GOSHEN — Three animal welfare advocates who met with Elkhart County leaders Monday morning fear that dog breeding operations are getting out of hand.
Pet Shop Puppies Inc. volunteers David Morgan, Kim Evans and Gina Oliver urged the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners to take a more active role in regulating and inspecting kennels. They voiced concerns about the health and safety of adult dogs that are kept in cages for breeding.
“It’s an emotional issue,” said Morgan, adding that he could identify more than 30 dog breeding businesses in the county that ship puppies to cities as far as Chicago and Detroit.
The trio has been closely following the county plan commission’s recent work to amend the definition of kennels, an issue that deals with land use. But, they said, the welfare of animals needs to be addressed as well.
“It’s a multifaceted problem,” Morgan said. “Indiana is slowly getting a bad reputation for puppy mills. Some of it is in northern Indiana, and some of it is in the southern part of the state.”
Morgan told the commissioners that he is concerned about the lack of enforcement of federal and state laws that oversee dog breeders. The Indiana Board of Animal Health, or BOAH, does not perform routine inspections because of budget restrictions, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a “risk-based inspection system,” meaning that breeding operations that are consistently in compliance are inspected less often.
“None of those seem to be enforced, at least not stringently because of a lack of resources,” Morgan said.
The county created a animal ordinance that went into effect in 2010 that covers general care guidelines, dangerous animal requirements and penalties. Morgan said he is concerned that there are no local entities that inspect breeding facilities.
Local inspections come at a cost, board president Terry Rodino pointed out. He noted that the county could explore the possibility of requiring dog breeders to pay a small fee — $5 or $10 — for each puppy they sell to cover inspections.
“I know you can outlaw puppy mills,” Rodino said. “I know it’s going to continue, but if they need to be regulated, they should be the responsible people to come up with the money to pay for the inspections. If I want to do something that needs to be inspected, in today’s world I should probably come up with some money to do it.”
Oliver said she would like to see the Humane Society of Elkhart County involved with inspections.
“I think this would be huge if we were the example of how we did handle the problem and how we address it going forward as an example to other areas,” she said
Commissioner Mike Yoder said that he would like the board to sit down this summer with animal welfare advocates, dog breeders and a representative from BOAH to hash out a plan to move forward.