What will Happen to Gov. Strickland’s Deal with HSUS?

Now that Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has lost his bid for re-election in the Nov. 2, 2010 election, what will become of the puppy mill deal he made with the Humane Society of the United States? 

The puppy mill deal was part of a broader deal reached with the HSUS in June, 2010. At that time as part of the deal, Gov. Strickland announced that he would support and expected to pass laws regulating commercial dog breeders.

To that end, as part of this deal in June, both the HSUS and Gov. Strickland announced support for a pending bill, S.B. 95, that would basically create a new state agency called Kennel Control Authority to regulate commercial dog breeders. Under this bill, the new agency, the KCA, would be run largely by breeders and others affiliated with dog breeding as an industry. Proponents have made no secret they hope to land government jobs working in the new agency.  

Gov. Strickland was confident in June he could "deliver" this legislation. It was presumed in making this deal to stop the HSUS ballot initiative for farm animals, he had lined up the necessary support to pass S.B. 95 as promised.

Indeed, S.B. 95 was approved in committee and was scheduled for a vote on September 14 by the full state senate.  

That never happened. 

The governor actually did not seem to do much else, if anything, to encourage, let alone guarantee passage of S.B. 95. And, now he has lost the election. His term as governor will end in January, 2011. Gov-elect John Kasich is not legally bound to honor the deal….. 

The deal created confusion because as any 7th grade student knows, a governor’s job is not to pass laws but rather to enforce them. A governor cannot enter into a binding contract with a private non-profit to agree that a bill will become law. That is up to the Ohio legislature and, of course, getting a bill passed always means obtaining the approval of interested parties or at least their agreement not to oppose the bill. In this case a number of other animal welfare and rescue organizations, pet owners, people who care about dogs, breeder organizations, the Sportsman’s Alliance, the Ohio Dog Warden Association, and the Ohio Farm Bureau, among others, have a stake in the proposed legislation.

Earlier this fall the Ohio Farm Bureau (OFB) held a meeting to discuss S.B. 95. The participants included organizations representing breeders, dog wardens, humane agents, and animal welfare advocates; Ohio State University, Ohio Veterinary Medical Association and Petland, a pet store chain that is alleged to sell dogs from puppy mills.

According to several attendees, from the discussion at the meeting, it is far from clear that S.B. 95 has the support to become law.  The concerns raised about S.B. 95 were:

1.  The bill creates yet another state agency, this one called the Kennel Control Authority.

2.  There will be substantial cost to the state in organizing and operating the agency. After the initial startup costs, S.B. 95 proponents claim the agency, the Kennel Control Authority, will be self funding from fees and fines charged to thousands of Ohio commercial breeders. Of course, that means it is essential puppy mills proliferate and profit to keep the state agency running. It means there is no incentive for the agency to enforce regulations to ensure humane treatment if it means shutting down puppy mills. But it is not clear there are really "thousands" of puppy mills in Ohio. Attendees at the OFB meeting questioned what happens if the taxpayers fund the agency initially and there are not enough fees and fines from puppy mills to make it self-funding in the future as proponents claim?  Of course, supporters of an alternative puppy mill bill, McKenzie’s Law, H.B. 570, were at the meeting and wondered why legislators would pass a bill that created a costly new state agency that would simply mean business as usual for puppy mills.  

Mary O’Connor Shaver, founder and director of the Coalition to Ban Ohio Dog Auctions was in attendance. The Coalition is gathering signatures to put an initiative on the November, 2011 ballot that would give voters the option to ban dog auctions. (For more on this…) O’Connor Shaver said this about the OFB meeting, "Having an opportunity to hear different points of view from all representatives, it is my firm belief that we are far from reaching a compromise on …SB 95, particularly in light of the removal of language addressing public dog auctions and raffles.

"Given that the dog auctions serve as a major distribution channel for buyers and sellers from 15 states, many of whom have repeated, long standing violations of the Animal Welfare Act and/or have been convicted of animal cruelty, the Coalition to Ban Ohio Dog Auctions firmly believes Amended Ohio SB 95 contains a major loophole which, if enacted, will not do enough to prevent puppies and dogs from cruelty and neglect".

McKenzie’s Law, H.B. 570, would ban dog auctions, use of dogs at raffles and sales of dogs on public property and along public highways and roads.

For more on why McKenzie’s Law, H.B. 570, makes more sense for Ohio…..

To complicate matters more, there are indications from several sources that the Ohio Farm Bureau may be considering requests by commercial dog breeders to move regulation under the jurisdiction of the Livestock Care Standards Board, a move feared by Animal Law Coalition at the time voters agreed to create the LCSB to regulate care and treatment of "livestock". That means dogs trapped in commercial kennels could be treated like livestock. Only the LCSB would regulate their care and treatment. (For more on the LCSB …) And that would mean dogs would continue to be trapped in cages, thought of as inventory with little or no exercise, socialization or human affection, all critical to the development and well being of a healthy pet.


Surely this is not what Ohioans want for their companion animals. Or to be known as the puppy mill capital of America. Dogs are not livestock, and S.B. 95 is just another taxpayer goody bag that will fund jobs for proponents and enable inhumane puppy mills. It is laudable that the governor agreed to regulate puppy mills, but the dealmakers chose the wrong bill and as a result, may be pushing dogs under the jurisdiction of LCSB. 

Ohio can do better. Go to HolmesCountyExposed for more information on McKenzie’s Law and Ohio puppy mills.