New law cracks down on unscrupulous pet breeders

Gov. Peter Shumlin on Tuesday signed into law a pet protection act that is meant to tighten up and establish a clearer regulatory framework for dog, cat and wolf-hybrid breeders.

Architects of the law hope the regulations will prevent animal abuse cases, like the 50-plus-dog puppy mill that Karen Maple of Bakersfield was accused of running in 2011. Maple accepted a plea deal that sentenced her to two years of probation and barred her from breeding dogs.

“It was really trying to address things in current law that just didn’t make sense,” said Rep. John Bartholomew, D-Hartland, who introduced House bill 50.

 Tuesday, May 14, 2013, the Vermont House honored Hobbes, a rescued dachshund who is featured on the Addison County radio show "The Wake-Up Crew with Bruce and Hobbes" on WVTK 92.1 FM.  Bruce Zeman holds Hobbes. Photo by Andrew Stein/

Tuesday, May 14, 2013, the Vermont House honored Hobbes, a rescued dachshund who is featured on the Addison County radio show “The Wake-Up Crew with Bruce and Hobbes” on WVTK 92.1 FM. Bruce Zeman holds Hobbes. Photo by Andrew Stein/

Bartholomew, a former animal program director at the National Institutes of Health, said the bill has been in the works for more than a decade, as groups such as the Humane Society of the U.S., the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association and the Vermont Federation of Dog Clubs have sought to prevent inhumane treatment of pets by breeders.

The law defines a pet dealer as any person who sells, exchanges or offers to sell dogs, cats or wolf-hybrids from three or more litters. Pet dealers must pay an annual $25 permitting fee, up from $10 under current law. A municipal officer, law enforcement officer or Agency of Agriculture representative may inspect pet dealers. If the inspector wishes, a veterinarian or Humane Society agent may accompany him or her.

The bill also includes what’s known as a “pet lemon law.” If a dealer or shop sells a cat, dog or wolf-hybrid that has a severe health issue, the consumer has the right to return the pet, exchange the pet or receive a reimbursement from the pet dealer or shop for veterinary services.

Joanne Bourbeau is the Northeast regional director for the Humane Society of the U.S. One of the most important provisions in the Vermont law, she said, is one that closes a long-abused loophole.

“There was a loophole for a personal-use exemption that said if you have animals for personal use that you didn’t need to get the permit,” she said. “It’s mostly a home-based industry in this country, so commercial breeders could easily hide behind the issue that the kennels were in their homes, and they were their own personal dogs. Most of them were evading any sort of regulation at all, including inspection.”

Bourbeau says that since 2008, the Humane Society has ushered 33 similar laws in 25 states to strengthen pet breeding standards.

“Everyone will know what the playbook is, what the requirements are and conversely inspectors will know what they’re looking for,” she said about Vermont’s new law. “ It makes it very clear that if somebody is operating and selling that number of pets per year, they could lose their license and ability to sell if they don’t cooperate.”

Andrew Stein

Comment Policy requires that all commenters identify themselves by their authentic first and last names. Initials, pseudonyms or screen names are not permissible.

No personal harrassment, abuse, or hate speech is permitted. Be succinct and to the point. If your comment is over 500 words, consider sending a commentary instead.

We personally review and moderate every comment that is posted here. This takes a lot of time; please consider donating to keep the conversation productive and informative.

The purpose of this policy is to encourage a civil discourse among readers who are willing to stand behind their identities and their comments. VTDigger has created a safe zone for readers who wish to engage in a thoughtful discussion on a range of subjects. We hope you join the conversation. If you have questions or concerns about our commenting platform, please review our Commenting FAQ.

Privacy policy
  • Leila LaRosa

    So glad to see this legislation signed into law!

  • Barry Kade

    Wait a minute. People actually breed cats on purpose?

  • Sheryl Rapee-Adams

    It’s about time. Thanks to our elected officials. Please enforce it fully.

Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "New law cracks down on unscrupulous pet breeders"