So where are the problems with Senate Bill 331, in Senate Bill 331?* We’re sorry, this is going to get even more text heavy than the rest of the site, but here it goes!
Where is the language in Senate Bill 331 that eliminates home rule?
- Section 956.23 prevents localities from regulating the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores. Though Toledo and Grove City have passed ordinances ensuring that pet stores only obtain puppies and kittens from shelters and rescues, this section would not only void both of those ordinances, it would prohibit localities from protecting consumers, curbing pet overpopulation, regulating animal welfare, and fostering a humane business model. Localities should not be stripped of their right to pass stricter laws for the health and wellbeing of their community and animals.
Where is the language in Senate Bill 331 that makes the law unenforceable?
- Section 956.19(A) within Senate Bill 331 allows pet stores to obtain puppies from breeders who produce less than 9 litters of puppies per year and sell less than 60 dogs per year. This is entirely unenforceable. The state would have to inspect every breeder throughout the country selling to OH pet stores to ensure they meet these requirements. In reality, pet stores will source from breeders who claim to be small breeders but are actually large-scale commercial breeders who are able to escape all regulation and licensing requirements, i.e. unlicensed breeders who should be licensed. Of an estimated 10,000 puppy mills less than 2,000 are licensed by the USDA. This amendment allows pet stores to buy from 8,000 completely unregulated puppy mills.
- Section 956.20(A) only penalizes pet store owners, managers, and employees who “negligently” sell a dog obtained from sources other than those listed and “negligently” sell a dog that is under 8 weeks old, unvaccinated, sick, etc. Thus, an enforcement agent will not only have to prove that the law was broken but also the carelessness of the person who bought or sold the puppy. Under Ohio law, a person acts knowingly when he is aware that his conduct will probably cause a certain result or will probably be of a certain nature. This is a tough standard to prove, and will likely result in pet stores who fail to follow the requirements of this amendment to escape any citations. The current commercial dog breeding law, which includes minimal regulations of pet stores, does not include this mental state requirement, neither do the ODA regulations. Rather, both state that a person shall adhere to the requirements, regardless of mental state.
- Section 956.20(B)(5) lists items that a pet store must disclose to the consumer at “a time prior” to when a puppy is acquired. This language is extremely vague and does nothing to ensure that the public has the necessary knowledge to make an informed decision.
Where is the language in Senate Bill 331 that creates the loophole and still allows sales from puppy mills?
- Section 956.19(B) allows pet stores to obtain puppies from “high volume breeders” who are USDA-licensed and have not received a direct violation from the USDA within the prior 3 years and a veterinary care violation on the most recent inspection report. This requirement is problematic because it relies on a broken system—the USDA licensing and inspection system. USDA standards of care are extremely low, the USDA admits that it does a horrible job of enforcing these low standards, and there a recent trend in the USDA of labeling less violations as “direct.” Also, there are egregious violations that are often not cited as direct or veterinary, including: dead dogs in enclosure with live dogs, dogs covered in urine and feces, food covered in mold or infested with insects, filthy or frozen water, and dogs in below-freezing temperatures, shivering in the cold, or outside in the hot sun with no shade or shelter.
- Section 956.20(A) Most state pet store sourcing laws, including one that was just signed by the Louisiana Governor, prohibit pet stores from obtaining puppies from unlicensed breeders. However, SB 331/HB 573 contain a massive loophole that would allow pet stores to source puppies from completely unregulated and unlicensed breeders including from the worst puppy mills located inside and outside Ohio’s borders. The loophole stems from the fact that that Pet stores would be able to source from a “qualified breeder” which includes an unlicensed breeder that is not considered a high-volume breeder under the ODA. Because ODA has no means of ensuring that all unlicensed breeders are supposed to be unlicensed, this provision allows for thousands of illegally unlicensed breeders to continue to sell to Ohio pet stores.
Adds $800,000 in expense each year:
- “The bill requires the Department of Agriculture (AGR) to license and regulate pet stores. One initial estimate is that this will increase payroll costs by $800,000 annually to cover an additional eight employees assigned to this program.” Source: Fiscal Note and Local Impact Statement
*House Bill 573 has yet to pass the house and Senate Bill 331 is likely to be passed first since it’s already passed the senate. The language on this page is focused on Senate Bill 331.