Dog/Cat Breeder Law

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On May 20, 2014, Governor Mark Dayton signed the Omnibus Supplemental Budget Bill (H.F. 3172) into law, which included the Dog and Cat Breeder Regulation Bill. This means the Commercial Dog and Cat Breeder Bill is now officially law in the State of Minnesota.


The law became effective July 1, 2014.

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 Commercial Dog and Cat Breeder Law.


2. 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."

The Chief Author in the MN Senate for S.F. 36 was Senator John Marty. The Chief Author in the MN House for H.F. 84 was Representative John Lesch.

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:

MN House of Representatives - co-authors

Rep. John Lesch (author)

Rep. Michael Paymar

Rep. Frank Hornstein

Rep. Karen Clark

Rep. Jim Davnie

Rep. Ron Erhardt

Rep. John Benson

Rep. Linda Slocum (Rep. Slocum spoke on the House floor for the bill)

Rep. Joe Mullery

Rep. Mike Freiberg

Rep. Carolyn Laine

Rep. Jerry Newton

Rep. Connie Bernardy

Rep. Diane Loeffler

Rep. Alice Hausman

Rep. Peter Fischer

Rep. Rena Moran

Rep. Jason Isaacson

Rep. Sandra Masin

Rep. Jason Metsa

MN Senate - co-authors

Sen. John Marty (author)

Sen. Jeff Hayden

Sen. Terri Bonoff

Sen. Scott Dibble

Sen. Jim Carlson


3. 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.


4. 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):

Minn. Stat. Sections 347.57-347.64

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


5. What is the problem this law is 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. 


6. 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:

• Adult dogs and cats live their lives in cages or pens and are bred repeatedly; some animals bred over ten years of age with little or no prenatal care given.

• Cages, pens and dog houses may be overcrowded with multiple animals sharing the same space, creating stress from constant confinement.

• Outdoor shelter is often in poor condition, with animals provided little or no protection from elements such as severe storms and temperatures.

• Animals may be malnourished from inadequate food and water; water and food containers may be filled with feces, urine or other bacteria.

• Many kennels lack proper sanitation and pest/parasite control, resulting in the animals having fleas, worms, kennel cough, giardia, etc.

• Animals often receive little or no veterinary care, with wounds untreated and other conditions (i.e., hernias, eye and ear infections, masses, etc.) not treated.

• Many animals have severe dental problems.

• Little or no grooming is provided, so adult dogs often have skin conditions (i.e., hot spots, hair loss) and long nails (potential to be caught and ripped off).

• Animals are rarely provided with consistent and positive human interaction or socialization, resulting in stress from constant confinement and behavioral problems (i.e., fear, aggression and anxiety).

• Staffing is limited, so observation of the animals (to prevent sickness or animal fights) is limited.

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.)


7. What is the goal?

To help ensure that dogs, cats, puppies and kittens are healthy and safe within breeding facilities in Minnesota by regulation of commercial dog and cat breeders.


8. 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.


9. So dog and cat breeders in Minnesota were not regulated?

Correct. Unlike other industries, the State of Minnesota has 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 are harmed. Consumers, too, are sold unhealthy dogs and cats, and communities (i.e., humane societies, rescue groups, law enforcement, animal control, etc.) are 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.)

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


10. 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...."


11. Who would be regulated?

A key aspect of any bill is the definition of "who" — i.e., who is required to obtain a license to operate and who will be regulated? The Commercial Dog and Cat Breeder Law defines a commercial dog/cat breeder 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." Animals are defined as dogs and cats.


12. How was the "ten" number determined?

The licensing number of "ten or more breeding animals" was based on research (below) and compromise. Numerous people were consulted for their input, including Minnesota legislators, animal control, humane agents, law enforcement, veterinarians, humane societies, rescue groups, breeders and other experts and stakeholders. Other factors considered:

• The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) starts licensing of dog and cat breeders at more than 4 breeding females.

• Sherburne County, Stearns County and Mille Lacs County, three Minnesota counties with a breeder/kennel ordinance, each start licensing at 4 or more dogs over 6 months of age. (Stearns also includes "domestic pets and companion animals" in its definition.) Both Stearns County and Sherburne County cap a commercial kennel at no more than 40 dogs over six months of age; Mille Lacs County states "in no case shall the maximum number of adult dogs exceed 35".) Other Minnesota counties are debating similar ordinances because they do not want the fiscal responsibility of caring for hundreds of animals should a kennel prove to be irresponsible in its breeding practices and conditions; and zoning personnel are not trained or skilled in animal husbandry pertaining to dog and cat breeding, if they are required to evaluate conditions.

• Iowa starts licensing at 4 or more breeding males and females. Wisconsin uses a slightly different definition, licensing breeders who sell 25 or more dogs each year (which amounts to about 4 breeding females).

• The majority of other states in the nation with breeder laws start licensing at 2 to 10 breeding animals.

• Animal cruelty cases reported to humane investigators, animal control and law enforcement indicate that cruelty and neglect among breeders occurs in all sizes of kennels (small, medium and large scale).

