PA’s Dept. of Ag Regulations Subvert 2008 Dog Law

Pa Class C kennel

Update Nov. 11, 2010: After securing his own election as Pennsylvania governor, Tom Corbett, currently the state’s Attorney General, issued a statement in which he elected not to help breeding dogs in Class C commercial kennels.

Corbett decided to let stand the Dept. of Agriculture regulations that despite the 2008 Dog Law will allow dogs about to give birth or who are nursing to live in cages with 50% wire flooring. These dogs will also not be required to have "unfettered access" to an exercise area as required by the 2008 law.

For more on this, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below and also go here.

Update Aug. 21, 2010: The Independent Regulatory Review Commission ("IRRC") with the support of Gov. Ed Rendell,has now approved regulations submitted by the Dept. of Agriculture and the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement that allow 50% wire flooring in Class C commercial kennels for nursing mothers and pregnant dogs about to give birth. For more on this…. 

In early July, 2010, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell ordered the Dept. of Agriculture to come up with new regulations consistent with the 2008 Dog Law that prohibits wire flooring for dogs held in Class C commercial kennels.

In a letter to state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, Gov. Rendell directed:

"The regulations that were submitted do not address the issue of flooring provided to nursing mothers while they are nursing puppies. Moreover, I believe we should do more to ensure safe and sanitary flooring to puppies as they mature to twelve weeks. Act 119 of 2008 was intended to improve the life of all dogs in commercial breeding kennels. Mothers, who may have two litters in a calendar year are too important to be omitted from protection in these regulations."

The governor rejected an earlier plan by the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement to exempt dogs held by Class C commercial kennels that are about to give birth or which are nursing from the 2008 Dog Law’s ban on wire flooring. The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement is the agency within the Dept. of Agriculture responsible for enforcement of the Dog Law.

But it’s not clear the governor was serious. Indeed, the Dept. of Agriculture has ignored the letter. Redding and Jessie Smith, Special Deputy Secretary for Dog Law Enforcement, basically re-submitted regulations that continue to violate the 2008 Dog Law for Class C commercial kennels.

Class C commercial kennels are those that keep or transfer at least 26 dogs each year and either (1) breed and sell or transfer dogs to a dealer or pet store, or (2) sell or transfer more than 60 dogs per year. Most of the changes made to the Dog Law in 2008 applied to Class C commercial kennels. Under the new law Class C commercial kennels cannot use "metal strand whether or not it is coated" for flooring and even slatted flooring can have spaces no more than 1/2 inch between them and slats must be at least 3.5 inches wide and "run the length or the width of the floor, but not both."

It is clear dogs held in Class C puppy mills are not supposed to be on wire flooring or any flooring with holes all over it. The Canine Health Board confirmed as much with its decision in June, 2010. At that time the Pennsylvania Canine Health Board unanimously rejected a proposal to allow Class C commercial dog kennels to use wire flooring or "hog flooring". The Board also rejected use of plastic flooring that has "paw-and-claw-grabbing" holes.

The Canine Health Board was created as part of a number of changes made to the Pennsylvania Dog Law in 2008. The Canine Health Board is authorized to determine standards for ventilation, humidity, ammonia levels, and lighting and has limited authority to determine flooring and exercise options. 3 P.S. Sec. 459.221 

The new law banning wire flooring in Class C puppy mills does not apply to puppies up to 12 weeks of age, however.

The Dept. of Agriculture and Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement have decided that pregnant dogs within a week or so of giving birth can be kept in a cage that has up to 50% wire flooring and then be left there with their puppies for up to 12 weeks. In fact, the proposed regulation actually says Class C commercial kennels are only required to comply with the law for 1/2 the flooring and can use wire for the rest of the floor!

A dog that is forced to breed twice a year could be on wire flooring up to 6 months each year depending on when they are moved to wire flooring before giving birth and then when the puppies are removed from them or sold. 

Smith claims, "Puppies are weaned from their mother between 4 and 6 weeks of age.  They leave their mother after they are weaned, and may be sold when they are 8 weeks old." She estimates a breeding dog could spend at most 3 1/2 months on wire flooring per year. 

Experts say, however, some breeds are not weaned until they are 8 weeks old and many of the breeders leave the puppies that don’t sell with the mother dogs until 3 months of age and older.

The Dept. of Ag also states in its proposed regulations that wire flooring is necessary to appease the "[Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association] and other veterinarians related to the puppies’ waste not remaining in the primary enclosure, soiling the puppies and resulting in either the puppies or the mother dog eating the feces." Of course, experts say mothers typically clean up after their puppies, and it is the job of a commercial breeder to keep the kennels clean and safe for puppies.

Smith has also said the dog would be lying on a solid whelping box most of the time. But there is no specific requirement for a whelping box. 
Regardless, why should the dog spend any time on wire flooring in view of the law’s clear mandate? 

