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New dog-breeding laws may be on the horizon

Minnesota animal welfare rights groups say they are continuing the fight for tighter regulation of the state's numerous puppy and kitten mills through new legislation, despite some hesitation from lawmakers and large-scale breeders.

Last year, Sen. Don Betzold, DFL-Fridley, and Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, introduced the bill, known as the "breeder bill," which would require state inspections, licensing requirements and standards of care.

The bill didn't pass in 2007 or 2008, but Betzold hopes to reintroduce it again in the upcoming legislative session.

Minnesota is among the top producers of puppies and kittens in the United States, according to the Second Chance Animal Rescue organization.

Betzold said the bill is more of a "consumer issue" involving the U.S. Department of Agriculture, although it also is intended to protect animals.

"Many breeders say they have USDA standards, but in fact the USDA standards are fairly minimal," Betzold said. "These facilities are hardly, if ever, inspected."

The USDA is required to make yearly unannounced visits to licensed breeders, said Karen Eggert, spokeswoman with the USDA Animal and Plants Health Inspection Services.

A less-comprehensive bill was first introduced in the 1990s, Betzold said.

The bill's regulations have made it an unpopular choice among breeders, who fear government interference and overly strict guidelines, Betzold said. But the only way to get rid of the bad breeders is to have standards that apply to all of them, he said.

"I would think good breeders would welcome that, if we could get rid of bad breeders through inspections," he said. "It would give consumers confidence about the animals they are purchasing."