Pet care workers see progress in puppy mill law

For Kim McKay, any state law aimed at cracking down on unlicensed dog breeders is a positive.

But like many of those who work with animals in Central Kitsap, she thinks a new law regulating unlicensed dog breeders which took effect Friday doesn’t go far enough.

“It would be great if puppy mills didn’t even exist,” she said.

As director of community outreach for the Kitsap Humane Society, her experience with puppies from unlicensed breeders has generally been unfavorable.

They tend to be shy, as a result of living in cramped living conditions. They also tend to lack basic health necessities, such as vaccines, because the owners have too many pets to properly care for them, or simply don’t care to.

The new law, signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in May, limits to 50 the number of breeding-aged dogs a person can have.

The new law also includes new space regulations, requiring owners with 10 dogs or more to “provide space to allow each dog to turn about freely, to stand, sit and lie down.” Owners must also let the dogs aged four and above exercise for at least an hour per day. Veterinary care and proper shelters are also required by the new law.

McKay said she is not aware of any major incidents involving puppy mills in the state. One Port Orchard man was arrested in 2007 for running a potential puppy mill, but was later acquitted of two charges of second-degree animal cruelty.

Shannon Randall, owner of Farmland Pets and Food in Silverdale, said her store only accepts animals from licensed breeders because it is the only way to guarantee healthy pets for owners. She said she is skeptical whether the law could be enforced.

“There’s a lot of good intentions in the bill but I’m worried about how it can be policed,” she said. “I’m all for laws for protecting animals.”

Doyle Detroit, a volunteer for the Silverdale-based dog placement agency the Big Dog Project, also worries about enforcement because the state has no governmental agency for taking care of pets. Many cities and counties across the state have laws regulating kennels, grooming facilities and pet stores.

But, Detroit said she was glad to see the state take action.

“Anything to stop puppy mills is a good thing,” she said.

Teresa McMurrin, co-owner of the Bremerton-based animal rescue group Collar of Hope, agreed the bill represents progress, but suggested an additional tax on unlicensed dog breeders to help drive them out of business.

“It’s absolutely out of control,” she said. “Anyone who breeds dogs should be held accountable.”

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