From The Dallas News, by Erin Mulvaney, Reporter - The so-called puppy mill bill that would regulate large-scale commercial dog breeding operations passed the House 95 to 44 Tuesday.
The measure by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, would require a commercial breeder -- with 11 or more adult female breeding animals -- to obtain a license, pay a fee set by the Department of Licensing and Regulation and allow initial and annual inspections to uphold basic U.S. Department of Agriculture rules.
Thompson called the bill a consumer protection bill.
"Consumers have a right to buy healthy animals that have been treated properly and raised in humane conditions," she said.
An agency within the Agriculture Department now regulates commercial breeders that sell wholesale, or through pet stores, but it does not regulate businesses selling through the Internet, flea markets or classified ads.
Breeders who are not licensed fall under the state's animal cruelty laws, but their operations go without inspection unless police get a complaint. The bill follows a series of raids in the state where diseased and malnourished dogs have been found stacked in cages, surrounded by filthy conditions.
Opponents say the raids prove that additional enforcement is not necessary and that existing animal cruelty laws will suffice. Supporters say they prove that breeders have free reign to breed large numbers of animals without any oversight.
Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, who twice fought the bill off the Local and Consent calendar, called the measure a "dog gestapo." He said it violates the Fourth Amendment by allowing law enforcement to enter owner's property and said the existing animal cruelty laws are enough.
"They aren't going to achieve anything with respect to criminal breeders already acting outside the law," Simpson said.
The increased workload would create 14 new positions. The fiscal note for the bill, however, says that the breeders' fees would cancel out any cost to the state.
Texas is among the top 10 states in the number of licensed commercial breeders, according to the USDA. About half the states have regulations over commercial breeding farms.