legislation > MN laws > breeder law > q & a
On May 20, 2014, Governor Mark Dayton signed the Commercial Breeders Licensing and Enforcement bill into law.
1. What is the law called?
The MN Revisor's Office has titled the law: Commercial Breeders Licensing and Enforcement. It is commonly referred to as the Breeder Law.
2. Where can I find the law?
The language is posted on the Minnesota Revisor's website. The law is located under Chapter 346. Dogs and Cats. The specific statute numbers are (and can be found at):
The law also references other supplemental laws which must be followed. These supplemental laws, such as Chapter 343, Chapter 346, and Minn. Stat. Sec. 13.643, are posted at: Supplemental Laws
3. What does the law do?
The Commercial Dog and Cat Breeder Law licenses and regulates commercial dog and cat breeding facilities in Minnesota that meet the definition of "commercial breeder."
The intent of the law is to provide protection for dogs, cats, puppies and kittens within these breeding facilities. The MN Board of Animal Health was granted the authority to administer and enforce the law. Whether the intent of the law is properly and effectively enforced will depend on the actions of the Board.
Key aspects of this law include:
NOTE: In order to move the bill forward, compromises in the language were made. Specifically, the MN Pet Breeder's Association, Rep. Rod Hamilton (as expressed in a House Agriculture Committee hearing) and others in support of commercial breeding facilities wanted data collected by the MN Board of Animal Health, such as inspection reports, to be kept secret. The MN Pet Breeder's Association and others introduced language to keep records and reports hidden from the public. However, this section of the law does allow for certain data access: "The Board of Animal Health may disclose data collected...if the board determines that the access will aid in the law enforcement process or the protection of public or animal health or safety."
4. What is the definition of 'commercial breeder'?
A commercial breeder is defined in the law as "a person who possesses or has an ownership interest in animals and is engaged in the business of breeding animals for sale or for exchange in return for consideration, and who possesses ten or more adult intact animals and whose animals produce more than five total litters of puppies or kittens per year."
5. When did the law become effective?
The law became effective July 1, 2014, when the MN Board of Animal Health (BAH) began registering commercial dog and cat breeders who fall under the bill's language. Breeders who meet the definition in the law were to have obtained a license by July 1, 2015. Once licensed, the BAH is required to annually inspect those breeders and any new breeders who set up facilities covered under the law. The BAH has posted information regarding the program: MN Board of Animal Health - Commercial Dog and Cat Breeders
The Board of Animal Health has started licensing some breeders. List is posted at:
1. Who were the authors for the 2013-2014 session?
A bill is assigned numbers when it is introduced. When introduced in the 2013-2014 legislative session, the bill numbers were S.F. 36 and H.F. 84. (S.F. stands for Senate File; H.F. is House File.) A bill is often referred to by its numbers, as that is how bills are filed at the Minnesota Legislature. Once a bill passes (approved by the Minnesota Legislature) and the Governor signs it, then it becomes "law."
Every bill can also have co-authors, who sign on and show their support. In the MN Senate, a bill can have up to 4 co-authors; in the MN House, a bill can have up to 34 co-authors. Co-authors can sign on to multiple bills. It's important to understand who the co-authors are in case your own legislators have signed on in support. Co-authors can be added at any time and are posted on the legislative website. Co-authors included:
2. Were the House and Senate breeder bills the same?
The House and Senate bills were companion bills. This means, when first introduced, the bill language for each was identical. As the bills moved through the committee process, the language for each changed due to amendments proposed and passed in individual committees. (The legislative website, see #4 below, posts the bill language.) For more information on process, go to: How A Bill Becomes Law.
3. What is the problem this law intended to address?
The problem is inhumane dog and cat breeding practices and conditions in Minnesota by unscrupulous or negligent breeders, and a lack of oversight of this industry.
4. What is meant by "inhumane breeding practices and conditions"?
There is a wide spectrum of business practices in the breeding and selling of dogs and cats in Minnesota. A certain type of breeder (referred to as puppy or kitten mills, backyard breeders, basement breeders or junk breeders) are in the "business" of breeding to make money. For these types of breeders (high-volume or low-volume), corners are cut in operations so as to maximize profits, resulting in substandard or deplorable conditions. Examples:
Animals produced by substandard breeders can be sick, diseased or may have genetic defects. These animals are then sold to the public. Both high-volume and low-volume breeders sell directly to consumers through classified or print ads, websites, parking lots or at the kennel/home. For additional insight, please review the pages on this website.
