AUGUSTA, Maine — The 20-page report on changes to the state’s regulations for breeding dogs and cats is ready for review by the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, and the state’s animal welfare director is calling it “a great beginning.”
Some of the details of the report are: a recommendation to hire more investigators under the Animal Welfare Program; a new definition of breeding kennel to include small breeder (five to 10 intact females); medium breeder (11-20 intact females); and large breeder (21 dogs or more), along with new licensing fees; and a restriction on the number of dogs any kennel may keep.
Although this was not a final recommendation, animal welfare director Norma Worley included it in the report, explaining, “We feel it important to limit the number of intact adult animals a facility can keep. Having a limit of 50 dogs or less would have caught every recent dog neglect case at a much earlier stage, therefore sparing hundreds of animals’ needless suffering and saving the Animal Welfare Program hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is a very rare kennel that can adequately care for more than 50 adult dogs, providing them with needed medical care, exercise and mental stimulation.”
In much stronger language, Worley added, “These large, factory-style puppy mills have no place in Maine.”
One of the first matters agreed upon by the working group, according to LD 2010’s executive summary, is the lack of enough district humane agents in the Animal Welfare Program. Six full-time investigators now handle 1,000 cruelty complaints a year and the inspection of more than 500 licensed facilities. Worley said the program is forced to be reactive, rather than proactive, and unable to use education as a tool to prevent future animal abuse.
“The first recommendation, the need of additional AWP staff, is critical based on the yearly increase of abuse-neglect complaints we are receiving plus the addition of new kennels,” Worley said.
The task force began its work last summer after the committee determined that LD 2010, introduced by Rep. Benjamin Pratt, needed more research. The group charged the commissioner of agriculture, in consultation with the working group, to review:
ä Existing statutory and regulatory provisions pertaining to the breeding and sale of dogs and cats, including definitions.
ä Criteria and availability of documentation to determine when a kennel or breeding kennel license is required.
ä Statutes relating to inspection and licensing authority in order to strengthen current authority of both municipal animal control officers and state humane agents to carry out statutory duties under state animal welfare laws and rules.
Those represented on the working group included Department of Agriculture officials, veterinarians, animal control officers, and representatives of the Maine Veterinary Medical Association, the Maine Federation of Humane Societies, the Animal Welfare Advisory Council, the Maine Federation of Dog Clubs, the U.S. Humane Society and the Down East Sled Dog Club, as well as people representing dog breeding kennels and catteries.
The final recommendations of the working group are that:
ä The Agriculture Department research funding options to increase the number of full-time district humane agents and supporting staff, as needed.
ä The definition of a breeding kennel be based on the number of female intact dogs, wolf hybrids or female intact cats rather than just five intact animals.
ä A new fee schedule for breeding kennels be established based on the total number of intact female animals: small kennel, $75; medium kennel, $250; and large kennel, $500.
ä A reinspection fee be established for kennels that consistently fail site inspections.
ä The word “vendor” be included throughout state law along with the term “seller,” and the Agriculture Department have the ability to suspend or revoke a breeding kennel license, pending an administrative hearing. A vendor would be someone who offers for sale, sells or exchanges for value more than one dog or cat under 6 months of age.
ä The Agriculture Department evaluate the current rules concerning all kennels and pet shops in order to strengthen the current authority of state humane agents and animal control officers to carry out their duties.
The proposal also clarifies details surrounding the sale of dogs and cats, such as breeding documentation, health issues, contracts and quality assurances.
“The working group is also aware that these proposed changes and additions to current statute will have broad implications and opposition,” Worley admitted, but added that “the recommendations within this report have the majority support of the working group.”
No date has been set for discussion of the report by the Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation Committee.