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Locals must blow whistle on rural puppy mills

Saturday, February 15, 2014
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Last month’s story about Sprakers dog breeder Herbert Weich captured the attention of animal rights activists around the globe, as well as new Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort. That’s a good thing because the activists were instrumental in getting proper care for the neglected animals, and now Ossenfort is wasting little time in addressing the larger issue, which he refers to as the county’s “dirty little secret,” puppy mills.

Ossenfort is probably right that there are more substandard breeding operations like Weich’s hidden in the rural hills and dales of Montgomery County. It’s a relatively cheap business for people without much capital to start up, you don’t have to pay the workers minimum wage, and they’re not very likely to complain about the working conditions. So if you keep it under control, you can get away with it.

But the reality is, breeding dogs does take a fair amount of know-how, and money, to do properly; and if the breeder lacks either, the operation can get out of hand quickly (as it did with Weich last month, and as it apparently did this week with Dawn Verdeschi and her German Shepherd kennel in Durham, Columbia County).

Officials like Ossenfort are wise to the situation; so is Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who recently signed a law allowing localities to regulate their own dog breeding and selling operations. But appointing commissions to draft regulations for such businesses, as Ossenfort has done, is only the first step. Enforcement is always going to be a challenge, especially when there are so many people in these rural counties — and parts of virtually every county in the region qualify — living far enough from civilization that they can stay under the radar.

But it’s worth the effort to try, and as the general public becomes aware of the new regulations, they’ll be more inclined to serve as authorities’ eyes and ears on any puppy mills they may encounter.

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