Tag Archives: health

Excellent, opponent testimony for HB 506, clearly states bill’s impact on our animal friends & the families that unwittingly purchase these dogs


Presented by Vicki Deisner, Animal Welfare Institute
Before the Ohio House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Chairman Blessing, Vice- Chairman Reineke, and Ranking Minority Member Clyde, I am Vicki Deisner, government affairs representative for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). AWI is a national animal welfare organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. We seek better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild.

Our more than 1,300 members and supporters in Ohio have spoken out many times on proposals affecting animal welfare, including the bill before you today, as well as the Commercial Dog Breeders Act, Nitro’s law, and pet protection orders. Today, on their behalf, AWI comes before you to strongly oppose HB 506, which fails to provide reasonable protections for dogs bred in puppy mills in Ohio.

The state’s brutal and thriving puppy mill industry would not be curtailed by this bill. On the contrary, those with a financial interest in keeping the puppy mill industry afloat support it, and it would provide cover for those who wish to continue profiting from the suffering of animals.

Puppy Mills Overview

Puppy mills are operations that breed large numbers of dogs to sell in the commercial pet trade. Puppy mills are also places where profits take precedence over animal welfare. Consumers are intentionally prevented from ever seeing the breeding operations because they would be appalled at what they would find. At the mills, the animals are not recognized as sentient beings; rather, they are mere production stock.

Breeding animals typically spend their entire lives confined in small, barren wire cages. The females are denied an opportunity to rest and recuperate between litters. Once they are physically worn out and stop reproducing successfully, they are dumped or killed.

The kennels are overcrowded, filthy and dimly lit for the dogs, and there is no socialization, let alone nurturing or opportunity for play outside the confines of the cages. Many dogs in puppy mills suffer from dehydration and malnutrition, lack of dental care leading to rotting jaws, eye infections, ulcerations and dermatitis and ulcerated skin from urine and feces falling through wire bottom cages, tick infestations, ingestion of contaminated food, and diseases borne from unsanitary conditions. These issues have been visually documented by the USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG) in their inspection reports of problematic breeders.

The ASPCA has accumulated over 10,000 photos taken by the USDA during routine inspections of facilities, which demonstrates these issues are not exception, but rather the rule (nopetstoepuppies.com/buy-a- puppy). Generally, the breeders have no concern for genetic abnormalities, either, that may be passed from parents to the offspring such as heart disease, kidney disease, hip dysplasia, and cataracts.

Current Circumstances in Ohio

Ohio is a notorious stronghold for puppy mill operations. The Commercial Dog Breeders Act, which went into effect in 2013, requires the licensure and annual inspection of high volume breeders that sell 60 dogs and produce at least 9 litters in a single year. However, while this law was a strong step in the right direction, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) stated that it is very difficult to enforce. Nearly 900 breeders are on the department’s “action list,” meaning that they may meet the threshold for licensure but aren’t currently licensed or inspected. This means that approximately two-thirds of puppy mills are not actively regulated by the state. ODA has said that it does not have the authority to visit facilities that should be licensed but are not. 

Due to these shortcomings of the Commercial Dog Breeders Act, Ohio continues to be second only to Missouri in the number of federally licensed commercial dog breeding facilities. As of June 2017, there were 263 state-licensed high-volume breeders and 260 USDA-licensed commercial breeders in Ohio. Ohio is also a major importer of puppy mill puppies, as mills across the country sell to Ohio consumers via pet stores, the internet, and other indirect methods.

Illustrative of the problems that beset Ohio puppy mills, in 2017, 12 of them were included among The Horrible Hundred, a list of the 100 worst puppy mills in the country. A number were on the list for a second time, but for Berlin Kennel in Millersburg, third time was the charm. In June 2016, owner Marvin Burkholder received an Official Warning from USDA for violations, on at least four separate occasions, of the federal Animal Welfare Act relating to veterinary care. Despite this warning, more violations were cited in August of that same year. And these were on top of repeat violations in 2014 and 2015.

Implications of HB 506

There are a number of breeding facility welfare reforms that would result in proper regulation of Ohio’s puppy mill industry and take meaningful steps towards ending the extreme cruelty that is currently the norm at these operations. However, they are not contained in HB 506.HB 506 would not simplify enforcement for the ODA. Rather, it changes the threshold for coverage to any breeder who keeps, houses, and maintains 8 or more breeding dogs that produce at least 5 litters of puppies per year and, in return for a fee or other consideration, sells 30 or more puppies per year – setting forth a more complicated standard that will not ease enforcement issues.