NOTE: An earlier version of the bill (in past years) started licensing at 6 breeding animals; however, an opposing animal shelter in Minnesota introduced a bill in a previous legislative session starting licensing at 40 breeding animals. This legislation forced a compromise, resulting in increasing the number of animals in a kennel that would require licensing and inspections. This opposition by a local animal shelter impacted the definition of the bill and has resulted in less animals being protected.

NOTE: The reason "adult intact animals" is used within definitions is because adult breeding animals (males + females) determine puppy and kitten production. One female could be bred twice a year with an average of 5 puppies/kittens per litter (varies by breed); this can determine the size of a kennel (number of estimated animals).


13. What are the key sections within the law?

The key sections of the law are framed as:

Licensing — Requires commercial dog and cat breeders in Minnesota to be licensed in oreder to operate and sell dogs and cats in the State of Minnesota.

Inspections and Enforcement — Gives legal authority to the MN Board of Animal Health to inspect commercial dog and cat breeding facilities and enforce State laws and new laws to ensure animal care standards are met

Penalties — Imposes civil, administrative and criminal penalties for those who violate the law

A few other provisions in the law include:

• Must keep identifying and medical records on each animal

• Must develop and maintain a written veterinary protocol for disease control and prevnetion, veterinary care and euthanasia

• Animals must be provided daily enrichment and must be provided positive physical contact with human beings and compatible animals at least twice daily

• Must provide adequate staff to maintain the facility and observe each animal daily to monitor the animal's health and well-being and to properly care for the animals

• All animals sold must be accompanied by a veterinary health certificate completed by a veterinarian no more than 30 days prior to sale or distribution

• Puppies and kittens may not be sold, trade or given away prior to 8 weeks of age


14. I heard there were multiple breeder bills introduced in previous sessions. Is that true and why?

Yes, multiple breeder bills were introduced by different interests over the years. As with all issues of importance (i.e., animals, education, the environment, healthcare, etc.), different individuals and groups have different opinions as to what works best. Sometimes varying viewpoints and approaches result in multiple bills; sometimes bills were also introduced by opposition groups to stop or slow action.


15. Why is regulation needed for this industry?

To protect animals, consumers and communities. If this protection is effective will largely depend on the actions of the Board of Animal Health (given authority to administer the law) and whether they will interpret the law as intended. It is up to citizens to "watchdog" the Board and hold them accountable.


16. Do other state laws already exist in Minnesota that solve this problem?

No. Some people believe that there are "already laws on the books" to address this issue. 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. Relying solely on reporting, cruelty investigations and prosecution is time-consuming and costly for local law enforcement, animal control, animal welfare organizations and the courts. Regulation is a more efficient use of resources.


17. 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:

• Over 50 Minnesota animal shelters and rescue organizations are in support of this legislation;

• 400 Minnesota veterinarians and certified vet techs (CVTs) signed a letter of support for breeder regulation;

• The Animal Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association and the Minnesota Animal Control Association have expressed support for the bill; and

• Over 20,000 petitions have been signed by Minnesotans in support of breeder regulation; all petitions have been delivered directly to constituents' legislators.

18. 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.


19. 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:

• As for "organized" opposition (paid lobbyists), for many years the strongest voice against dog/cat breeder regulation came from corporate agricultural interests. Some livestock associations and companies feared that requiring a business to treat dogs and cats humanely is a slippery slope that can spill over to livestock — "pigs, cows and chickens will be next." However, other farm associations and individual farmers disagreed with this viewpoint and recognized the problem. In the 2013-2014 session, some of these organizations spoke up and gave support for the breeder bill (even lobbied and testified for it). 

• The National Rifle Association (NRA) and certain sporting/hunting groups also lobbied against past bills, expressing a similar fear — "my freedoms will be taken away." However, other hunters/groups express support because they want well cared-for hunting dogs.

• Some breeders have voiced opposition. In past hearings and meeting, breeders (small and large scale) have acknowledged a problem exists — but, as there are so many different breed groups and associations in Minnesota, many of them did not have agreement amongst themselves in regards to action. The

MN Pet Breeders Association and specific breeders worked to force compromises into the law (such as the "data secrecy clause") which would favor their businesses.

• Breed registries, such as the American Kennel Club (AKC), have actively opposed breeder regulation nationwide and encouraged their members to lobby against it. (The AKC and other registries make money from each puppy registered.)

Creating laws is never easy; often the best tactic is communication — inform legislators about the problem and dispel the myths and fears.


20. 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:

• Because they realize unscrupulous or negligent dog and cat breeders tarnish the reputation of all breeders

• Because they care about the health and well-being of all dogs and cats — not just their own

• Because they already obey laws and operate under high standards so don't fear 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:

• Some are driven by greed — they are not willing to invest in better conditions or hire more staff because it would cut into their profit margins;

• Some refuse to act out of ignorance — they do not see a problem; they do not recognize the harm done to the animals;

• Some resist implementing higher standards due to an anti-regulation stance — "I don't want government coming on my property and telling me what to do"


21. When did the bill get signed into law?

The breeder bill was signed into law on May 20, 2014 by Governor Dayton.


22. Now that the Commercial Dog and Cat Breeder Bill is law, what's next?

The law becomes 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.

NOTE: 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.


27. 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: info@animalfolks.org


28. 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.



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