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New Laws Protect Companion Animals in West Virginia

Legislature, governor crack down on puppy mills and establish statewide spay/neuter assistance program

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has signed two important companion animal welfare bills into law. The bills establish better protections for dogs in commercial dog breeding facilities and support spay/neuter programs in West Virginia.

Summer Wyatt, West Virginia state director for The Humane Society of the United States said: “I have personally witnessed puppy mill cruelty, I have seen animals euthanized in shelters because there aren’t enough homes for them all, and I have spoken to families who want to spay their pets but just don’t have the resources. I’m deeply grateful to Governor Tomblin, Senators Kessler and Unger as well as the entire legislature for their effective work to help protect our beloved family pets.”

West Virginia now joins more than 30 other states that have passed laws to crack down on puppy mills. SB 437 requires anyone keeping more than 10 intact dogs for the purpose of breeding to provide each dog with solid flooring, protection from the elements, adequate lighting, food, water, veterinary care and sanitary conditions. The bill was sponsored by Sens. John Unger, D-16, Robert Beach, D-13, and Jack Yost, D-1.

Delegate Jason Barrett, Berkeley County, said: "Cruel puppy mills are being shut down and kicked out of states across the country, and they're looking for new homes for their disgraceful businesses, which is one of many reasons I co-sponsored the legislation in the House of Delegates. I would like to commend my colleague, Senate Majority Leader John Unger, who sponsored the enacted Senate version of the bill, for his tireless efforts over the past several years to shepherd this important law through the legislature and to let unscrupulous breeders know they are not welcome in West Virginia."

SB 437 also requires each facility to have an adequate means of fire suppression, bans the keeping of dogs in stacked banks of cages and requires the dogs can only be euthanized by a licensed veterinarian. Commercial dog breeders must only breed dogs after receiving a certification from their veterinarian that the dog is healthy and they must post their license number in any sales advertisements including on-line ads.

With enactment of SB 437, West Virginia is the 20th state to require commercial dog breeding facilities be licensed and inspected and becomes the fourth state to prohibit the stacking of puppy mill cages and the seventh to prohibit painful wire floors at commercial dog breeding facilities.

SB 202 was also passed and establishes the West Virginia Spay Neuter Assistance Program and Fund, through which the state will issue grants to non-profit spay neuter programs statewide. The bill was sponsored by Sens. Jeffrey Kessler, D-2, William Laird, D-10, Robert Beach, D-13, Ronald Miller, D-10, Rocky Fitzsimmons, D-1, David Nohe, R-3, and Ron Stollings, D-7,

West Virginia was ranked 38th in The HSUS’ 2012 ranking of state animal protection laws. For more information on The HSUS’ work in West Virginia including legislative efforts, click here. 

Media Contact: Niki Ianni, 610-999-6932, nianni@humanesociety.org