Montana

Mixed feelings after breeder licensing measure halted

Mixed feelings after licensing measure

MISSOULA, Mont. - Two bills requiring cat and dog breeders to be licensed and inspected look like they're going to die in the Montana Legislature again.

In committee hearings HB 570 and HB 582 were both tabled. When a bill is tabled it is essentially dead.

The bills would have required commercial breeders to apply for a license and be inspected by a state board, something some animal control officers say is needed.

"We only find out about them through hearsay, someone calling and saying 'Hey, can you do a welfare check on something?'" explained Cindy Syrjala, an officer with Missoula County Animal Control.

For Syrjala and her K-9 partner, Chance, seeing animals in unsatisfactory conditions is part of every day. In fact, Chance is a product of a puppy mill himself. Syrjala tells NBC Montana she was there when someone who rescued him from the mill surrendered him to the shelter after they couldn't afford to nurse him back to health. Syrjala took the puppy to the vet and fostered him in her own home.

"He had his head in my lap on his way to the vet and I said 'We're going to take a chance to save you.' When I said that he looked up at me, and that's how he got his name," she said.

Chance was just four months old.

"He was being starved, so he ingested a tube sock," Syrjala explained, which caused him to have abdominal blockage.

While Syrjala is in favor of the measures, others say they're unfair to good breeders.

"Let's educate the general public on what to look for in a good breeder," said Cindy Dow, now retired from breeding boxers in Montana. Dow opened Big Sky Boxers in 2008 and takes pride in knowing the health care behind dog breeding.

"The law that they're trying to pass is going to give them the power to go after those bad puppy mills, but it's going to affect a lot of good, strong, reputable breeders," said Dow.

While Dow supports inspections, she says a blanket law isn't the right approach and lawmakers need to work with breeders to draft a bill that's fair to everyone.

Syrjala and Dow both can agree that something needs to be done to put an end to puppy mills.

For the past four legislative sessions similar bills have failed to pass.

Several people told state officials at an earlier hearing for the bill that puppy mill operators, who breed dogs on a large scale, come to Montana specifically because of the state's loose laws.

Lawmakers against the bills don't believe licensing will stop bad breeders from breaking the law.


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