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Puppy Mill Law Faces Legal Challenge

A Texas law that aims to prevent puppy and kitten breeders from abusing animals faces a court challenge, but advocates have come forward to defend the law.

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A Texas law that aims to prevent puppy and kitten breeders from abusing animals faces a judicial challenge, but advocates have come forward to defend the law.

The Humane Society of the United States and the Texas Humane Legislation Network filed an amicus brief Wednesday urging the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas to uphold the Licensed Breeders Act, which legislators passed during the 2011 session. The law requires all dog and cat breeding organizations to receive a license from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and follow guidelines for animal care.

“Before this law was passed, an inhumane puppy mill could operate in the state of Texas because no one other than the breeders themselves ever laid eyes on these animals,” said Katie Jarl, the director of the Human Society’s Texas branch. “The breeders doing things in a humane way have nothing to worry about; these are very basic standards.”

The plaintiffs who filed the motion for a temporary or permanent restraining order to block the law include three breeders and a group called the Responsible Pet Owners Alliance. Opponents of the law say increased paperwork, licensing fees, and the costs of improving animal shelters and increasing the amount of veterinary care could put some breeders out of business. 

Calls to plaintiffs in the case were not immediately returned. 

Dale Martenson, who breeds Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, opposed the bill when legislators considered it in 2011. After it passed, he moved to a state where breeders are licensed by the Department of Agriculture. He said he doesn't believe the court case will gain much traction because there isn't a large enough commercial kennel industry in Texas to oppose the law.

"It issuch a silly unenforceable law because they have really no way of proving whether someone sells 20 puppies or not," Martenson said. "It had nothing to do with the care of animals; it was just an agenda that was brought. The [Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation] is woefully inadequate to enforce this." 

The motion claims that the law is in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it requires some breeders to meet the new standards, while others — such as those who breed dogs for hunting and racing — do not have to.

Nancy Boerner and her husband own Boerner’s Bloodhounds in Sisterdale. She said the new licensing requirements were not a challenge since her breeding practices met most of them anyway. Although she’s not thrilled with the $300 licensing fee she’ll have to pay every year, she said the new requirements may help business in the future.

“People feel that they’re getting quality dogs because they do know that we have to follow certain standards,” Boerner said. “We have that backing.”

But she said she understands why other breeders are troubled by the fees and paperwork requirements. She also said she worries that puppy and kitten mills will find ways to avoid inspections and circumvent the intent of the law.

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