Many of the suggestions for improvement deal with the most common criticisms, including the exercise, facility structure and record-keeping requirements.
For example, requirements for a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise for each dog in a kennel might be met in many ways other than walking dogs individually on leashes.
Suggestions to modify the requirements for paved areas for exercise (rather than muddy runs) include "closely trimmed grassy areas free of mud or standing water," along with proposals to allow males and females to be exercised together unless the female is in heat, and that dogs of different sizes that have been socialized with each other might be exercised together under supervision.
While flexibility is necessary in many instances, there are some areas where we need to stand firm. These include prohibitions against stacking of cages, a ban on wire-mesh flooring, and requirements that would increase the size of the living space of dogs used for breeding. These changes would end the horrors perpetrated by the high-volume breeders known as puppy mills and put an end to breeder dogs spending their entire lives in small, stacked cages, living on wire, and never, ever being let out of their confinement until they are eventually destroyed (by any method the breeder chooses) when they no longer produce litters.
The breeding of dogs in Pennsylvania represents a multi-million dollar industry, so it should come as no surprise that those who have the most to lose are putting forth the biggest opposition by way of anti-regulatory propaganda.
There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel. Rep. James Casorio (D-Westmoreland) submitted a bill in 2005 that would prohibit issuing a kennel license to anyone convicted of animal cruelty. Two short years ago, Casorio's bill had little support; today upon introduction of HB-445, a similar yet much stronger bill, there are 30 co-sponsors, a bright indication that legislators in our state know where public sentiment lies.
Pennsylvanians must support humane legislation in the coming months. Part of that support will be to ignore the rumors and the hysteria generated by the groups opposing reform - groups that should be on the side of the dogs, not against them.
The other part requires us to be pro-active in sharing our resolve to end our state's tolerance of promoting dogs as a lucrative "cash crop." We must tell our elected officials in no uncertain terms that we demand their support of humane legislation.
For more information, e-mail email@example.com or to find your state representative and access contact information, including phone, mailing address and e-mail, visit: http://www.legis.state.pa.us
Nancy E. Gardner, of Chambersburg, Pa., is a member of the Dog Law Advisory Board and president of the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter.