New laws for pet breeders in Minnesota

MARSHALL – A new law requiring commercial dog and cat breeders to be inspected by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health took effect at the beginning of July. Breeders will have until June 30, 2015, to complete a one-time application for registration and licensure and pay a one-time fee of $50 for submission to the board.

Before the bill, irresponsible breeders were allowed to fly under the radar and were only inspected if a complaint was received. The new bill aims to make Minnesota more proactive with the well-being of companion animals in the state.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” Sen. John Marty, D-Roseville, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, told the Star Tribune. “The goal is not to punish people, it’s to make sure animals are treated humanely.”

Facilities, confinement areas and transportation methods will be inspected, as well as the identification of animals, records, veterinary protocol and standards of care. According to the inspection supplement provided by the MBAH, facilities must be adequately staffed and have appropriate lighting “for at least eight hours a day to permit routine cleaning and inspection of animals.” Inspectors will also look at the cleanliness of water and food receptacles, the handling of animals and veterinary care records. The new law states that animals sold by commercial breeders must be accompanied by a certificate of health completed by a veterinarian.

The law will only affect commercial breeders who possess 10 or more adult intact animals and produce more than five total litters of puppies or kittens a year, but supplements to the law incorporate rules for anyone owning a pet in the state of Minnesota.

Supplemental laws to the bill outline specific penalties for cruelty to animals charges, such as the subdivision saying that anyone involved with animal fighting, including cockfighting and dog fighting, can be found guilty of a felony. Rules for pet owners are also outlined, including a petty misdemeanor for a person not providing shelter and bedding to any dog that is kept outdoors or in an unheated enclosure.

Dr. Tim Hunt, with the Marshall Animal Clinic, said that when looking over an animal’s bill of health, “the biggest thing to look for is that a licensed veterinarian performed the exam,” as they could be easily forged.

“Look for a license number or an accreditation number on a bill of health and verify it on the animal board of health website,” Hunt said. “Forging of documents does happen, and they can call the corresponding vet clinic and verify any details. It’s a huge red flag if they won’t give you any health information.”

Beyond the bill of health, Hunt said to also observe where the animal was raised.

“Make sure the facilities are clean and that the animals were well taken care of,” he said.

Hunt also urged prospective pet owners to consider adoption before buying a pet from a breeder.

“You’re saving an animal so it won’t be destroyed,” Hunt said. “And I believe adopted animals are so appreciative of a good stable home.” Hunt said that most of his pets were adopted, and that they have bonded more with his family that he thought imaginable. He also suggested that “if you’re adopting, go to a well-organized organization. Most of them will provide health records.”

The commercial breeder law isn’t the only boost given to animals in the 2014 legislative session. Earlier this year, Minnesota became the first state in the nation to pass The Beagle Freedom Bill, giving cats and dogs that have been used in laboratory testing the opportunity to be adopted instead of euthanized. Sen. Scott Dibble, D-Minneapolis, and organizers from the Beagle Freedom Project helped pass the bill last spring, and similar pieces of legislation are being pursued in California and New York.

The law says that if a dog or cat is used in a taxpayer-funded research experiment and is healthy at the end of the experiment, the lab must offer them up for public adoption through a rescue organization like the Beagle Freedom Project.

BFP says on its website that “Beagles are the most popular breed for lab use because of their friendly, docile, trusting, forgiving, people-pleasing personalities. The research industry says they adapt well to living in a cage and are inexpensive to feed.”