AUGUSTA, Maine — Several months of intense discussion and debate have produced what dog breeders are describing as imperfect legislation regarding breeding kennels, but a major step in the right direction.
A task force created earlier this year to refine breeding and kennel regulations and definitions completed its work earlier this month and Animal Welfare Division Director Norma Worley is preparing draft legislation to go before the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. Her deadline is Jan. 15.
Jay Kitchener, who represented the Federation of Maine Dog Clubs on the task force, said the group had opposed legislation that would define breeding kennels solely by the number of dogs. FMDC had preferred to have the definitions linked to a kennel’s purpose.
But the process the task force went through, Kitchener said, allowed Maine breeders to have a seat at the table and a voice in the process. FMDC represents 22 diverse dog clubs in Maine and hundreds of responsible breeders.
“Although we were not successful in getting the language we want at this time, the Federation of Maine Dog Clubs was very successful in having our voices heard,” Kitchener said. “FMDC has achieved tremendous credibility in the state capital. We are now regarded as a serious and credible organization that is the true expert on responsible dog ownership and breeding. When you consider that only one year ago, no one in Augusta had even heard of FMDC, this is a great accomplishment.”
The task force was prompted by LD 2010, submitted in last year’s legislative session, which was proposed in the wake of major “puppy mill” seizures. The original legislation was deemed too sweeping and sent to a task force for refinement.
Worley said earlier this fall that seizures at puppy mills in Maine had put her division $600,000 in the hole. In a recent published interview with Downeast Magazine, however, Worley changed her stance and called the cases she had defined as “puppy mills” cases of hoarding, a mental health issue.
Following the task force’s work, Worley said, she will submit a minority report to the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, noting the opposition to kennel definitions based on numbers of animals.
Kitchener said he was relieved that a last-minute effort, launched by Katie Lisnik of the Humane Society of the United States, that would have prohibited anyone in Maine from owning more than 50 dogs, was rejected by the task force.
“This language would have negatively impacted the sled dog enthusiasts, and suffice it to say that the opposition to this proposed language was fierce,” Kitchener said.
Key details of the proposed legislation are:
• Animal control officers no longer would need to obtain a search warrant from a judge to enter private property and inspect kennels or dogs, or to seize dogs that they feel are being kept in violation of regulations.
• License fees for each intact (unspayed or unneutered) dog will be raised from $11 to $20, and fees for sterilized dogs will be raised from $6 to $10.
• Anyone who keeps five or more dogs for the purpose of “breeding, hunting, show, training, field trials, mushing or exhibition purposes” will be required to get a kennel license. The fee for each kennel license would be increased from $42 to $75. The license will cover up to 10 dogs, and additional licenses would be needed for each additional 10 dogs.
• Boarding and training kennel licenses will be increased from $75 to $150 a year. This requirement would include dog day care facilities.
• Pet shop licenses will increase from $150 to $250.
• License revocations require only an administrative hearing, rather than court review.