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failure of government
KEY MESSAGE: Government has failed to protect the animals in puppy and kitten mills. While federal, state and local laws exist, authorities are limited in their knowledge about and training for this issue. Resources, too, are limited.
SYSTEMIC FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT
The fact that large-scale dog breeding facilities still exist and are "approved" by government shows a lack of knowledge of proper canine health by authorities and demonstrates a systemic failure by government to protect animals within these type of facilities.
These regulatory "approval" actions may also be in direct conflict to Minnesota animal cruelty statutes.
The licensing by government (at federal, state and local levels) for large-scale breeding kennels has created a systemic problem where other officials assume a kennel is in compliance or treating animals properly because the business was given a "stamp of approval" from a designated state or federal authority. Often, these authorities have little or no training in canine health, especially as it pertains to mass production facilities.
These authorities may have livestock backgrounds and construct protocols based on industry standards for livestock and agricultural pursuits. As quoted in the Winona Post (12/20/15) and credited to statements made by the MN Board of Animal Health: "The MN Board of Animal Health regulates the treatment and health of livestock and explained that under state law dog kennels are treated similary to livestock operations."
Until training has been provided for all authorities on how to promote animal welfare and health standards for canines and felines and how to identify and prevent animal neglect and cruelty with this species, these large-scale facilities will continue to be "approved," operate and grow — creating burdens on the community and harm to animals.
NOTE: Review State v. Dayna Bell cruelty case for Court of Appeals decision affirming that all animals in a kennel are pet and companion animals, not livestock.
• Federal regulation
The USDA-APHIS-Animal Care (AC) is the designated authority within the federal government to inspect commercial dog breeding facilities who meet the definition of "breeder" or "dealer" under the Animal Welfare Act.
The USDA is required to inspect the facilities one day a year; they may return to follow up on violations. "One day a year" does not provide adequate oversight of these kennels. The USDA also explains that they only pursue minimal standards.
In 2010, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) audited the USDA-APHIS-AC and issued a scathing report of the USDA's inspection procesdures and protocols. (See OIG report.) Numerous recommendations were made for improvements with a key recommendation: to stop educating the breeders and return to enforcement of requirements. This policy was implemented for a short while; the USDA soon returned to "teachable moments" — limiting the number of direct violations cited by inspectors.
Local governments must be cautious of relying on the federal government to monitor USDA-licensed breeders and dealers. Even when USDA inspectors have gathered sufficient evidence to pursue enforcement actions against a breeder or dealer, the legal investigation and enforcement process (leading to a suspension or revocation of the federal license) can take years.
NOTE: Three Minnesota breeders licensed by the USDA were convicted of animal cruelty: Kathy Bauck, Deborah Rowell and Dayna Bell. (For profile of breeder, details of legal case, inspection reports and photos, click on links.) A review of their USDA inspection reports cits some violations but also report "no noncompliances" — even though kennel conduct was in direct violation of MN animal anti-cruelty statutes.
• State regulation
Minnesota was one of the last states in the nation to pass a state law to license and regulate commercial dog and cat breeders (for those states with breeding kennels). In 2014, the Commercial Breeders Licensing and Enforcement law was passed.
As news reports have stated (Winona Post, 12/21/2015), citizens assume that "things are going to get better" due to the new state law. Unfortunately, passing a law does not guarantee that the enforcement agency will follow the intent of the law. Recent licensing decisions by the MN Board of Animal Health places into question their abilities to enforce the law properly and protect animals within Minnesota breeding kennels.
• Local regulation
Some counties have granted permits for commercial kennels to operate; however, often, counties do not have the capacity or ability to follow-through and check that each business is adhering to the imposed conditions and/or to check that businesses requiring a permit are indeed permitted. This is why some counties have limited the size of breeding kennels (i.e., number of total dogs) or denied permits altogether so as to reduce potential risk to the county.
As with local enforcement, most veterinarians are not trained in investigations involving animal forensics. Skills of veterinarians also vary based on species. Many veterinarians throughout Minnesota (and the nation) have chosen not to accept large-scale dog breeders as clients because they do not believe such facilities can provide the proper physical and emotional/behavioral care for each animal. (Adequate staffing to address enrichment and socialization needs for each animal every day is often cost-prohibitive; shelters use volunteers to supplement staffing and daily care needs.)
In a news article (Winona Post 12/23/2015), a breeders' veterinarian (in reference to multiple commercial kennels) was quoted to say: "These animals are healthy. Bottom line, they're healthy." and "They are probably the most clean animals in the State of Minnesota." When considering these statements one must ask clarifying questions, such as what is meant by "healthy" and "clean." Example: Is each animal examined and treated for:
Both federal law (Animal Welfare Act) and state law (MN Commercial Breeders Licensing and Enforcement) require a veterinary protocol be established and followed. In Minnesota, these protocols must include "disease control and prevention, euthanasia, and veterinary care."