Full Title Name:  Overview of Recent Dog Breeding Laws (2010)

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Rebecca F. Wisch Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Publish Year:  2010 Primary Citation:  Animal Legal & Historical Center

This article provides an overview of recently added or amended commercial breeder laws (from 2008 - 2010). On the whole, the new laws both mandate minimum standards of care for dogs at breeding facilities and place a limit on the number of dogs a breeder can maintain.


Several states either enacted or amended laws relating to dog breeding since 2008 (these states include Indiana , Louisiana , Nebraska , Oregon (.pdf file), Pennsylvania , Tennessee , and Washington ). On the whole, the new laws both mandate minimum standards of care for dogs at breeding facilities and place a limit on the number of dogs a breeder can maintain. While the new laws certainly reflect a step forward in curbing the problem of puppy mills, critics contend that many of these laws do not go far enough. In fact, one of the main deficiencies in most of the new and existing laws is the lack of adequate inspection systems that ensure compliance. However, in the wake of state budget constraints and a national economic crisis, many states grapple with limited funds to carry out inspections of breeding facilities. The sheer number of states enacting or amending breeding laws since 2008 demonstrates that state legislatures are finally regarding the puppy mill problem with greater seriousness.

Oregon stands as the newest state to enact legislation that places restrictions on dog breeding. HB 2470  (.pdf file) provides that a person may not possess more than 50 sexually intact dogs that are two years of age or older for the primary purpose of reproduction. The law goes further by stating that anyone who possesses ten or more sexually intact dogs for breeding purposes over eight-months old must also provide a minimum standard of care. Among the care provisions include a requirement for sufficient space, proper enclosures, one hour of exercise for dogs four months and older, and proper sanitation/waste removal. While there is no specific inspection procedure in place, violation of the law results in a Class B misdemeanor.

By placing its breeding provision in the chapter on preventing cruelty to animals, Washington clearly confirmed the purpose of its new law ( WA ST 16.52.310 ). The 2009 dog breeding law provides that no person may at any time possess more than fifty dogs with intact sexual organs over the age of six months; it further sets forth specific standards of care for persons keeping even just 10 breeding dogs. The law provides requirements for food, water, and shelter, and also speaks to proper compatibility groupings for different breeds and ages of dogs. For instance, the law states that animals with a vicious disposition must never be placed in an enclosure with any other animal, and puppies under twelve weeks may not be in the same enclosure at the same time with other adult dogs, other than the dam or foster dam unless under immediate supervision.

Similar to Washington, Louisiana also placed restrictions on the number of dogs that any person can keep for breeding purposes ( LA RS 3 § 2772 ). Under the 2008 amendments, no individual or business that breeds, buys, or sells dogs retail, wholesale, or to the public shall maintain more than 75 dogs over the age of one year at any time for breeding purposes. Violation of any aspect of the kennel law results in a misdemeanor with a penalty of $500 or possible imprisonment for up to six months or both.

Indiana approved its commercial breeding act in late 2009 ( IN ST 15-21-1 to 15-21-7-1 ). The Act targets commercial breeders who are defined as people who maintain more than twenty unaltered female dogs that are at least twelve months old. It also defines a commercial dog broker as a person who has a Class B license under the AWA and sells at least 500 dogs in a calendar year. Both breeders and brokers are required to register annually with the state or face a Class A misdemeanor. While the new law does not specifically mandate inspections, it did set up a mechanism for possible future inspections. The state board of animal health is “empowered” under the law to enforce the provisions for care once the board determines that sufficient funding exists in the commercial dog breeder and broker fund to permit enforcement. This straightforward provision illustrates what is one of the biggest limitations to state inspection: funding to carry out inspections and enforce the provisions.

Indiana ’s law does a good job at demonstrating some specific standards of care directed at commercial breeders. For example, a commercial breeder is not allowed to house a dog in a cage with a wire floor unless the cage is large enough to allow reasonable movement. Further, a dog must be provided with a reasonable opportunity to exercise outside of a cage at least once a day. These provisions, in addition to those regulating basic needs like potable water, adequate food, and shelter from extreme weather, attempt to address some of the needs of breeding dogs so often neglected by legislation. Finally, the possible penalty for violation – injunctive relief and civil penalties ranging from $500 – 5,000 per violation – provides an extra impetus for compliance.

