Bill would create outstanding dog breeder designation and set health requirements

Dog breeders would have the opportunity to qualify as outstanding breeders under a bill heard by the Agriculture Committee Feb. 8.

LB427, introduced by Bellevue Sen. Abbie Cornett, would permit the state Department of Agriculture to designate as outstanding a commercial dog breeder that:

  • breeds a dog no more than once in an 18-month period unless approved by a veterinarian;
  • provides primary enclosures meeting minimum sizes and featuring solid or ground floors that can be easily cleaned and disinfected;
  • provides mental stimulation for dogs, including interaction with humans, socialization with other dogs and toys;
  • exercises dogs or provides an exercise program;
  • limits ammonia odor at facilities to no more than four parts per million;
  • provides bathing for dogs at least twice per year; and
  • grooms dogs to ensure very little of their coats are matted.

A breeder meeting these specifications would be listed on the department’s website as an outstanding breeder and would receive a certificate indicating that designation.

The bill also would require every commercial breeder to provide responsible medical care for their dogs, including health documentation, microchips and veterinary examinations at least every three years. Unless permitted by a veterinarian, breeders would be prohibited from breeding a female dog younger than 12 months or older than 8 years, and from breeding them more often that once every 12 months.

Breeders would be required to report serious injuries or medical conditions to veterinarians and would be prohibited from performing surgeries on animals.

Finally, the bill would set minimum standards for the primary enclosures used by commercial dog breeders and would require an outdoor exercise area, exercise program and heating and cooling systems.

Judy Varner, CEO of the Nebraska Humane Society, spoke in support of the bill. She said the majority of breeding dogs live in cages so small that all they can do their entire life is sit, stand or turn around. Frequently, these dogs are bred until they are infertile, she said, and they often receive inadequate socialization.

“Consumers deserve dogs from breeders whose dogs are known to have good, solid temperaments,” Varner said.

Diana Pankonin, a dog breeder from Grant, also testified in support of the bill. She said the optional standards for outstanding breeders would help her differentiate herself from unscrupulous breeders.

“I want to be able to sort myself out from a puppy mill,” Pankonin said.

Clem Disterhaupt, president of the Nebraska Professional Pet Breeders, testified in opposition to the bill, saying the standards were inflexible. For instance, the solid floor requirement is impractical, he said, because facilities with grated floors provide superior sanitation.

“This law puts people out of business who are good breeders,” he said.

Disterhaupt said the state already has a dog inspection program and voiced concern that the additional duties set forth in LB427 could affect the program’s sustainability.

Harlan County dog breeder Judy Williamson also testified in opposition. She said LB427 would create standards that are inconsistent with those set by the USDA, which many breeders used to construct their facilities. In an already depressed market for pets, she said, the bill would require facility modifications that could bankrupt breeders.

“LB427 targets those who are already licensed and inspected with arbitrary and restrictive requirements, resulting in astronomical expenditures for veterinary care, remodeling, etc., when we are already struggling to keep our businesses alive,” Williamson said.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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