‘Backyard breeders’ are a menace

BRATTLEBORO — It might surprise local residents to know that a loophole in local and state law allows even large-scale dog breeders to easily evade inspection and oversight.

A “backyard breeder” can have an overwhelming number of dogs in their home, and the state is powerless to inspect the premises for neglect and abuse, unless a search warrant is secured, as happened last summer in Bakersfield, where 59 labs were removed from a neglectful breeder after years of complaints.

A bill under consideration in the Vermont state legislature, S.142, aims to close that loophole by providing clear definitions for breeders so facilities that repeatedly breed dogs can be licensed and inspected to ensure that animals are not being neglected or abused.

I see firsthand the problems with the “personal use” language in the current pet merchant statute. Here in Windham County, we have pet owners who are convinced they can make money selling puppies and can easily evade oversight by claiming the “personal use” language.

I have had many requests for assistance with very basic vet care from people who decline free spay/neuter services because they want to breed their dog, even though they can not afford vaccines and flea treatment for the adult dog, much less vet care for a litter of puppies.

I have also fielded complaints from people who have purchased a puppy from a local backyard breeder, only to find their new family member was full of worms and covered in fleas.

These instances are very difficult to investigate because of the “personal use” loophole.

If the health and well-being of these animals does not move you to voice your support for S.142, perhaps the money argument will.

In a two-month survey, 165 puppy sellers were identified in the state of Vermont. Of those, only 43 were registered as pet merchants. The others were selling dogs and not collecting sales tax, an estimated loss of state revenue of between $154,000 and $280,000 annually.

This is an important bill for the state of Vermont. It says we care about the lives of animals and that we believe that dogs should be treated humanely. Please take a few moments to call or email your state representative and ask them to support S.142.

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