Thursday, June 9, 2011

Happy Times for Wisconsin Dogs

It's been a busy time for animal welfare volunteers and staff in Wisconsin. Act 90/ATCP 16 went into effect on June 1st . This new law, called the Commercial Dog Sellers law requires everyone who sells or offers to sell 25 or more dogs per year to be licensed and regulated. It includes breeders, pet stores, flea markets, shelters and rescues. It is budget neutral.  The licensing fees collected will pay for the enforcement of the regulations. For detailed information on the new law click here.

Is it perfect? Of course not. Not many laws are.

Is it better than what we had (which was not much)? Yes. Will it shut down puppy mills? Of course not.

Will it improve conditions for the dogs living in commercial breeding facilities? Yes. And, it is also the first step in ensuring that shelters and rescues are also maintaining reasonable standards of care. It will ensure that dogs are humanely cared for with exercise and socialization requirements.We have had some very sad cases of badly run shelters and rescues in this state - most notably the Thyme and Sage Ranch case which just recently resulted in the conviction of Jennifer Petkus on six counts of animal cruelty. Jennifer Petkus held the animal control contract for Richland County at the time.

With our new law, the situation at Thyme and Sage would never have regressed to the point it did.

To those of you who think that the bill should have attempted to shut down ALL breeding operations, here's my question.   There is a demand for puppies and dogs. Do the math. There are an estimated four million cats and dogs that will be killed in shelters this year. Let's say half of those are dogs (probably a high estimate, because we know the fate of cats is worse).

So, two million dogs are killed.  But, about 17 million people will add a new pet to their family. Again, let's say half of those people want to get a  dog, 8.5 million. Even if you convinced everybody to adopt their new dog from a shelter; where would the remaining 6.5 million dogs come from?

Of course, the whining and complaining about the new law has begun. Not by everybody, most reputable shelters are happy that the law passed. They realize that the inconvenience and cost will be more than made up for by the benefits to dogs in this state.

Any of you that know me personally know that I am not a huge fan of over-regulation by the government.
But, that being said, I also worked in an unregulated industry; horse training, breeding and riding instruction;  for twenty years.  I would have gladly paid a licensing fee and welcomed inspectors with open arms to my farm if I thought it would mean that the bad actors would have been regulated. A few bad actors can ruin the reputation of an industry as a whole, and then responsible players suffer.

There aren't many businesses that don't require licensing. You have to have a license to cut hair, sell Christmas trees or run a dating service in Wisconsin. But up until now - you could be responsible for the health and lives of dogs while running a rescue, shelter or commercial dog breeding operation without a license or any oversight, whatsoever.

Some people will argue - Why should the "good guys" have to pay for the sins of a few? Well, that's how our society works. We all have to register our vehicles. The pool of money collected is used to enforce and regulate the rules of the road, even though most of us are responsible drivers. Hunters and fisherman have to buy licenses to hunt and fish. Even though the vast majority are responsible and follow the rules; the licensing fees helps enforce the rules for those that aren't.

Some rescuers are panicking that a huge influx of dogs being "dumped" by breeders will overwhelm the system. Will it be a busy couple of years for shelters as some breeders downsize? Probably. But that still isn't a good reason to oppose a law that will make conditions better for dogs for decades to come. The good shelters are prepared and have trained staff and volunteers in puppy mill dog rehabilitation.

So, to all the whiners (most of whom did not attend the hearings or offer any input) quit complaining; do your paperwork, pay your licensing fee and get on with life.  You've had eighteen months since the bill passed to prepare. Good breeders should be happy.  Good shelters and rescues should be happy. Humane standards are being implemented. The dogs are better off now than they were before.

It's a happy time for Wisconsin dogs and I'm celebrating.  Thank you to Representative Jeff Smith, Senator Pat Kreitlow, the Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project and everybody that worked hard to make it happen.

The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are,
 first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense. ~Thomas Edison


  1. As long as someone shuts down this hellhole:

    I will be happy.

  2. Couldn't agree more.

  3. Informative blog Kathy.
    When you say that this law will affect shelters, are you talking about just the non-profit shelters? Or will this law also regulate animal control shelters?

  4. All shelters and rescues that sell or offer to sell (or adopt) 25 dogs. Or in the case of breeders - 25 dogs or 3 litters. Since some large breeds may have more than 8 pups, there was some allowance for this. So a hobby breeder could still have 3 litters per year and not be licensed.
    So yes, even animal control facilities. We only have one really large one in the state, in Milwaukee.
    There are good exercise and socialization provisions in the bill. As well as record keeping, health requirements, etc. It took a long time to hash out the details to everybody's satisfaction, but it was finally done.
    Unfortunately, it does not include cats.

  5. Poor kitties always getting the shaft. Hopefully they can amend this later to include cats. Why did they leave them out? Did they not see a need? Was there objection to include cats?

  6. Cats and dogs have different issues. Although there are some large commercial cat breeding facilities, most pet cats are acquired from family or friends, shelters or classified ads. Unless somebody is looking for a specialty breed, they are not usually purchased via the internet or at a pet store in Wisconsin. Also, many of our local pet stores get their kittens from litters that have been brought in by the public.