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Old 02-23-2011, 01:19 AM
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Default From AKC: New Texas Bills Unfair to Responsible Owners and Breeders

From:
American Kennel Club - New Texas Bills Unfair to Responsible Owners and Breeders

[Monday, February 21, 2011]

Two bill of concern have been introduced in the Texas State Legislature and AKC encourages Texas residents to begin educating their legislators about the unintended consequences of these measures.

House Bill 998 will require that anyone who owns an intact male dog over 20 pounds that is EVER off the owners property unleashed or not in a "secure enclosure" purchase $100,000 in liability insurance. House Bill 1451 will define and regulate "commercial" breeders of dogs and cats. The bill has low thresholds, requires inspections of private property without any proof of animal neglect or cruelty, and breeders will be charged unspecified fees for their license.

Both these bills are costly, ineffective and do not improve the health and quality of life for Texas dogs. They will place financial burdens on responsible owners and breeders at a time when many Texans are struggling to pay their bills. Additional specifics about HB 998 and HB 1451 can be found below.

The American Kennel Club strongly supports humane treatment of dogs, including an adequate and nutritious diet, clean water, clean living conditions, regular veterinary care, kind and responsive human companionship, and training in appropriate behavior. The AKC also supports reasonable and enforceable laws that protect the welfare and health of purebred dogs and do not restrict the rights of breeders and owners who take their responsibilities seriously.

What You Can Do
Responsible owners and breeders in Texas are encouraged to call their representatives and ask them to oppose these measures. To find out who represents you in the state legislature, click here.

House Bill 998
HB 998 requires that all intact male dogs over 20 pounds be kept in a secure enclosure, a term that is generally associated with requirements for dogs that have been deemed dangerous. In many jurisdictions a simple backyard fence will not suffice. Further, it is unclear if a homeowner’s policy will be sufficient proof of insurance. Separate liability policies are expensive and hard to find. Furthermore, the bill assumes that any unneutered male dog is a problem – an unfair and unrealistic conclusion.

This measure will negatively impact sportsmen, ranchers and farmers. This burden will also fall on those who train and compete with their animals in events such as obedience, rally, agility and field trials. The bill does not provide exemptions for service or assistance animals. In short, HB 998 is a vague solution in search of a problem which will create a financial burden on responsible owners and will not improve public safety. AKC supports reasonable dangerous dog laws such as those that address specific and measureable criteria by which a dog is determined to be dangerous.

House Bill 1451
HB 1451 defines a commercial breeder as anyone who owns eleven intact female animals (dogs and cats) and is engaged in the business of breeding animals for direct or indirect sale. This would include a breeder who sells even one dog or litter per year!

Additional provisions of the bill include:

* Requires an annual unannounced inspection of a breeder’s property. The low thresholds in the bill mean that small breeders will be included, many of whom may not have regular business hours. It is unclear what would happen if an inspector arrived and the owner was unavailable.

* Inspections can be conducted by third-party designees, including local animal control officers and contract employees. Although the bill says the state "may" provide training to these inspectors, it does not mandate it. This creates the possibility that rules may not be equitably applied and that some inspectors may have little to no experience in animal husbandry.

* Fees are not specified in the bill although the measure says they should cover the cost of establishing an inspections program, possible training for inspectors, and paying for the time and travel necessary to conduct inspections. It is possible that a tiered licensing schedule will be established based on the number of dogs owned, but the cost is likely to be excessive for someone who breeds only a few litters per year.

* The bill will limit breeders to 50 intact females unless the breeder submits a special application and complies with any additional requirements to be developed later in the regulation process.

* Requires breeders to undergo a criminal background check. AKC believes that it is appropriate to ensure that licenses are not provided to those who have animal cruelty violations, but that including unrelated offenses that have no bearing on the fitness of a dog breeder is unreasonable. This will also be an additional financial burden on the applicant who will likely bear the cost of the background check.

* Establishes a public database of licensees and disciplinary actions. The thresholds in this bill are so low as to include many breeders who breed in their homes. It is unreasonable for a small breeder to be required to post their name, address and other personal information on a public registry.

* Establishes the "Commercial Breeder Enforcement Enhancement & Training Fund" which may offer rewards for information leading to disciplinary action. This incentivizes frivolous reports of insignificant violations and will create a burden for inspectors and for the breeders who must fund the program. The bill does not address who pays the costs if a breeder is found innocent of allegations.

* Regulations would be written and enforced by the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation. AKC is concerned that none of the commissioners has a background in agriculture or animal husbandry. We believe that it is vital that stakeholders, including responsible breeders, be involved in the drafting of regulations governing responsible animal ownership and breeding.
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