Saturday, March 26, 2011

Busy Bees in the "Beehive State"

Dateline: December, 2010.

A notice is sent out from the AKC legislation department. It seems that Salt Lake County, Utah, is proposing numerous regulations for dog breeders. The most problematic concerns were:

              Definition of "Volume Dog Breeder"As currently written, a "volume dog breeder" is anyone who whelps more than one litter of dogs in a 12-month period. Anyone who falls under this       definition must be licensed and inspected each year.
       Unannounced Inspections – The proposal requires an annual inspection, but also allows inspections "upon receipt of a complaint or on [the division's] own motion." This allows arbitrary inspections at any time during business hours at the discretion of the county's Animal Services Division. There is no requirement that complaints be substantiated prior to inspection.

·        Problematic Standards of CareAll dogs must be provided constant and unfettered access to an indoor enclosure with solid floors. There are no exceptions for other types of safe, sanitary flooring. 

Concerned dog owners attend the hearings. Sady, the measure passes.....but wait! The story has not ended.

Fast forward to March, 2011.

I receive a note from a friend in Salt Lake County. Seems the locals have taken matters into their own hands. Generally, this is appropriate and necessary action to address draconian legislation when it is proposed in your area.  A group of dog people, including kennel club officials and judges, have worked with the county animal services department to help revise this ordinance. It will be presented Tuesday, March 29th, for a second reading and possible final vote. If approved, it will take effect within 15 days. You can find the text of the proposed ordinance here:

The proposal requires EVERY BREEDER to be licensed and inspected annually. More inclusive than what was originally proposed. One change for the better; the inspections cannot be unannounced. Otherwise, this isn't really anything that could be considered an improvement from the original proposal.

You can register as a breeder up to a week after the litter is born, but what if you are denied the breeding permit? What then? At the mercy of the AC? What exactly is involved with the inspection? There are no guidelines in the ordinance for said I guess it's whatever the AC people at the time decide it is. Maybe cobwebs in the corner will be a reason to deny? Crumbs about from the food dishes? Who knows?

Breeders who belong to a breed club with an ENFORCED code of ethics can obtain a free five-year license. How can clubs force adherence to a code of ethics? Per AKC, they can't. Codes of ethics are unenforceable; they are GUIDELINES. But, if the club doesn't figure out a way, they will not be allowed to participate for two years, leaving all the members out of the special free breeding license program. They must have derived this idea of the enforced code of ethics from the LA ordinance. LA, years later, still hasn't yet figured out how to handle that issue.

The breeding license is free for a club member, but how much is this breeding license for those who do not belong to a club? What about dogs raised for service, or for farm work, or for hunting, or the many other reasons people breed dogs other than as a conformation show hobby?

To qualify for the free five-year license, you must follow the breed-specific recommendations for health testing. So now all these "guidelines" that we as breeders have set up for ourselves as goals for best practice are going to be enshrined in the law? So if you breed a bitch or dog with less than perfect health scores, but perhaps other wonderful qualities where does that leave you? Up that proverbial creek without a paddle. Few dogs have absolutely perfect health, but testing is recommended to try to work toward improvement. Certainly, testing is not any ironclad guarantee of absence of genetic health problems. These are not widgets we are producing, they are living, breathing creatures with unpredictable genetic recombination and many imperfections.

A breeder MUST take back a dog at any time during its lifetime? Yes, most do, but why should it be written up as a law? What if your circumstances change and you cannot take back a dog or find it a new home, what then? Why is it deemed a seller's job to find a new home when the new owner decides he is tired of the dog, or is getting a divorce, or someone is allergic, or the dog is injured and needs expensive surgery, or a myriad of other troublesome scenarios?

"Appropriate preventative and therapeutic veterinary care is provided". Who decides what that means? All on a whim, no doubt, depending on whether or not you are liked or disliked by the powers that be...

"Prompt treatment of any injury or illness by a licensed veterinarian"? Vague, and open to prosecution for crazy stuff like teeth that need cleaning, or any minor injury like a cut or scrape. These cases are already happening........a breeder in Virginia recently had her dogs confiscated because some needed their teeth cleaned!!!

A disaster response and recovery plan is needed, "including, but not limited to, structural damage, electrical outages and other critical system failures." Good lord, since when is an electrical outage considered a disaster? Do they require a disaster plan for people without dogs, or with children? And it sounds like it will take a lot of effort to get it written up. Again, another needless but intentional roadblock to breeding.

"Constant and unfettered access to an indoor area that has a solid floor". Gosh, the exact same requirement that we objected to in the original ordinance. Still there! Hey, can I put my dogs out for exercise in the yard and close the door? Legally, guess not!

Shawni Larrabee, director of Animal Services for Salt Lake County, sent an email to the President of the local kennel club, in which she claims that they are copying the Calgary model. She informs him that she has three other ordinances in store for Salt Lake County. "These changes would require cat licensing, increase the penalty for repeat noncompliance and eliminate pet limits in unincorporated county." I'm not sure what sort of "noncompliance" she is referring to. Elimination of limits, always a good thing.

Yes, increased licensing compliance is part of the Calgary model. Annual inspections, no. Bill Bruce says that once the owners license their dogs (and now cats) he doesn't care how many they have or what they do with them, because Calgary has plenty of ordinances to deal with those that don't take care of their animals. 

But really, how shocking is this whole proposal. Home 'inspections' for ONE LITTER.. people bartering away their rights to freedom and privacy, and for what? Because they DARE to breed their dog? Absolutely appalling!

