Does Puppy Mill Bill Stand a Dog's Chance?

Puppy mill bill stalls out

A Westie-schnauzer before and after rescue from the Heddins Kennel in North Texas
A Westie-schnauzer before and after rescue from the Heddins Kennel in North Texas (Photo courtesy of Humane Society of North TX)

Questions regarding whether the so-called "puppy mill bill" is appropriate for the House's Local and Consent calendar are, ostensibly, holding up Rep. Senfronia Thompson's House Bill 1451 – but opposition to the bill's content may be the real reason for the delay.

The bill is actually the second filed in an attempt to tame currently unlicensed or unregulated large-scale breeders. Last session, the bipartisan measure languished, in part because of opposition from the Texas Veterinary Medical Association. This time around, TVMA is on board, as are members who previously voted against the measure, like Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring. On April 14, Harless thanked Thompson on the House floor for setting the record straight about what the bill will and won't do, "because there's a lot of misinformation out there," she said.

Opponents of the bill have argued that regulating breeders to ensure humane treatment of animals is somehow an attempt to stop breeding operations altogether – or to extend the reach of regulatory government to state oversight of all manner of animal operations, including livestock and even hunting dogs. This is not the case, supporters insist. Instead, the bill seeks to end the cruel practices of large-scale operations that pack animals into cages, often without adequate food, water, exercise, medical attention, or time to rest between breeding cycles. Bill proponents argue that those bad actors give the entire industry a bad name, hurting the many breeders who operate humanely.

Because the bill made it out of committee earlier this month without a single "no" vote or any fiscal impact to the state, it was posted to the Local and Consent calendar. But Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, objected, arguing that the calendar should be reserved solely for local items and those without any controversy. In response to Simpson's complaint that the bill analysis wasn't entirely clear, the bill was sent back to committee for a rewrite to ensure the analysis accurately reflected the bill's content. Then the Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee again unanimously voted to send it back to the floor. It remains there now, slated once more to be called up on the Local and Consent calendar.

Bill proponents argue that the state cannot afford to put off passage for another biennium. In Simpson's own district, the Longview News-Journal reported April 5 on the rescue by the Humane Society of Marion County of neglected dogs – 167 at final count – at a 25-acre puppy mill. The home on the property was "littered with trash, urine and feces," the daily reported, while the 64-year-old owner "lives in Shreve­port and only checked on his animals on the weekends." This is exactly the kind of operation that HB 1451 is meant to stop, says Monica Hardy, executive director of the Texas Humane Legislation Network. Via email, she said the organization was "surprised and deeply troubled" by Simp­son's "attempt to derail ... a bill that would prevent animal cruelty by providing regulation of high-volume dog and cat breeding operations."

Asked whether Simpson is opposed to the content of the bill, or simply its placement to the Local and Consent calendar, his office said that the representative "definitely wants to take care of the animals" – but wants to make sure the bill is "properly presented."

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More puppy mills
Commission Debarks Puppy Mill Regs
Commission Debarks Puppy Mill Regs
Committee proposals for more humane measures fail

Jordan Smith, April 6, 2012

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Legislature, David Simpson, Patricia Harless, Senfronia Thompson, animal cruelty, Texas Humane Legislation Network, puppy mills

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