Today, the Ohio House of Representatives passed legislation, 89 to 5, to crack down on puppy mills. The bill is short of what we want it to be, but it marks progress, with the Senate expected to concur later this month and send it to Gov. John Kasich (who earlier this year signed a landmark bill to restrict ownership of dangerous exotic animals). If it is enacted, as I expect, it will be the seventh of eight animal welfare reforms called for in a 2010 agreement reached between HSUS and Ohio’s leading agricultural groups (the remaining issue that has yet to get close to enactment is the upgrade of the state’s anti-cockfighting law).
Paul Vernon for The HSUS
One of 250 neglected dogs we rescued from a
puppy mill in Shelby, Ohio, in August 2012.
Over the past several years, we’ve worked to pass laws in many top 10 puppy mill states, including Pennsylvania, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas. Ohio has become a center of the puppy mill industry in the East, rivaling Missouri. In 2010, we launched a ballot initiative, Prop B, in Missouri, because that state had the greatest number of licensed dog breeders. With the passage of that law, and the shuttering of about 800 mills in the two years since, Ohio became one of the biggest unregulated states for puppy mills.
As a consequence, the Buckeye state has become a destination for scofflaws who operated some of the worst puppy mills in nearby states — including Lanzie “Junior” Horton, busted in Virginia by HSUS and local law enforcement for keeping more than 900 animals in substandard conditions. Horton was convicted of 25 counts of animal neglect and 14 counts of animal cruelty due to conditions at his puppy mill in Virginia in 2008. He moved to Ohio after Virginia passed a law to crack down on puppy mills. So, too, did a mill operator from Georgia, Tom Coleman, whose kennel license was revoked in that state. This past summer, near Shelby, Ohio, our rescue team rushed to save 250 sickly and neglected dogs belonging to yet a third kennel operator who moved to Ohio after being convicted of animal cruelty twice in New Jersey. Clearly, these dealers moved to Ohio to take advantage of its lack of oversight. Sources tell us that both Horton and Coleman now operate new kennels housing hundreds of dogs.
Senate Bill 130 is far from perfect, but in a state that has become a gathering place for mill operators, with some even migrating there, it’s critical to begin to turn around the problem. With the looming enactment of this law, kennels will now be held to minimum standards. Dogs who were once kept hidden from all eyes but those of mill owners will now be seen by inspectors, including licensed veterinarians. We’ll work hard with a diverse group of organizations to close it out, and get a law on the books.