MADISON (WKOW) -- State officials have yet to find a dog-breeding facility that could be considered a puppy mill under a new law driven by public outcry on the topic.
Wisconsin's new dog breeders and sellers licensing program began June 1. In the first five months of inspections, state officials have found issues including enclosure size, sanitation, and record keeping, according to state reports reviewed by 27 News.
The state's four inspectors have uncovered no facilities they considered inhumane.
"I think everybody's seen some of the videos, the real puppy mill kind of environments where they're dark, dingy, dirty, maybe on chicken wire where [the dogs] can injure their paws. We haven't encountered that under this program to date," said Dr. Robert Ehlenfeldt of the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, who oversees the program.
When asked if the state expected to find such facilities, Dr. Ehlenfeldt replied, "I wouldn't be surprised."
Critics of the law say it puts an unfair financial and regulatory burden on smaller dog businesses, and could force many to close up shop.
27 News conducted an informal survey of 64 dog businesses throughout the state. Of those, 22 shelters, breeders, and dealers estimated it will cost their businesses an average of $2,025 above the state licensing fee to comply.
Facilities often cited new rules about certificates of veterinary inspection and enclosures for the higher cost. A handful of businesses told 27 News they were intentionally downsizing to avoid regulation, but the overall number statewide is unclear.
"That's just another unintended consequence," said Representative Don Pridemore (R-Hartford) of the financial impact. Pridemore is currently circulating a bill to loosen Act 90's regulations.
Pridemore's proposal would raise the licensing threshold, and allow animal shelters that house less than 100 dogs a year to avoid regulation. Right now, licensing kicks in at 25 dogs a year or three litters.
Pridemore was one of the original co-sponsors of the legislation known as the "Puppy Mill Bill." The bill got unanimous support when it passed through the legislature back in 2009.
"We just need to continue to give it time to play out," said Gayle Viney of the Dane County Humane Society.
Viney says the original law took years to craft, and changing it so soon would be premature.
"This is something that's so important across the board, no matter the size [of the facility]. It's a standardized care issue for these dogs. It's making sure these dogs have the necessary food, the care, the shelter that they deserve."
|Animal Control Facilities/Shelters||121|
|Dog Sellers 25-49||66|
|Dog Sellers 50-99||40|
|Dog Sellers 100-249||27|
|Dog Sellers 250+||12|
|Out of State Dog Sellers||6|
Of the 272 total licenses, 126 were full licenses, and about 25 were extended conditional licenses. The department could not provide 27 News with a firm number of extended conditional licenses because the numbers were in flux. An extended conditional license means the facility has been inspected but there are problems that need to be corrected before the next licensing period.
121 of the licenses were granted to facilities without an inspection on a provisional basis.