Tuesday, August 18, 2009

2008 Law Leading to Crackdown on Pennsylvania Puppy Mills

Sadly it is the Amish and Mennonites in many cases running these huge puppy mill operations. I am glad to see PA making a real effort to stop this industry from raising dogs in such horrible conditions. There are other ways of making an honest living!

Published: August 17, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — At the Almost Heaven kennel, a commercial dog breeder in Emmaus, Pa., more than 200 dogs lived in wire-floored cages and suffered from matted fur, ear infections and mange because of dirty conditions and a lack of veterinary care, according to state officials.

After reports from a former employee about inhumane conditions at the kennel, the owner, Derbe Eckhart, lost his state license. The kennel continued to operate, however, and in June, state officials shut it down and moved 218 dogs to temporary shelters.

The action represented the largest closing so far under a 2008 law intended to crack down on what critics say are cruel conditions in hundreds of commercial kennels that have given Pennsylvania a reputation as the “puppy mill” capital of the East.

In July, a kennel in Tioga County was shut down because dogs were kept in unsanitary conditions. Eighteen dogs were taken to animal-rescue centers, and the owner was cited for 57 violations of the law.

Since last December, officials have revoked or refused 11 kennel licenses, and they are in the process of revoking three more. Before the 2008 law was passed, officials had already stepped up efforts to regulate the kennels, revoking 41 licenses in 2007 and in early 2008, compared with only 3 in 2006.

The law increases minimum cage sizes, requires veterinary care and exercise periods, and bans wire flooring, all changes that take effect in October. Provisions that allowed the closing of the Emmaus kennel are already in effect.

Thousands of dogs spend their lives in small wire cages where confinement and boredom leads some to spin in circles for long periods, said Jessie L. Smith, the state’s special deputy secretary for dog law enforcement.

The dogs never exercise, are subjected to extremes of heat and cold, lack veterinary care and suffer from splayed paws as a result of having to stand on wire mesh rather than a solid floor. At some kennels, cages are stacked, causing dogs in lower cages to be covered in feces and urine from those above.

When a female dog can no longer breed, it might be given away or killed, Ms. Smith said. One breeder in Kutztown, Pa., shot 70 dogs rather than provide veterinary care for flea and horsefly bites identified by state inspectors, she said.

Pennsylvania officials estimate that 84,000 dogs and puppies are kept in kennels or sold each year, the majority of which are kept in facilities with 250 or more animals. The state has 297 licensed commercial kennels that sell or transfer at least 60 dogs a year.

Stephanie Shain, who heads an anti-puppy-mill campaign for the Humane Society of the United States, said the new law gave Pennsylvania one of the strictest dog-breeding laws in the nation. The commercial kennel industry, represented by the Professional Dog Breeders Advisory Council, has sued the State Department of Agriculture over the new law, saying it violates the interstate commerce clause of the federal Constitution by charging out-of-state operators higher fees for kennel licenses than Pennsylvania breeders.

The breeders also accuse the state of breaching the Constitution by allowing inspectors to enter breeders’ homes without probable cause and by eliminating due-process rights.

“The law is designed to put them out of business,” said Bob Yarnall Jr., a board member of the dog breeders’ advisory council.

Mr. Yarnall said the law imposed the strictest dog-breeding regulations of any state, and he predicted that 70 percent of Pennsylvania breeders would immediately shut down if the law was fully put in place because they would not be able to afford the costs of compliance.

New regulations on kennels’ air quality, for example, would require breeders to install multiple ventilation units and result in sharply higher electricity costs, Mr. Yarnall said. A court ruling is expected before October, he said.

Mr. Yarnall denied accusations of widespread abuses in Pennsylvania kennels and said any reports of cruelty could be dealt with by the effective enforcement of existing law.


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I grew up in Chautauqua County, NY. I graduated from Edinboro University of Pennyslvania in 1981 with a BFA in Jewelry and Metalworking. I have been married 31 years. I currently run a small business with my husband. We both enjoy the outdoors and animals a great deal and live on a tiny farm in Western, NY.