The friendly kennel club!
In January, something strange started happening to Ohio dog breeders. People we know. Handlers. Preservation breeders. Hobbyists. They started getting letters in the mail from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, informing them that under Ohio Revised Code statute 956, they were now considered to be “pet stores” and they were obligated by law to apply for a “pet store license.”
“Our office has received notification that you may be operating as a high volume dog breeder, a dog broker or a pet store in violation of ORC 956.04, ORC 956.05 or 956.21” . . . the letter begins. It goes on to define “High Volume Breeder”, “Dog Broker” and “Pet Store.” Those of you who envision rows of pet toys and fish tanks, dog kibble and kitty litter when you think of “pet store” may be very surprised by the State’s encompassing definition: “an individual retail store to which both of the following apply: the stores sells dogs to the public; and with regard to the sale of the dog from the store, the sales person, the buyer of the dog and the dog for sale are physically present during the sales transaction so that the buyer may personally observe the dog and help ensure its health prior to taking custody.”
They go on to say that animal rescue, animal shelters and humane societies are not pet stores, but some of us might beg to differ.
It’s a funny thing, you can find a list of exact physical maladies you might possess that would compel shopkeepers to provide you with the use of their restroom whether they consider that facility public or not– but you cannot find in the Ohio Revised Code the exact definition of a “store.” Nevertheless the Ohio Department of Agriculture had determined that if you sold a single puppy your house, regardless of its zoning, HOA or other factors constituted a retail establishment. In signing the application, you agree that your “premises” will be open for inspection at any time, without notice. Oh, wait, did we forget to mention that an annual pet store license has a fee of $500? And that failure to comply can result in a fine of ten grand?
Then inspectors started arriving unannounced on the front porches of people who’d bred a litter or two last year.
After a whirlwind campaign of letter writing and telephone calls, and with the considerable assistance of the Government Relations department of the American Kennel Club, it all came to a halt, albeit a temporary one. On Friday, March 8th, the AKC announced that the ODA had agreed to suspend pet store license applications and enforcement while the legislature worked out a solution to the language in the statute.
In a matter of days, many breeders and exhibitors became aware of how vulnerable they are, and how vulnerable they could be again with the stroke of a pen.
On Wednesday, March 13th, Fort St. Clair Kennel Club is hosting a Breeder’s Forum to discuss the limbo in which we all live, to exchange ideas as to how to best make our voices heard in helping the legislature come to a sensible solution that would prevent this kind of wild misinterpretation in the future. Attorney (and longtime Labrador breeder) Chris Wincek and his legal partner (and son) Chris “Chap” Wincek will be on hand to offer some insight into the process of clarifying the legislation and with suggestions of what to do next. We will have an “up to the last minute” report from Jennifer Clark, director of the AKC’s government relations office and we have invited local legislators from Hamilton, Warren, Clermont, Greene, Clark, Montgomery, Butler, Preble and Darke counties to join us.
The meeting is open to everyone and is being held at The Grange, 501 Nation Ave in Eaton. We will have postcards to mail to your legislators, contact information, printed advice from the AKC on meeting with your legislator, and letter templates to help you craft your own input on how to re-shape the law. Come on out and help us make history.
We’ll also have pie and coffee for you.