NOTE: Even if a kennel appears "clean" or uses modern caging, animals in a facility can lack proper mental and physical care if not provided proper enrichment and socialization. Numerous studies of high-volume kennels and shelters show the necessity to address the mental and emotional needs of these animals. Breeding facilities with hundreds of animals may not provide the staff necessary to care for the needs of each animal. (Often, the cost of hiring sufficient and trained staff to provide this care exceeds what a breeder is willing to pay; hence, corners are cut and proper care not provided.)
5. What does "regulation" mean and why is it needed?
Licensing and regulation are the legal means to hold businesses accountable for their actions. For instance, hairdressers, liquor stores, restaurants, veterinarians and numerous other businesses in Minnesota must obtain a license to operate and be regulated (i.e., get inspected, adhere to standards, be fined if they break the law). Regulation raises the standards of an industry by weeding out the "bad" businesses. The buying, selling, breeding and dealing of dogs and cats in order to make money is business; these are commercial transactions. It differs from many other businesses in that the "product" is a living being and purchased as a pet.
6. So dog and cat breeders in Minnesota were not regulated?
Correct. Unlike other industries, the State of Minnesota had not required dog and cat breeders to obtain a license to breed and sell dogs and cats to consumers. No State agency was granted the legal authority to set up a licensing program, enforce standards through inspections or impose penalties specific to the dog and cat breeding industry. Due to this lack of State oversight, animals have been harmed. Consumers, too, have been sold unhealthy dogs and cats, and communities (i.e., humane societies, rescue groups, law enforcement, animal control, etc.) have been burdened with the responsibility of "dealing with" the problem. (The new law, passed May 20, 2014, will require licensing and inspections with oversight and enforcement by the MN Board of Animal Health for those breeders who meet the definition of the law. Whether the law is effective will depend on if this state agency properly executes its duties and enforces the intent of the law.)
NOTE: Minnesota has a Kennel Law (Statute 347.31), which can apply to certain breeders or dealers if they meet the definition of "kennel." Only one dog dealer in Minnesota (Kenneth Schroeder) was licensed under 347.31 because he sold dogs to medical and educational institutions for experiments. The USDA dog recently revoked this dealer's federal license due to multiple violations; Schroeder then gave up his Minnesota kennel license. For further explanation, see Minnesota Laws
7. Are humane societies in Minnesota regulated?
Yes. Some humane societies, animal shelters, rescue organizations and veterinary clinics are licensed and inspected in Minnesota — and have been for years — if they meet the definition under Minn. Stat. Sec. 347.31. Many of these facilities receive sick, neglected and abused dogs and cats from disreputable breeding facilities, in addition to handling stray, abandoned or other unwanted animals; many must raise donations so as to care for the animals.
NOTE: Minn. Stat. 347.31, Subd. 2 defines "kennel" as: "...any place, building, tract of land, abode, or vehicle wherein or whereupon dogs or cats are kept, congregated, or confined, if the dogs or cats were obtained from municipalities, pounds, auctions, or by advertising for unwanted dogs or cats, or dogs or acts strayed, abandoned, or stolen...."
8. Do other state laws already exist in Minnesota that solve this problem?
Minnesota does have animal anti-cruelty laws; however, this "system" is complaint-based — i.e., a person must see the inhumane conditions and report the cruelty or neglect; law enforcement may then decide to investigate; and a prosecutor may choose to take the case. This means animal anti-cruelty statutes kick in after the cruelty occurs. Regulation is preventative — allowing authorities to legally enter the property and inspect breeding facilities so conditions can be assessed and cruelty can be prevented before it happens.
9. Who led these efforts?
Minnesotans. A coalition of humane societies, rescue groups, animal control, veterinarians, animal protection and advocacy organizations, and citizens led efforts to get a dog and cat breeder passed in the MN Legislature. Over the years, huge strides were made in educating legislators and the public.
The name of the coalition is Speak Up for Minnesota Dogs and Cats. Members include: A Rotta Love Plus, Animal Folks MN, Animal Humane Society, Minnesota Animal Control Association, Minnesota Humane Society, Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection, Minnkota Persian Rescue, Pause 4 Paws, Pet Haven Inc. of Minnesota, Retrieve A Golden of Minnesota, Second Chance Animal Rescue and Tri-County Humane Society.