Tennessee also enacted a set of commercial breeder laws in 2009 ( TN ST §§ 44-17-101 - 120 ). Again, a commercial breeder is defined as a person who possesses or maintains more than 20 unaltered female dogs for the purpose of selling offspring as companion animals. A commercial breeder must also be licensed by the state. Tennessee law does not reach as far as Indiana, as no specific standards of care are outlined in the legislation itself. However, prior to obtaining a license, the commissioner must determine that the facilities are “suitable” for commercial breeding and conform to state regulations. Additional inspections may occur as the commissioner deems “necessary.” Violations of the law are limited to licensing, incurring up to a $1,000 civil penalty per each violation.

Nebraska made significant changes to its Commercial Dog and Cat Operator Inspection Act in 2009 ( NE ST §§ 54-625 - 643 ). Among the included changes are increased requirements and license fees for those individuals operating as commercial breeders. The term “commercial breeder” is broadly worded, capturing nearly every class of people who breed dogs: a person who sells or otherwise transfers thirty-one or more dogs and cats in a twelve-month period; a person who owns four or more dogs or cats for breeding purposes; a person whose dogs or cats produce four or more litters in a 12-month period; or a person who knowingly sells dogs or cats later for retail sale or brokered trading. Inspections must occur at least once in a twenty-four month period, violations of which can result in a stop-movement order for the facility. Violation of any provision of the act is a Class I misdemeanor.

Prior to 2009, it was Pennsylvania that passed perhaps one of the most comprehensive laws dealing with dog breeders ( PA ST 3 P.S. §§ 459-206 - 211 ). The law first establishes the legal requirements based on whether the kennel in question is a non-profit, research, or breeding kennel. These various classes of kennels are subdivided based on the number of dogs present at the kennels during a calendar year. For example, a commercial breeding kennel that houses fifty or less dogs pays an annual registration fee of only $75 whereas a one that houses more than 500 dogs must pay $750. Failure to obtain a kennel license incurs a $500 – 1,000 penalty per day that the kennel operates in violation of the act. Further, the act outlines stringent record-keeping requirements for the kennel owner that require the owner to keep records describing the physical characteristics of each dog, when the dog arrived and left the kennel, and the method of how the dog was dispensed from the kennel among other things. The facility must also display the kennel license in a conspicuous place for the public to view.

The truly unique feature of the Pennsylvania law is the degree to which facility requirements are specified directly in the legislation. To illustrate, a veterinarian must approve a plan developed by the kennel for exercise for the dogs. All kennels for dogs must be equipped with sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers. Primary enclosures must have no sharp edges and must be of a sufficient height so that dogs cannot climb over the walls. The dogs must be kept clean and dry as well as protected from temperature and weather that would be uncomfortable or hazardous to dogs. There is also a provision for compatibility groupings especially as it concerns female dogs in heat. A Canine Health Board is even empowered under the law to make decisions as to whether greater ventilation is needed based on the ambient temperature. Finally, the construction and maintenance of primary enclosures for Class C license holders is based on a mathematical equation that determines the square footage needed for each dog based on the length of the dog.

It is the delineation of these and many other specific requirements that make Pennsylvania’s law the most responsive to past abuses in large commercial breeding operations. This is coupled with the fact that Pennsylvania’s kennel law mandates inspection of all licensed kennels at least twice a month.

Animal welfare advocates assert that until all states adopt and enforce consistent breeding standards, irresponsible breeders will continue to skirt requirements. In fact, the state with the largest concentration of dog breeding facilities, Missouri, has been criticized for failing to amend its dog breeding legislation to include sufficient standards of care (a map of breeding facilities in the U.S. is available at  http://www.maal.org/Puppy-Mills.asp ). Citizens in the state are now attempting to gather necessary signatures for a 2010 ballot initiative. A combined campaign of consumer education, state legislation, and state oversight is what most experts feel will address the continuing scourge of puppy mills.



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