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Virginia, Ohio look to increase animal sterilization


Richmond, Va. ? A Virginia Senate bill calls for mandating sterilization of dogs and cats acquired from dealers and breeders.

RICHMOND, VA. — A Virginia Senate bill calls for mandating sterilization of dogs and cats acquired from dealers and breeders.

Sponsored by Sen. W. Roscoe Reynolds, S.55 defines a dealer as any person who sells or transfers companion animals with the exception of rescue groups. The bill further defines a hobby breeder as one who breeds and places one litter per year.

S.55 permits the sale of intact animals to anyone who agrees to sterilize the pet within 30 days, and to any hobby breeder who agrees to alter the animal after one breeding.

While the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) neither supports nor opposes this legislation, authorities in the group say they cannot deny the pros and cons of such an initiative.

"The bill attempts to define a good breeder and a bad one, but it's difficult," says Dr. Steven Escobar, VVMA past-president and legislative chairman. "We don't want responsible breeders to be affected. What we really need is to shut down puppy mills and irresponsible breeding."

The American Kennel Club (AKC) is against the legislation, citing there are no exceptions for serious fancier breeders or breed improvers, defined elsewhere in the bill.

AKC also opposes S.55 because it requires dealers obtain a $150 annual business license. Dealers could not advertise their services without a valid business license, and the license number must be included in any newspaper advertisements. Violators of any portion of the licensing requirement would be subject to a $1,000 fine.

"The state has not performed objective studies to look at pet population concerns," AKC officials say, making it difficult to ascertain what problems the state might be facing.

"If pet population issues are a concern in Virginia, then AKC believes a task force should be formed to address this issue with input from members of various animal organizations, including purebred dog breeders," says Stephanie Lane, director of canine legislation for AKC. "Such a study group should explore the expansion of public education campaigns to teach communities about responsible pet ownership."

The club calls S.55 confusing, ineffective legislation that will be impossible for animal control departments to track and enforce. The bill, nor its companion bill (H.B.2929) had not been assigned to committee at presstime.

"I do not think any of the animal welfare bills introduced this session will pass," Escobar says. "There are bigger bills on the docket and a lot of opposition."

The current proposals are the state's second attempt to make sterilization mandatory statewide.

Ohio laws

A pediatric spay/neuter bill is in drafting stages in Ohio, says Kellie DiFrechia, Columbus Dog Connection. The bill is similar to S.55 in the sense that alterations would be mandatory, but shelters are targeted as opposed to breeders and dealers.

Ohio Rep. Jim Hughes supports the legislation and says he hopes to have the bill introduced this legislative calendar. "The bill will not include the Humane Society or private groups, but it will be a significant step if it passes for animal welfare."

"Shelters know there is a huge animal overpopulation problem, yet they give animals to people without requiring alterations, DiFrechia says. "That is like the Cancer Society giving away cigarettes."

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