Also, enforcement will be difficult. How will a dog warden know when the pregnant dog will give birth or when the dog is placed on wire flooring or how long she is kept there? Note the dogs at a Class C commercial kennel standing on wire flooring in the photos that accompany this article. The dogs do not appear about to give birth; nor do they have nursing puppies with them. 

This new policy will only encourage the breeders to leave at least one older puppy with the mother to circumvent the requirement for solid flooring.

The Dog Law Enforcement Bureau has effectively eviscerated the ban on wire flooring for breeding dogs for a significant portion of the year, the very dogs that are supposed to be protected by this law.

Jenny Stephens, founder of North Penn Puppy Mill Watch,, asks, "Wasn’t the whole purpose of the 2008 changes to the Dog Law to improve conditions for the breeding dogs trapped in puppy mills by making it clear they are not to live on wire flooring? Wouldn’t a more reasonable interpretation of the law be that the mother dogs cannot be kept on wire flooring and so the puppies must be kept with her until they are weaned?" 

State Rep. James E. Casorio, Jr., author of the 2008 changes to the Dog Law, agrees. He said, "Since the Dog Law was passed in 2008, this is not the first time that the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and the Agriculture Department in general have taken actions that seem to be aimed more at accommodating the interests of commercial kennel owners than protecting the dogs they warehouse.

That’s not all.

Class C commercial kennels are supposed to have exercise areas that allow for "unfettered clearance for dogs from their primary enclosure." "The exercise area must be at least twice the size of the primary enclosure". The Canine Health Board has authority to change this on a case by case basis for a breeder that "presents the board with a plan that …is verifiable, enforceable and provides for [the same or more] exercise".

The Dept. of Agriculture and the Dog Law Enforcement Bureau have decided not to enforce that  requirement. Specifically, the Bureau has decided breeding and nursing dogs in Class C kennels are not required to be provided exercise except as specified for other kennels including those non-Class C for profit kennels that sell less than 60 dogs each year directly to the public. The only requirement for exercise for those kennels is that the breeder "must develop and follow an appropriate plan..with an opportunity for exercise" that is "approved by a veterinarian."  Not nearly as strong and enforceable as the requirement of an exercise area to which the dog has "unfettered clearance".

Again, Class C commercial kennels are made up of breeding dogs, dogs that are pregnant and nursing most of the time. It is these dogs this law is supposed to protect. Yet the PA Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement has rewritten the law to exempt from flooring and exercise requirements the very dogs protected by these laws. 

Jessie Smith claims it can be dangerous for puppies to be in an enclosure where there is "unfettered clearance" to an exercise area for the mother dog. She points out the puppies may get trapped in the door or stuck outside in inclement weather. But others say it would not be difficult to place a board or some obstruction blocking the puppies’ access to the exercise area but that would allow the mother to exercise. Puppies can barely see let alone move much during the first few weeks anyway. 

The lesser requirement will be difficult to enforce. Breeders will likely keep a puppy with a breeding mother to circumvent the exercise requirement for a Class C commercial kennel. 

Besides, the law requires the breeding dog to have "unfettered clearance" to an exercise area. It is not for the Bureau to change that. 

As Rep. Casorio explained, "Now we have regulations released by the department that are in direct contradiction to the law regarding wire flooring and exercise. The law says no wire flooring for any dogs in commercial kennels, and that all dogs must have access to an outdoor exercise area.

"Under these regulations, mother dogs being forced to breed in commercial kennels twice a year could end up on wire flooring with no outdoor exercise for as much as six months a year. These mother dogs and their puppies are exactly the dogs the law was written to protect. The new regulations are outrageous and need to be pulled. The Agriculture Department needs to issue new regulations that comply with the legislative intent of Act 119."

Nancy E. Gardner, a member of the Dog Law Advisory Board has gone public with her outrage over the blatant disregard for the law.

What other legal protections for these dogs in Class C commercial kennels is the Bureau failing to enforce? 

Rep. Casorio responds, "In several cases, the department has been slow to enforce the law, and has been quick to offer waivers to owners who have not yet been able to, or have not been inclined to, bring their operations into compliance with the law."

Casorio pointed out that more than 80 of the state’s 111 commercial kennels have been granted waivers or extensions on compliance with the law.

"Commercial breeder dogs have suffered long enough. Now that we have a law that protects these dogs, I am going to make sure that the men and women who are charged with enforcing it do their jobs – not the bidding of commercial breeders."

Thousands of dogs in Pennsylvania commercial kennels are not reaping the benefit of the more humane requirements provided by law for the Class C commercial kennels.

Breeding kennels that keep or transfer less than 26 dogs and/or sell less than 60 dogs per year directly to the public over the internet or through newspaper ads and the like are not regulated as Class C commercial kennels in Pennsylvania. A big concession in the 2008 law to the somewhat smaller breeders who breed for profit, considering there are approximately 900 for profit kennels in Pennsylvania that escaped the "C" class designation. It is unknown how many breeders keep or transfer less than 26 dogs annually and are not regulated at all.

