Topeka — Animal rights advocates today called on legislators to enact changes to state law to protect pets in the face of reports that Kansas is one of the nation's leaders in so-called puppy mill operations.
Midge Grinstead, state director for The Humane Society of the United States, said the state has "a serious enforcement problem."
From 1999 through June 2011, the state seized or received on consent 10,451 animals from licensed and unlicensed operations. Fifty-one percent of those animals were from unlicensed facilities, she said.
"The only way the puppy mill problem is going to be resolved is to have the Legislature update the KPAA (Kansas Pet Animal Act) with accepted welfare standards and appropriate enforcement tools," Grinstead said.
Proposed changes to the KPAA are being considered by a House-Senate committee, which will forward its recommendations to the full Legislature when the 2014 session starts in January.
Dori Villalon, executive director of the Lawrence Humane Society and acting president of the Pet Animal Coalition of Kansas, said the state needs to ban the use of carbon monoxide to euthanize animals, saying that an injection of sodium pentobarbital, which veterinarians use, is more humane.
"Putting a dog in a box and filling that box with carbon monoxide gas does not provide that struggling and frightened animal with a good death. In fact, it is a slow death whereby the animal remains conscious while the gas starts to affect his internal organs," she said. "It's time to update the law and outlaw gas chambers," she said.
She also called for more inspections of breeders to make sure that animal housing standards are being met.
Dr. Jennifer Stone, staff veterinarian at the Lawrence Humane Society, said the Pet Animal Act hasn't been updated in 25 years.
"There have been tremendous strides made in standards of care for caged dogs and cats in this time," Stone said.
She said current regulations are inadequate to ensure animals in crowded conditions have adequate water, are subject to proper temperatures, and given enough room to move around.
But several kennel owners said they felt some of the proposed changes would add unnecessary state regulations to their businesses, which already are licensed by the federal U.S. Department of Agriculture.
And they said the worst offenders were those who already are operating outside current laws.
Several committee members said they didn't see the need to regulate "hobby" breeders or animal training businesses.
If an animal trainer isn't doing a good job, he won't get business, said state Sen. Larry Powell, R-Garden City. "I don't understand why we have to inspect somebody like that," he said.
And some committee members said they had heard that some complaints filed against breeders are made by competitors.
In a recent study by the Humane Society of the United States, Kansas ranked third, behind Missouri and Ohio, in the number of breeders with egregious, repeated violations of animal rights laws.