Read the original article by Donnelle Eller at desmoinesregister.com here.
Animal advocates say proposed changes to Iowa rules governing how dogs, cats and other pets are treated in kennels, shelters and stores should improve the care animals receive in the state.
“It will make a significant improvement in the welfare of animals, particularly in large-scale breeding facilities,” said Preston Moore, Iowa director of the Humane Society of the United States.
“This won’t make Iowa a leader in animal welfare, but it’s bringing the state closer to the standards recognized nationally and in other states,” Moore said. “We’re pleased.”
The Iowa Department of Agriculture’s proposed administrative rule changes would give pets, primarily dogs and cats, more room in cages and prohibit leaving animals in sweltering hot rooms without water for hours.
The state proposes stricter temperature and humidity requirements, with no animals left in rooms warmer than 85 degrees. And they must be watered at least twice a day.
Currently, there’s no limit on how hot a facility can be, and cats and dogs have to be watered once every 24 hours.
“An animal has to have enough room to sit down, lie down and stand up fully, not scrunching their heads and necks,” said Katie Rumsey, the state’s assistant veterinarian who led the animal welfare rule review.
A standard size hasn’t been set, since animals, especially dogs, can vary greatly in size and need for space,” Rumsey said.
Loretta, 10, walks her pen at AHeinz57′ Pet Rescue & Transport in De Soto, Iowa on July 31. Housed in the rescue center currently closed to the public, Loretta is one in over 30 dogs quarantined for up three months due to spreading of the incurable canine brucellosis. Quarantines are released when the threat of a brucellosis-positive dog is removed—either through euthanasia or keeping quarantine for the dog’s life. (Photo: Olivia Sun/The Register)
Mike Naig, Iowa’s agriculture secretary, called for the review, part of a broader ongoing agency-wide assessment.
“Our existing rules are fairly robust, but we definitely needed an update and to be clearer in some areas,” said Naig, whose agency worked with animal welfare advocates, commercial breeders and others to develop the changes.
The agency proposes that owners of kennels, rescues and stores ensure a cage’s wire floors are coated to protect paws and have a solid space for animals to rest.
“It has to be big enough where an animal can completely lie down — not just a little spot to stand on,” Rumsey said.
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The state also proposes greater cleaning and sanitation rules, and will require space where sick animals can be isolated to prevent the spread of disease.
Nancy Magnusson, president of the Iowa Pet Breeders Association, said she’s “for anything that improves the welfare of animals.”
About 90% of the breeders already meet the new requirements, said Magnusson, adding that the association board hasn’t taken a stand on the proposed changes yet.
“Our breeders want happy dogs that produce good quality puppies to sell to families,” said Magnusson, who raises Shih Tzus, Bichon Frise and other small dogs.
Mindi Callison, the founder of Bailing Out Benji, said the proposed administrative rules will “elevate the lives of thousands of animals across the state.”
“It’s wonderful that the state is considering these changes,” said Callison, whose group works to end puppy mills, described as high-volume breeders that raise animals in highly confined areas with low-quality care and little-to-no human interaction.
Animal welfare groups have targeted breeders that have dogs and other pets living in tiny cages in squalid conditions without adequate access to food and water.
Moore said he thought the tougher proposed rules could put “the worst breeders out of business or bring them up to a more acceptable standard.”
Tom Colvin, CEO of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, said the proposed requirements would help clarify and strengthen rules that might have given some operators wiggle room to cut corners.
“I think it’s a very significant step in the right direction,” Colvin said, adding that he wants to ensure that proposed changes don’t limit the group’s ability to provide foster home care for animals.
“We’re very dependent on a vibrant foster program,” he said, “and there will have to be discussion on whether we’re limited on how many foster homes we can have under these proposals.”
The ag department licenses and inspects about 2,000 commercial breeding operations, rescue shelters, pet dealers, boarding kennels and doggy day cares, among other facilities.
The state said it also would make it easier for consumers to check the records of dealers and other commercial breeders.
Moore said he would have liked the state to require that animals have space to exercise and play, adding that socialization is important for pets.
Moore, Callison and others said the proposed rules, which must undergo public review before they can be adopted, should provide a baseline for care.
The proposed changes will be available at rules.iowa.gov beginning Oct. 9, and comments are invited until Oct. 29.
“These rules should be the floor,” Colvin said. “People should be willing to do more.”