Stephens points out that in those for profit breeding kennels "not falling into the ‘C’ class designation, breeders may still keep dogs living on wire and keep dogs in stacked cages and allow gravity to perform the removal of body waste:

The laws for these for profit breeders kennels that are not designated as Class C also (1) do not require any mandatory vet checks or physical examination during inspections, (2) have no established minimum age when a dog may begin breeding, (3) do not require resting periods between litters or limit the number of times a dog may be bred, (4) do not have any prenatal feeding or prenatal veterinary requirements, (5) do not require monitoring of genetic defects, (6) do not require human socialization for dogs or their puppies, (7) do not require running water, (8) do not require actual heat, cooling or other environmental temperature controls, (9) are not sufficient to require ventilation to control ammonia levels, (10) do not have sufficient lighting requirements even in windowless barns and sheds, (11) do not have strong requirements for the disposal of solid or liquid dog waste, and (12) do not require dogs to be removed from cages for cleaning." 

Stephens also points out, "All kennel owners that aren’t designated Class C may still shoot their dogs versus having them humanely euthanized."

Actually, for profit breeders that keep or transfer less than 26 dogs are not regulated at all in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania still has a long way to go to protect the thousands of dogs still trapped in puppy mills or backyard breeding facilities given the limits of the 2008 law. It doesn’t make sense that the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement would relax, even eliminate requirements of the 2008 law for those commercial breeders the law did target. 

Photo credit: AP 

2 thoughts on “PA’s Dept. of Ag Regulations Subvert 2008 Dog Law”

  1. The Bureau of Dog Law has once again proven their true intent is to protect the breeders of PA rather than the dogs in PA’s puppy mills. Their 2009 report to the General Assembly contains outright lies. Under their “accomplishments,” Special Secretary Jessie Smith states former ADA Jeff Paladina was hired as a special prosecutor to Dog Law (never mind, Jessie Smith, a former employee of the Attorney General’s Office, failed to ask permission from the AG’s Office for Mr. Paladina to actually prosecute cases until Amy Worden with the Phila Inquirer asked why Mr. Paladina wasn’t prosecuting cases almost a year after being hired). What the report doesn’t say is Mr. Paladina left Dog Law almost two years ago this fall. The report also states that what viewers saw on the Oprah Winfrey show was legal at that time – not true. Every kennel featured on that show was guilty of ignoring PA’s old laws – the wardens (state inspectors) were just not citing them. And now, Jessie Smith and Director of Dog Law Sue West have stated publically that they will not cite breeders who keep their adult dogs on wire even though it is now illegal to do so. As an attorney, can Jessie Smith lose her license if she knows someone is breaking the law, and does nothing to stop it?

  2. The number of for profit kennels that are barely regulated or unregulated is appalling.

    There is no temperature “low” for the winter – only that fans must be used IF the temp hits 85 in the summer… In other words, there is no prescribed temperature that a device must provide in order to cool or heat a kennel to an acceptable temp.

    Dog wardens carry NO thermometers with them and there is no requirement for kennels to have any type of thermostat to even tell the owner or the warden the actual temperature in the kennel!

    One of the biggest gripes by the breeder lobbyists is that some breeders don’t have AC or cool their homes so why should the dogs have it. It’s one thing for people to CHOOSE to live that way – another to force it upon a creature that has no say. And unlike the dogs, people have heat in the winter. The regs have some vague standard for protecting against inclement weather or providing for the health of the dog. That’s not regulation.

    Here is my interpretation of the regs for kennels that aren’t Class C but the breeders profit:

    temp control/ventilation = a window
    light = a window or single hanging lightbulb

    both of the above will pass a kennel for inspection.

    To me, that’s NOT temperature control/regulation or appropriate ventilation or lighting.

    Let’s say that a kennel is inspected and the single hanging ceiling lightbulb has gone out and by chance the warden cites for lack of light (although this would never happen). All the kennel operator would have to say is that the bulb just burned out and the magistrate would dismiss it.

    That is NOT regulated lighting.

    And talk about ventilation? What about Almost Heaven that could be smelled a mile away. That kennel was never cited for a lack of ventilation and passed inspection for years before PSPCA raided it.

    Why weren’t the Class C requirements extended to all for profit kennels? Also, why does PA exempt breeders that have less than 26 dogs. That’s a lot of dogs and the breeder is unregulated yet making a profit. I mean some states now limit the number of dogs to 50 and PA doesn’t start regulating till a breeder has 26 dogs! Then most of those have little regulation unless they are Class C.

    And the regulations for non-Class C kennels are not “laws”, just whatever the warden says is okay.

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