"Portion of a residence used as enclosure"?   What does that mean.. it means.. anywhere the dog has access to within your home is open to inspection. So now your home is subject to "inspection by the authorities".....No probable cause or warrant required!

This ordinance should be struck down. No private residence should be open for inspection because of a litter of puppies.. ( or kittens??)  Do they inspect your home when you bring a child from the hospital.. if you have a home birth.. anyone???

BRRR... First, LA County, and now Salt Lake? What is happening to our freedoms? 
I beg those of you who live in Salt Lake County to attend the hearing and ask for the defeat of this ordinance!


  1. I believe that a breeder is responsible for the lifetime of any dog/cat they decide to produce. They made the choice to bring the animal to life and therefore they should have to take care of it if circumstances deem that the animal loses it's home.

  2. There are so many things wrong with Salt Lake
    County's proposals for regulating breeders that
    I don't know if a comment will allow enough
    space to...well, comment. However, I do want to
    respond to Liz Huffman's insistence that a breeder MUST take back a dog if that dog loses
    his or her home.

    As Starbreeze states, the fact that most breeders actually do take back dogs of their breeding who lose their homes does not mean such
    a practice should or needs to be a law. There
    might well be other satisfactory options for the
    dog besides a rigid requirement that a breeder
    takes back that dog. What if her town imposed
    pet limits since she bred that dog? What is
    she herself had to move due to family demands,
    illness, economic reversals etc. and literally
    has no room for another dog?

    Why shouldn't the breeder have the option of working with the dog's owner and the owner's
    family or even friends to find that dog a new
    good home. Why does it need to be the breeder's
    home, especially if the breeder is taking an
    active role in rehoming that dog.

    What if the breeder has died or is terminally
    or chronically ill? Would such a law impose
    the responsibility for that dog on her spouse
    or children?

    Full disclosure. I did have a dog come back
    to me four years after I sold her as a puppy.
    I was delighted to have her back, but had I
    been unable to take her back, I would have had
    no problem helping to find her a good new home.

  3. One more point I forgot about rehoming dogs...I
    sometimes wonder if we make it too easy for people to give up their dogs. If you know your dog's breeder will take back your dog, would you be so motivated to resolve that dog's problems or
    would you send the dog back to the breeder at the first sign of trouble? If you know you can dump a dog with worms or something else that will
    cost you some money at a local shelter, will you
    make the effort to find money to pay the vet to
    treat your dog, or will you dump the dog at the

    All these laws hedged around breeding do not protect the dogs one bit, but instead attack
    breeders, and coddle OWNERS as if dog owners
    were preschool children who needed full protection from nasty breeders. Duh. No one
    protects buyers of used cars from used car lot
    salesmen, the most aggressive breed of hucksters
    out there. Why can't buyers of dogs learn something about the product just as they do
    when buying anything else, before actually
    consummating the sale?

  4. How can I count the ways in which these proposed bills are dead wrong? More than
    one litter per year defines a high-volume breeder? Duh? What if the typical small-breed
    breeder produces two puppies per litter in two litters in one year? This makes her
    a high-volume breeder? What if a breeder of any size breed produces singleton puppies
    in two breedings in one year? That makes her a high-volume breeder?

    Inspections with no evidence of probable cause at times when the owners of the
    home or kennel are at work. At the least, if inspections are scheduled, people can
    arrange to be home from their jobs, maybe. And in a so-called improved version of the
    law, everyone who breeds even ONE litter must register as a breeder and be subject
    to announced inspections. As Starbreeze noted, do inspectors inspect people's homes
    when they bring back from hospital their newborn children?

    What is a solid floor? Cement that scrapes tender puppy bellies? Tile that puppies and/or old
    dogs slip on and break their legs? Dogs have survived for millennia moving around on turf. Why
    can't they run around on grass or dirt or mulch (other than cocoa mulch)? Puppies need to
    exercise on turf, because if they're exercised only on solid floors, they go down at the hocks
    and even pull out their hip joints.

    Breeders' licensing requirements are relaxed if breeders are members of dog clubs that
    enforce their codes of ethics, but it's just impossible to enforce ethics. Dog clubs, churches,
    schools, community service organizations can TEACH ethics, but no one can force
    someone else to be ethical. Note that ethics are not necessarily the same thing as
    legalities. One can operate totally legally and still be unethical by some other people's
    standards. In other words, under the proposed Salt Lake County laws, Breeder A
    could be penalized because her respectable, responsible dog club cannot force
    Breeder B to sell her puppies to approved customers.

    Health testing isn't a bad idea at all, but it's no guarantee of totally healthy puppies.
    In my breed, the worst killer diseases are some for which there is no test at all,
    other than reviewing pedigrees and stacking the odds. As well, how a dog tests
    for, say, cardiac issues or hip dysplasia at two or three years old (prime breeding
    age) is sometimes not how that dog tests for the same things two or three years
    later. Health isn't static; it's dynamic.

    And the disaster plan? Isn't it the responsibility of the community to provide
    disaster plans?

    The main thing is that these proposed bills are a full-blown attack on dog breeders,
    do not in any way provide humane protection for dogs, and relieve prospective
    and present owners of all responsibility for their own dogs and their decisions
    to buy a dog. As well, as Starbreeze notes, the whole inspection plan is an
    invasion of privacy especially of people who breed ONE litter once in a while.

    I wish I were anywhere near Salt Lake County. I'd get out of a hospital bed to go
    to that hearing to protest those bills.