The coverage of the law is not only complicated, but also incomplete, because it applies only to Ohio breeders. This would allow unscrupulous breeders from other states to continue selling to Ohio consumers. A substitute version of HB 506 also creates a loophole that invites failure by providing that unspayed adult female dogs who are used both for breeding and for hunting and field trial activities do not count as a breeding dog when determining if a breeder is a puppy mill.

HB 506 also sets forth inadequate requirements for food and water, specifying that they must only be available in quantities that allow maintenance of “normal body condition.” The result of this language is that food could be provided only once per day, and water could be provided in very small quantities. Inspectors would have no way of knowing when it was last made available, and because H.B. 506’s illogical cage size requirement is based on the weight of the dog, breeders would be incentivized to keep dogs thin so they could keep them in small enclosures.

Furthermore, H.B. 506’s temperature regulations are vague, nearly impossible to enforce, and are largely at the discretion of the breeder.The exercise provision in HB 506, which mandates an opportunity for daily exercise and access to daylight, is too vague to ensure that it benefits the dogs. There is no specificity on how often each day that opportunity needs to exist or what would qualify as an “opportunity.” It is equally unclear what would constitute “outdoor access.” To ensure that breeders adhere to reasonable animal welfare standards, detailed provisions requiring constant outdoor access and freedom of movement are vital.

Dogs are highly social animals, and isolation or incorrect socialization generally produces mental distress, including chronic anxiety and the development of abnormal behaviors. H.B. 506’s socialization requirements could be met by petting a dog for briefly once a year, and permits dogs who are known to be incompatible to be housed together. This exposes the most vulnerable dogs – nursing mothers and their puppies—to potential injury or even death. Dogs who suffer from maladaptive behaviors resulting from poor or nonexistent socialization are unlikely to become safe and well-adjusted family companions when they leave the facility.

HB 506 does not specify that veterinary care must be performed by a licensed veterinarian, which would allow breeders to treat animals themselves under “veterinary guidance.” This is an unacceptable standard of care, and there are documented incidents of Ohio breeders using inappropriate or expired medications on dogs and even performing invasive procedures themselves with unsanitary implements. There are also no guidelines in the bill for vaccinations or parasite control, leaving breeders with a dangerous amount of discretion about illnesses that affect both animal health and public safety. Shockingly, the bill establishes no requirements whatsoever for surgical procedures or euthanasia, despite the fact that shooting, drowning, or poisoning unwanted breeding dogs and unsold puppies are common practices at puppy mills.

Finally, HB 506 does not improve breeding standards at puppy mills. It does not require screening for congenital disorders or prevent breeding of dogs with conditions likely to affect offspring. These genetic disorders can be painful and crippling, may cost Ohio consumers thousands of dollars to treat, and may limit the health, mobility, or lifespan of a dog. The bill also fails to limit the number of litters a dog may be forced to produce. This lack of protection for mother dogs enables the continuation of constant, exploitative breeding that results in lifelong physical ailments.It is clear that HB 506 would benefit the dog breeding industry at the expense of animal welfare and consumer protection. It provides a smokescreen of provisions that sound humane while accomplishing nearly nothing to close the devastating gaps in the Commercial Dog Breeders Act.

AWI strongly urges the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee to oppose HB 506. Thank you for your time and consideration of this issue.

https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-summary?id=GA132-HB-506 (Read HB 506 here for yourself)

PM Beth Sheehan your foster, rescue, or advocacy group name to join the grassroots support for SB 232

Senate Agriculture Committee

SB 232, Veterinarians Continuing Ed for Neutering Services

Proponent Testimony by Beth Sheehan

February 6, 2018

Good afternoon, Chair Hackett, Vice Chair Hoagland, Ranking Minority Member O’Brien, and distinguished members of the Ohio Senate Agriculture Committee.

I am Beth Sheehan, a Hamilton County resident, who stands before you today, representing a broad, grassroots coalition of dog and cat advocates and engaged, Ohio voters – AARF Radio Ohio; Angels for Animals; Animal Pawtectors; Ashtabula County Animal Protective League; The Black Dog Food Pantry; Dogs Unlimited; Fairfield County CARES (Citizens for Animal Rights and Ethical Standards); Falcon Animal Rescue; Family Puppy Boycott-Puppy Mill Awareness of NW Ohio; Harrison County Dog Pound Volunteers; Hartman’s Hounds; Friends of Fido MCDP; Heaven Can Wait; Humane Society of Richland County; Joseph’s Legacy; Justice for Herbie; Kecia Mathys; Max’s Animal Mission; National Animal Shelter Volunteers; Never Muzzled; Nitro’s Ohio Army; North Coast Boxer Rescue; Ohio American Eskimo Rescue; Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates; One of a Kind Pet Rescue; Our Mission Dog Rescue; Paws and the Law; Pawz 2 Adopt, Austintown; Peppermint Pig Animal Rescue; A Perfect Match; Pinealope Animal Rescue; Rescue Village; Rose’s Rescue; Ross County Humane Society; Safe Harbor Animal Rescue, Vermillion; Sanctuary for Senior Dogs; Save Ohio Strays; Soul Connections of Central Ohio; Summit County Shelter; TNR of Warren, Inc.; Tuscarawas County Humane Society; Underdog Society of Knox County; Vote 4 Animals Help Chained Dogs, Dayton; West Side Cats, and 911 Dog Rescue Inc. / Amy’s Adoptables, who enthusiastically support the passage of SB 232, “Veterinary Spay-Neuter Bill”.

