The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 21, 2013

Time fading on 'puppy mill' bill

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

CHARLESTON — If Delegate Mike Manypenny needed more incentive to support proposed regulation of “puppy mills” in West Virginia, he found plenty of ammunition the past weekend.

Manypenny says he purchased a canine from a commercial breeder and the experience was an eye-opener.

“It was in good health, however, the owners would not allow me to meet them on their property to see the sire and the dame, or the other puppies,” Manypenny, D-Taylor, said Wednesday.

“They required me to meet them at a park. I had to bathe the dog and the dog still smelled like feces when we went to see it. That even makes me more supportive of getting this bill passed. It’s a fantastic puppy, but it had to have been in horrible condition.”

Manypenny never got to share his weekend experience before the House Agriculture Committee, which he co-chairs, since the panel ran out of time before HB2838 could be discussed.

Time is beginning to fade in this session, and that is a factor, since March 31 is the last day to get bills out of committee in the chamber of origin.

Backed by the Humane Society of the United States, the “puppy mill” bill would regulate commercial breeders by requiring a license to operate and periodic inspections to guarantee the health of dogs raised for profit.

Delegate David Walker, D-Clay, the committee chairman, wasn’t sure afterward if HB2838 would return to the agenda, although two meetings are planned next week.

“I’m going to try to keep it on the agenda, keep it alive,” he said. “But I’m not going to say we’re going to get to it or not.”

Walker said this version exempts all hunting dogs from its provisions, adding, “We’re looking at situations where you’ve got people that just own dogs in kennels and use them for breeding and no care.”

Summer Wyatt, state director of the Humane Society, said Manypenny’s experience is hardly uncommon.

In fact, she said, her organization advises potential pet owners to seek out a breeder that allows customers on their premises, if they can’t find the animal they want at a shelter.

That way, a buyer may see the parents of the dogs, their siblings and the environment in which they have been raised.

“They can look at the veterinary records and if these people are amiable, they’re friendly, and if they will let you see their breeding operation,” Wyatt said.

“A sure sign of neglect is somebody that makes you meet them at Walmart or Stop ‘N’ Go, and asks for cash and no receipt, and then drive off.”

Since such West Virginia operations aren’t regulated now, Wyatt said it isn’t possible to say how many of them are in the state.

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