The so-called puppy mill bill is one step closer to becoming law after the Senate tonight approved a less stringent version of the measure that would regulate cat and dog breeders.
Under the bill, those who breed 20 or more cats and dogs would face licensing and regulation requirements for the first time in Texas. The Senate approved HB 1451 tonight by a vote of 22-9.
Animal rights activists say the bill is needed to prevent puppy mills, where breeders often leave dogs in squalid conditions and force them to give birth to multiple litters for the sake of turning a profit. Animal lovers are attuned to the issue because many pets are now sold direct to consumers on the internet. Under current laws, there is nothing that requires those facilities to "provide a minimum standard of care." Under HB 1451, they would be required to do so.
On the other side, some pet breeders are opposed to the bill because they believe the increased cost associated with licensing requirements could put them out of business. That includes paying licensing fees and increased veterinary bills because of strict health care guidelines under the bill, including annual visits for each animal.
Three attempts to amend the bill were tabled before its passage. Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, tried to increase the minimum number of animals to fall under the licensing requirements from 20 to 60. It failed after the bill's sponsor, Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said that higher figure likely meant "you would genuinely have a puppy mill, which is what we're trying to prevent." Another tabled amendment would have stripped the mandate requiring breeders to offer veterinary care for their animals at least once a year.
A final amendment proposed allowing breeders to euthanize their own animals, if necessary, under the age of six months. Whitmire allowed the change to the bill, citing concerns from farmers who do not want to pay veterinary fees.
Of course, at least one lawmaker couldn't get through the debate without throwing in a pun or two about the sponsor's efforts to protect man's best friend.
"I know this has been 'rough' on you," Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, said to Whitmire. "I just want to thank you for putting a 'leash' on this issue."
The measure now returns to the House for approval of the changes made in the Senate.