SB 232 gives veterinarians the OPTION (not mandate) of receiving up to 2 Continuing Education Units (CEU), out of 30 needed biennially for license renewal, for performing up to four hours of free spay-neuter surgeries.

Why is this a significant bill? Cat and dog population explosion is exponential. Over 70,000 puppies and kittens are born in the U.S. every day.  Some 6.5 million healthy and treatable cats and dogs enter shelters across the nation each year.  About half of them are euthanized, many for space.

One cat can have three litters of kittens per year, with an average of four kittens per litter.  An indoor cat, living to 15-years-old, could produce up to 180 kittens during her lifetime.

One dog can have up to three litters in a year, with an average of seven puppies per litter. One female and her babies can create 67,000 puppies in six years.

Spaying-neutering pets not only saves lives, but protects against pet, health problems, reduces some behavior problems, and also saves taxpayer money.  

Spaying eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers and infections, and substantially decreases the risk of mammary cancers. Neutering prevents testicular cancer, and reduces the risk of prostate problems.

Unfixed pets may mark their territory by spaying strong smelling urine throughout their homes or digging under fences to meet a mate in heat, only to become a stray dog.

County governments are more efficient and save taxpayer dollars with fewer animals in their shelters.  Many shelter costs will significantly decrease – the animals’ cost-of-care, the shelter employees’ wages, the euthanization expenditures, the price to incinerate their bodies, and the fees to haul their corpses away. Additionally, fewer animal remains will be deposited in the local landfill.

On average, communities spend approximately $8 per capita for animal shelters, handle 30 animals per 1,000 people, and euthanize about 12.5 animals per 1,000 people.

Everybody pays, whether he owns an animal or not. There are additional costs in time, money, and resources to our police, fire, and health departments, hospitals, prosecutors’ offices, and courts with an overflow of animals.  The abundant dogs and cats are involved in cruelty and neglect cases, animal fighting rings, car accidents, stray dog bites, spread of disease, neighborhood disturbances, and violations of local ordinances and state laws.

With the passage of SB 232, we recognize the compassionate, generous work of our veterinarians; we hasten fiscal efficiency of our county governments; we attain a higher standard of humanity for ourselves.

I appreciate the openness of the leadership and members of the Senate Agriculture Committee to learn more about this critical bill.  I am pleased to answer your questions. 

Proponent testimony of Diane Less

                                             HOUSE BILL 187 – PROPONENT TESTIMONY OF

                                                           Diane Less, Representative

Angels for Animals, Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for  Herbie,Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Nitro Foundation / Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc., and Paws and the Law

                                      May 27, 2015 – House Health and Aging Committee

Good morning, Chairman Gonzales and Members of the House Health and Aging Committee.  My name is Diane Less and I currently live in Green Township, Ohio (Mahoning County). I am here today speaking on behalf of the following eight grassroots animal welfare organizations:  Angels for Animals, Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for Herbie, Nitro Foundation/Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc., and Paws and the Law, as a proponent for Ohio House Bill 187.

Representing over 67,000 constituents across 72 Ohio counties, our seven Ohio-citizen driven, community based organizations are the driving force behind legislative efforts to address issues impacting the health and safety of companion animals as defined under Ohio Revised Code 959.

Our supporters include a diverse section of voters and taxpayers from across the state, including but not limited to, a broad range of dog enthusiasts, veterinarians, breeders, animal care and welfare organizations, animal control representatives, appointed humane agents, judges, attorneys, and government employees who understand state and federal governance.

Given our coalition’s dedication to educate and support the law enforcement and judicial communities in the enforcement and administration of Ohio’s animal welfare laws, I want to begin my testimony by thanking Representative Ginter and Legislative Aide Alex Thomas for their leadership in sponsoring this important piece of legislation for Ohioans.

According to Animal Emergency Medical Training (AEMT), there is growing demand for theadministration of early and potentially life-saving interventions to injured companion and working animals in an emergency situation. This care is not meant to replace that provided by a licensed veterinarian; rather, it is meant to provide stabilization prior to and during transport to a licensed veterinarian.

