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Dog breeders, pet stores bill clears Senate

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Dog breeders, pet stores bill clears Senate

Feb 20, 2024 | 7:00 am ET
By Whitney Downard
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Dog breeders, pet stores bill clears Senate
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Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Goshen, introduces a bill in the Senate Chamber on Feb. 19, 2024. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

A bill establishing care standards for dog breeders and pet stores that would simultaneously strike local ordinances banning dog sales moves back to the House after passing through the Senate on a 31-18 vote on Monday. 

Contentious pet store, ‘puppy mill’ bill reemerges at the Indiana Statehouse

Sen. Blake Doriot, the chamber sponsor, described the measure as a proposal to establish some of the “strictest standards in the country” for retail stores and breeders, which must register with the State Board of Animal Health and follow Purdue University’s Canine Care Certified Program.

“House Bill 1412 is also, and mainly, a commerce issue, not a local control issue,” said the Goshen Republican, who has a family background in breeding. “There have been 21 local units that have adopted ordinances that restrain or, in some cases, completely prohibit the retail sale of dogs. They’ve stepped out of their lane and encroached on the state’s authority.”

“… This would be no different than a local unit of government telling a grocery store, ‘You can sell bread. You can sell meat. You can sell mayo. But you can’t sell cheese,” Doriot continued.

Doriot said this action — which has been adopted by municipalities like Indianapolis, Bloomington and Columbus — goes against free market principles and limits consumer choice, driving up prices for preferred breeds and harming customers.

The case against HB 1412

In committee, the powerful Petland corporation spearheaded testimony in support of the bill alongside Amish breeders who say the bill would protect their livelihoods. 

Critics say the measure, which failed last year, strips them of local control and protects so-called puppy mills at the expense of crowded animal shelters. 

Dog breeders, pet stores bill clears Senate
Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, speaks at an interim committee meeting on Oct. 10, 2023. (Leslie Bonilla Muñiz/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Sen. Fady Qaddoura, an Indianapolis Democrat, said local government units made choices that aligned with the values of their constituents to ban sales from puppy mills and breeders. He noted that even Republican-controlled cities, like Carmel, had instituted their own ordinances. 

“If this was an egregious case by which a local government went far off from what the state has empowered them to do, I will definitely respect and support your argument. But this is not one of those cases where you had a radical policy position by a community that requires a correction by the State of Indiana,” Qaddoura said. “It’s not radical for a community to have their own policy preferences on regulating these issues.”

He noted that breeders who testified in support of this weren’t banned from selling dogs outright and could still sell directly to consumers. 

In response, Doriot noted that local governments would still retain control over issues like zoning a dog breeding facility or utilizing health department inspections.

Under the bill, the State Board of Animal Health would bear the responsibility for inspecting facilities but there is no state funding provided in the legislation.

There was bipartisan opposition, though none of the Republican ‘no’ votes spoke on the bill. 

The nine Republicans joining the Democratic caucus included: Ron Alting, of Lafayette; Scott Baldwin, of Noblesville; Vaneta Becker, of Evansville, Mike Bohacek, of Michiana Shores; Justin Busch, of Fort Wayne; Dan Dernulc, of Highland; Tyler Johnson, of Leo; Greg Walker, of Columbus; and Kyle Walker, of Lawrence.

Because the Senate committee that heard the bill opted to amend it, those changes must be approved by the House Chamber — either through a concurrence vote or through a conference committee, where the parties hash out their differences. The bill passed out of the House in January on a 59-36 vote with a handful of ‘no’ votes from Republicans.