Advocates hope for breeding rules
Animal advocates and politicians have tried for years to get legislation passed that would rein in Wisconsin's puppy mills.
Rep. Jeff Smith, D-Eau Claire, hopes legislators this year can succeed where others have failed.
"Unfortunately, our reputation as puppy-mill central or a magnet for puppy mills is growing as other states pass legislation that cracks down on these mills," he said.
Smith and Sen. Pat Kreitlow, D-Chippewa Falls, have introduced legislation to license any organization that sells 25 or more dogs a year in hopes of sanctioning breeders that don't give humane care to their animals.
Wisconsin has become one of the worst states for puppy mills and one of the few not to regulate dog breeding, according to a January Milwaukee Magazine article.
Although the United States Department of Agriculture regulates some breeders, it doesn't regulate breeders that sell directly to the public. Plus, USDA regulations are lax and not always enforced, Smith said.
"More and more as this has become a growing concern across the country, other states have enacted some sort of regulation," he said.
Smith and Kreitlow examined legislation in other states before creating their own, Smith said. It would create an advisory committee to establish rules to govern breeding.
Anyone who sells at least 25 dogs a year, including breeders, pet stores and shelters, would be inspected at least once every two years.
The program would be paid for by licensing fees. Animal shelters would pay $125 a year, and other sellers would pay between $250 and $1,000 a year, depending on how many dogs they sell.
That's what worries Terry Roglitz, a dog enthusiast in Fort Atkinson. Breeders he knows, including a neighbor, would have to pay for a license just for selling a few litters a year, he said.
"Because of the number of litters she has, she would be in the same classification as a puppy mill," he said.
He believes regulation should be handled at the county level through zoning laws.
"It's so hard to differentiate between what's a puppy mill and what's a good operation, and as soon as we legislate it, we could run into problems," he said.
Smith believes most breeders would not have a problem with a licensing fee because they make hundreds of dollars on each dog.
The legislature is working carefully with breeders and other groups to make sure it creates a bill with which everyone can live, he said. He hopes the legislature holds a joint hearing this summer.
"Where others have failed, I'm really hoping we're going to have some success here and get it right," he said.