Dog breeders spoke out today in response to comments from those who want the legislature to toughen the rules so dog operations which are currently regulated by the U.S.D.A. would also be inspected by the state. The founder of a group called Iowa Voters for Companion Animals is calling for fees on breeders to pay for state inspections, saying breeders are raising animals under conditions that lead to disease and death. (see related story here)
But representatives of the Iowa Pet Breeders Association say poor conditions at kennels are the exception, not the rule. Joe Gerst breeds Yorkshire terriers at his farm in Amana. “There are those segments of our industry that are not dealing with their animals they way any human being should…and we want them to either change or we want them gone. Good legislation will protect good breeders from harassment,” Gerst says.
The pet breeders say they’ll support state inspections, but only after eyewitness accounts of abuse of animals, or after federal inspectors find violations directly affecting animal welfare. Animal rights activists say eyewitness accounts are impossible because breeders operate in secret. Gerst agrees some irresponsible breeding operations deserve to be called puppy mills:
Gerst says, “We want to do something about bad actors as well, probably as much as anybody in this room, they are a blight on our industry. We just want the legislation that will be coming out this year, also to be protective of the good breeder.” The activists recommend a fee on breeders to pay for state inspections. But kennel owners say they want protections in the bill to prevent what they call harassment from animal rights activists.
Humane society representatives say Iowa breeders make up one tenth of all U.S.D.A. inspected facilities.