Dog breeders would be regulated for the first time in Texas under a bill the House tentatively approved today.
The measure by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, was expected to pass easily but drew a surprise fight from freshman Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview — a fight that hasn't helped him in the popularity department.
Thompson said the so-called puppy mill bill is meant to shut down breeders who keep animals in squalid conditions and force them to reproduce repetitively. But the bill has drawn ire from dog breeders worried it was designed to put them out of business.
The bill would require breeders with 11 or more unspayed female dogs to be licensed and regulated by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. It would require that animals be kept in facilities that are clean and that owners provide adequate food, water and exercise time. Owners would be required to take their animals to veterinarian annually and to follow a health care plan the doctor prescribes.
Funding to implement the new licensing and regulation guidelines would come from fees charged to the breeders.
"This is not enforcing anything more than the humane treatment of animals and is a protection of the consumer," Thompson said.
While breeders say they have no quibble with the bill's intention, they say the fees and the costs of following the strict rules it would apply would drive them out of business. Texas hunters have also expressed concern over the bill and how it would affect dogs bred for sport.
"It's going to affect a lot of people," said Mike Faw, spokesman for the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. "It's probably going to drive up the price of dogs."
Simpson, arguing against the bill's passage, said it was an unnecessary government intrusion into the businesses of law-abiding dog breeders. He said anti-cruelty laws are already in place to prevent inhumane conditions. And bad breeders, he said, are unlikely to submit to licensing and regulation required under the bill. Simpson said the bill would create a "dog gestapo."
"I support the enforcement of our animal cruelty laws," Simpson said. "It is a serious problem, but this bill does not address it."
The bill passed on second reading with a vote of 95-44. It still must pass third reading in the House and be approved in the Senate before it is sent to the governor's desk.