Eleventh hour win for working dogs in Texas

May 27, 2011

Last minute amendments to Texas House Bill 1451 (HB 1451), exempting shepherd and herding dogs, and hunting and birding dogs, gave the state’s ranchers and sportsmen a chance to catch their breath after months of contacting their state officials with their oppositions to the bill.

The bill was designed to regulate ‘puppy mills,’ largescale breeding operations that produce puppies and kittens for sale. Often, these facilities are associated with unsanitary, unsafe and unhealthy conditions as well as improper socialization situations for the puppies. Puppy mills are frequently accused of fostering indiscriminate genetics.

The provisions in H.B.

1451 define “commercial breeders” and include their requirements for licensure. Opponents of the bill felt the description of “commercial breeders” was too inclusive and broad reaching.

One of the driving forces in opposition to HB 1451 in regard to stock dogs was The Texas Foundation for Ranch and Working Dogs (TFRWD). Given the bill’s encompassing description of “commercial dog breeders,” the foundation feared the adverse financial and logistical consequences that the legislation would have on ranching and hunting and their associated industries. More than 60 organizations in the state, including the American Kennel Club, the Texas Wildlife Association and the Lone Star Working Dog Association, opposed the bill, disputing the need for increased regulation of their industries.

HB 1451 defines a “commercial breeder” as being “a person who possesses 11 or more adult (six months and older) intact female animals and is engaged in the business of breeding animals for direct or indirect sale or for exchange in return for consideration.” Applicants for “commercial breeder” license are required to have pre-license inspection of their ‘facility’ and are subject to criminal background checks.

Under the bill, commercial breeders would be required to have an annual veterinary exam for each animal at the facility. Other specifics in the bill include maintenance of separate mandatory records of each animal with detailed descriptions of the animals, their present and prior ownership information, and ultimate disposition of the animals that have left the facility. Specifics of veterinary care provided, including records of all inoculations, medications and treatment while in possession of the commercial breeder, must be documented. Annual financial reports and animal information must be maintained and made available to the commission if requested. Under this bill, commercial breeders would be subject to annual inspection.

Opponents of the bill felt the wording, classifying anyone as a commercial breeder who possesses 11 or more intact female dogs, even if they sell only one dog, subjects them to unnecessary new regulations and costly fees.

TFRWD and owners of ranch and sporting breeds stated that they felt HB 1451 should have initially exempted working and hunting breeds. They pointed out that the training of working breeds, such as ranch dogs and hunting dogs, does not take place until the dogs are typically six months or older when they have begun to men tally and physically mature.

Consequently, owners and breeders of working dogs keeping several female prospects for use, sale or training, might easily have 11 or more females over the age of six months and would be subject to the constraints of HB 1451.

Sen. John Whitmire, the Senate sponsor, said he worked with cattle raisers, breeders and wildlife officials to reach a compromise and amend the bill in its final stage to exempt the working breeds.

The ‘eleventh-hour’ amendment exempted from HB 1451 “Persons who breed dogs for herding livestock or other agricultural uses and for hunting and competing in field trials.”

Those ‘persons’ were glad their efforts in opposition to the bill influenced the legislation and that eventually some common sense prevailed in regard to regulating the care of their animals.

Ginger Elliott, WLJ Correspondent