This is not a ranking of which Kansas should be proud.
According to a recent study by the Humane Society of the United States, Kansas ranks third — behind Missouri and Ohio — for having the highest number of dog breeders cited for egregious, repeated violations of the animal rights law.
The national humane society’s state director, Midge Grinstead, told the Journal-World that from 1999 through June 2011, the state seized, or accepted with consent, 10,451 animals from both licensed and unlicensed breeding operations.
The problem, said Grinstead, the former head of the Lawrence Humane Society, is twofold. The state needs to update the Kansas Pet Animal Act to include both new standards of care for animals and stronger enforcement tools. Jennifer Stone, a staff veterinarian at the Lawrence Humane Society, noted that the state’s animal act hasn’t been updated in 25 years. During that time, she said, accepted standards of care for caged dogs and cats have changed considerably.
A joint House-Senate committee currently is studying proposed changes to the animal act, and have heard not only from animal advocates but also from kennel owners who are opposed to increased regulation of their businesses. They pointed out that just over half of the animals seized by the state came from unlicensed facilities and contended that those facilities are the primary problem.
Several committee members said they didn’t see the need to regulate “hobby” breeders or animal training businesses, but their rationale seems flawed. Animals don’t know the difference between a “hobby” breeder and a full-fledged breeding business. Both have an equal responsibility not to mistreat the animals in their care. One senator contended that there is no need to regulate animal trainers because trainers who don’t do a good job won’t get business. That might be true if animal owners were fully aware of the conditions their pets were living under, but that might not always be the case. Unfortunately, animals can’t report poor living conditions or treatment to their owners.
To be sure, there probably are many well-operated breeding facilities in Kansas, but the unlicensed or poorly operated facilities are giving the state an unflattering reputation. Pets depend on the humans around them to protect and care for them. State legislators need to take that responsibility seriously and take the necessary steps to ensure the humane treatment of animals by breeding and training facilities.