Dell, Lauer have reservations about pet sale bill making its way through legislature

INDIANAPOLIS — A local official and state representative from both sides of the aisle are worried about a bill that would prevent Indiana cities from prohibiting dog sales by pet shops that work with qualified breeders, as Columbus already has restrictions in place.

Columbus City Councilman Tom Dell, D-at large, and Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, have expressed concern about Senate Bill 134 and how it would take power away from local government.

The bill was referred to the House on Feb. 21. It had its first reading on Feb. 28 and was referred to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. Dell visited the statehouse on March 20 and testified about the bill during a committee hearing.

“If you want to have standards without taking away the local control, I don’t have a problem with that,” he said. “But you take away the local control, you’re going to have a lot of people like myself, council members from all over the state, coming up here and beating on your doors, going ‘What are you people doing to us?’”

If passed, Senate Bill 134 would prevent cities and incorporated towns from adopting new ordinances or regulations prohibiting the sale of dogs by retail pet stores that acquire dogs from any of the following sources:

1. A commercial dog broker or commercial dog breeder that meets the following criteria:

(A) Is registered as required by IC 15-21-2-1.

(B) Is certified by a national science based breeder standards program.

(C) Is audited by an independent auditing firm that complies with the applicable standards of the International Organization for Standardization.

2. A licensee (as defined in 9 CFR 1.1) that is subject to 9 CFR 3.1 and has no direct violations for the previous two (2) years.

3. A hobby breeder.

The bill defines a hobby breeder as a person who maintains at least five and no more than 20 unaltered female dogs that are at least 1 year old.

“This section does not apply to a unit that adopts an ordinance or regulation before Jan. 1, 2023, that prohibits the sale of dogs in retail pet stores,” the bill states. This part of the bill would mean Columbus’ ordinance would still be in place.

SB 134 also includes requirements for information that must be provided to consumers prior to a sale, prohibits retail stores from selling dogs to anyone under 18, and provides a remedy in the event that there is an issue with health of a purchased dog. Dogs would also have to be microchipped by stores prior to sales.

Bill author Sen. Blake Doriot, R Goshen, said he “maintained that the bill would still let communities crack down on abusive puppy mills while freeing compliant sellers to do business.”

On the other hand, opponents of the bill have expressed concerns about animal welfare and the multitude of adoptable dogs already available in shelters.

SB 134 passed out of the Senate in a 29-18 vote. Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, was among those who voted against it.

Lauer said that he’s been following the bill since it left the Senate and has some concerns about its impact on local control.

“I’m generally skeptical of a one-size fits all attempt from the state level to come across a solution that may not fit every community,” he said. “So I appreciated Councilman Dell bringing down his experience and testifying at the statehouse. I’ve got friends in the House on that committee, and they related to me that they appreciate hearing from our local councilman.”

Lauer noted that the bill could still be changed in committee or on the House floor, if it makes it that far. However, he is “not very favorable” on the legislation in its current form.

For the complete story, see Saturday’s Republic.