The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 29, 2013

Measure to regulate ‘puppy mills’ gets moved over to a subcommittee

CHARLESTON — A years-long effort to register, license and regulate “puppy mills” so dogs are kept in a clean and safe environment took a surprise detour Thursday, dimming, but not totally dashing, its chance of approval in this session.

After an attorney outlined the goals of SB437 and one question was asked about it, Senate Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, shipped it off to a subcommittee.

With two weeks left in the session, its chances for passage undeniably were lowered.

Even so, Summer Wyatt, the state director of the Humane Society of the United States, maintained her resolve to get the measure to the Senate floor.

Wyatt was visibly stunned by the unexpected turn of events but said she isn’t giving up hope for passage.

“I don’t understand any reservations toward the bill,” she said.

“I don’t understand the opposition, why things are happening the way they are.”

Wyatt invited anyone who has a problem or question to contact her to get any issues resolved.

“We would really like to work with anyone not agreeing with this legislation wholeheartedly,” she said.

“We’ve done so in the past.”

As outlined to the committee, the proposed law would cover anyone who keeps 11 or more unsterilized dogs over one year of age for sale as pets. No breeder could have more than 50 canines at any time.

Excluded from its provisions would be dogs raised for hunting, tracking or exhibiting in dog shows, obedience, and greyhound kennels registered with the State Racing Commission.

Two classes would be created: Class 1, for 11 to 30 dogs, with a fee of $250, and Class II, between 30 and 50 dogs, with an annual fee of $500.

Fees collected by county commissions would be dedicated to animal rescue and spay-neuter programs. All breeding facilities would be inspected twice a year. Any violation would be a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000.

A committee attorney confirmed for Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, that any kennel with more than 50 dogs would be in violation.

“No matter what the conditions are?” he asked. “No matter how good they do this?”

Earlier, the Senate Finance Committee agreed on two other bills involving animals.

One creates a spay/neuter fund fed by donations from pet food producers. The other seeks to register “dangerous animals,” that is, those that aren’t indigenous to West Virginia.

Serving on the dog breeder subcommittee are Sens. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, Chris Walters, R-Putnam, and Bob Williams, D-Taylor.

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