- Associated Press - Sunday, May 7, 2017

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Some Kansas lawmakers and animal welfare advocates are holding up a bill to increase fees on pet stores, breeders and kennels in hopes that they can also pass more stringent oversight of animal breeders.

At issue is a measure to require surprise inspections of breeders, a move supporters say would help address problem breeders, or “puppy mills” that mistreat animals. An annual report produced by the Humane Society of the United States says Kansas had the third-most problem dealers in 2016. The report lists 15 breeders in the state that were cited last year for unsanitary conditions or unhealthy dogs.

House and Senate negotiators couldn’t agree last week on a bill increasing fees and oversight. They moved forward with only the fee increase, which supporters say is necessary to pay for the existing inspection system.

The House rejected the fee bill Thursday because it didn’t include a provision requiring surprise inspections. That sent the bill back to the negotiating committee, which might take the issue up this week.

Animal welfare advocates would like to require that breeders not receive notice before an inspection and be charged a fee if they’re not on site when an inspector comes. They say Kansas commercial breeders have a poor reputation for dog care.

Democratic Rep. Sydney Carlin, of Manhattan, said giving breeders notice that an inspector is coming means they have time to hide infractions.

“They can clean up the pen,” Carlin said. “They can remove dead animals. They can take the sick ones and put them somewhere down the road.”

Midge Grinstead, senior state director for the Humane Society, said she knows of breeders that had green algae in the dogs’ water, dog feces stacked around the facility and dogs in poor health.

But some lawmakers and a group representing breeders said the surprise-inspection rule would be too tough on breeders and the inspectors who have to travel to rural areas to check the facilities.

Kansas Federation of Animal Owners lobbyist Steven Hitchcock said giving breeders a few hours’ warning helps make sure inspectors don’t make trips to distant facilities only to find that the owner is away. But he said it’s not enough time for a poor-performing breeder to address problems before an inspector arrives.

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