In addition to Coalition members, numerous other people and organizations from throughout Minnesota expressed support for breeder regulation, including:
A Rally was also held at the State Capitol. For details and photos: RALLY
10. What is the legislative history about this issue?
In 1994, a law was passed in the Minnesota Legislature regarding the sale of dogs and cats (the Pet Lemon Law, which is a consumer protection law). In 2007, a bill to regulate dog and cat breeders was introduced, but no hearings were granted. A revised bill was introduced in 2008; it did not pass. In 2009-2010, a renewed attempt was made. A bill was introduced in the MN Legislature to provide regulations of certain dog and cat breeders. Conversations were held with diverse groups, and compromise language was made to the bills. The House bill passed two committees; the Senate bill was voted down in the Senate Agriculture committee. 2011-2012 was a new biennial session — with new legislators and a new majority. No hearings were granted in 2011 or 2012. Over the years, significant progress was made in generating awareness and understanding of the problem; however, opposing interests stopped or slowed passage of any reasonable regulation, leaving dogs and cats unprotected in breeding, brokering and retail operations. The Dog and Cat Breeder Bill (S.F. 36/H.F. 84) was introduced in 2013 for the 2013-2014 legislative session. In 2013, H.F. 84 passed three House committees and much progress was made which carried over into 2014. In 2014, the bill passed through all necessary committees and, on May 16, passed in both the MN House and Senate floors as part of the Omnibus Supplemental Budget Bill. On May 20, 2014, the Governor signed the Dog and Cat Breeder Regulation Bill into law.
11. Who was the opposition?
Over the years, "opposition" to breeder regulation has changed as people and groups become more informed. Unfortunately, some still presented myths and lies to legislators. Key opposing views:
Creating laws is never easy; often the best tactic is communication — inform legislators about the problem and dispel the myths and fears.
12. Do breeders support regulation?
Some do; some don't. Often with regulation, if a particular sub-sector is excluded from the definition (i.e., not required to be licensed or regulated), they may offer support.
Many breeders in Minnesota act responsibly and invest in the well-being of each animal. Reputable breeders understand animal husbandry and possess skills in animal health, care, genetics and other factors. Reputable breeders support regulation:
There are some breeders and dealers, however, who view dogs and cats as inventory — to be bred as "stock" and sold as "products." Breeding, for these type of breeders, is about quantity (sales), not quality (animal health). Often, they view the breeding animals (many of whom are kept confined for years) as commodities and, therefore, have not provided proper care or conditions for the animals' physical and mental health. When their livelihood is questioned (i.e., asked to conduct business at a higher standard), these type of breeders fight to keep the "status quo." Examples:
13. Now that the Commercial Dog and Cat Breeder Bill is law, what's next?
The law became effective July 1, 2014. The language grants authority to the MN Board of Animal Health to register breeders who meet the definition; to conduct inspections and licensing for those who are in compliance with the law; and to conduct enforcement of the law. Materials for the regulatory program, such as the application form, inspection report, inspection supplement, inspectors (by district) and other items, are posted on the MN Board of Animal Health website.
Step one is getting a bill passed. Just as important is making certain the law is enforced properly. Because the Board of Animal Health was granted the authority to administer the law, it is the duty and responsibility of this agency to take actions that reflect the intent of the law. (As many within the Board are also veterinarians, they should be held to an even higher standards based on their Code of Ethics.) Citizens must now watch the Board and determine if they are properly enforcing the law and acting in the best interest of the animals or the breeding facilities.
NOTE: Unfortunately, the MN Board of Animal Health has licensed the largest breeders in Minnesota, 3 of whom have over 900 dogs and puppies. Based on this licensing, it appears the agency is not enforcing all aspects of the law, such as providing enrichment to each animal, providing positive physical contact twice daily with humans and other animals, or providing adequate staffing to ensure all requirements are met. The BAH has not provided documentation to prove these conditions are being met. Further, the BAH granted a license to a breeder convicted of animal cruelty.
14. If I know of a breeder who needs a license, who do I report them to?
You can call the MN Board of Animal Health directly or you can contact Animal Folks and we will forward any information to the Board. Our email: firstname.lastname@example.org
15. Will the new law stop puppy and kitten mills in Minnesota?
The problem of inhumane dog and cat breeding in Minnesota will not be fixed overnight. Regulation of this industry is one of many strategies to address the problem. Minnesotans must continue to monitor the situation, generate awareness of the problem within communities, report violations and known or suspected animal neglect or cruelty to law enforcement, and assist/watch the MN Board of Animal Health in its duties to ensure inspections and enforcement are conducted fully and within the law.