Legislature authorize state inspectors to begin inspecting federally licensed dog breeders when they get complaints.
Committee members said their appeals to U.S. regulators largely are ignored.

The bill passed, 77-22, and heads to the Senate for further consideration.

"Saving one animal will not change the world, but it will change the world for that animal," said Rep. Jim Lykam, D-Davenport, who led discussion on the bill.

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