Many of these EMTs and first responders have completed comprehensive training in small animal first aid, safety, veterinary triage, and basic veterinary cardiopulmonary life support. These highly trained professionals have been equipped with the knowledge, skills, tools, and hands-on experience necessary to recognize potential animal emergencies and provide initial treatment and stabilization.

As a coalition, we firmly believe the passage of HB 187 would provide clarification under Ohio Revised Code which would allow an EMT or first responder to safely provide early emergent and potentially life-saving intervention and stabilizing care to companion, service and K-9 unit animals in an emergency situation prior to that animal being further treated by a licensed veterinarian.  Most importantly, we believe the proposed language would successfully address two important considerations: (1) ensure EMTs and first responders do not administer drugs to injured companion and working animals without first consulting a veterinarian, and (2) ensure nothing changes about the process of a dispatcher handling a 911 call for incidents that do not require a first responder.

It is our hope this Committee will reflect on the opinions expressed by our seven groups and their supporters in today’s testimony prior to recommending Ohio House Bill 187 for review and passage by the House Health and Aging Committee.

As the representative for Angels for Animals, Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for Herbie, Nitro Foundation / Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc., and Paws and the Law, I greatly appreciate your time and consideration on this important piece of legislation for Ohioans, and I welcome any questions you may have.


Testimony in front of the Ohio House Finance Agriculture Subcommittee

Testimony before the Ohio House Finance  Agriculture Subcommittee

March 11, 2015

Good morning, Chair Thompson, Ranking Member O’Brien, Representative Burkley, Representative Cera,  and Representative Hall,

I am Beth Sheehan.  I live in Cincinnati.  I have come to reinforce the testimony of Ms. Theresa Stir, executive director of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Licensing Board (OVMLB), who asked you for additional funds for fiscal years 2016 and 2017.  The OVMLB needs these funds in order to strengthen its veterinary oversight program. I am specifically asking for an additional $100,000. 

Right now about half of the funds from that licensure passes through the Veterinary Board and into a General Fund, not to be touched by the Veterinary Board. Please release the Veterinary Board’s own funds for use in animal hospital inspections.

Three, primary reasons for having increased animal hospital inspections are community disease control, illegal drugs control, and consumer protection.   The Center for Disease Control states that 75% of emerging infectious, human diseases come from animals.  These are zoonotic diseases that pass between animal and human species.  So, the possibility of disease spread in an unhygienic, animal hospital not only negatively impacts the animals’ health, but also threatens the health of the workers and pet owners.  Public health is at stake here.

Veterinarians are licensed to prescribe and have regular access to drugs.  Yet, the drugs housed and used in animal hospitals go largely unchecked.  The black hole in veterinary oversight leaves a lot of room for bad actors, flying low under the radar, to take advantage.  Right now in Ohio there is a background check just once during the career of a veterinarian, when he first applies for his license.  In Ohio, that fledgling veterinarian and his animal hospital can both go unchecked and unnoticed for the rest of his career until he retires. 

There have been several cases, most notably Alvin Burger of Canton, Ohio and Brandi Tomko of Summit County, Ohio,  who were both found guilty of practicing veterinary medicine without a license in their county courts.  Where were these individuals getting their veterinary drugs to use in their illegal practice?

Additionally, Lee Ann Givan, DVM, was severely censored by the Tennessee Veterinary Board for a host of behaviors, including illegal use of drugs.  What did Dr. Givan do then?  She promptly moved to Ohio, where she was issued a license.  She was later sanctioned by the OVMLB for getting drugs for her two dogs, but using them herself.

Recently, Michael Smith, DVM, of Zanesville, Ohio, his son, Eryn R. Smith, and Travis E. Ryan,  “were indicted following a more than 2-year, multiagency investigation into a prescription drug trafficking ring.”   Hopefully, the increased inspections of animal hospitals would be another prong to successfully work against prescription drug trafficking rings in Ohio.

Third, the mission statement of the OVMLB is “consumer protection”.  Right now Ohio veterinarians are “on the honor system”.  Ohio consumers remain unprotected if the conditions and operations of their animal hospitals are unknown and unmonitored by the state agency that issues the licenses.  In fact, it is only in recent months that the number of animal hospitals and their locations became known by the OVMLB. 

Finally, I appreciate the opportunity to speak with the Ohio House Finance subcommittee today about the need for the Ohio Veterinary Board to have access to an additional $100,000 of its own money.  These funds will be used to increase animal hospital inspections, aimed at protecting public health, monitoring illegal use of drugs, and protecting the consumer.