MURRAY — Describing it as a "Christmas present to man's best friend," Salt Lake County Councilman Joe Hatch unveiled the state's first-ever ordinance to regulate puppy mills at a news conference Sunday at the Humane Society of Utah.
The "Volume Dog Breeders" ordinance, which the council will consider later this week, would require anyone in the unincorporated county to obtain an annual license if they breed more than one litter of dogs during a 12-month period. It would not apply to those living in cities within the county.
Dogs used for breeding purposes would have to be given a rest between breeding cycles with no more than two litters delivered during an 18-month period.
Standards for protecting breeding dogs from the elements would be required as well as annual examinations by licensed veterinarians. Detailed records of any dog being bred would have to be kept for a minimum of five years.
To obtain permits, dog breeders must consent to an inspection of their facilities by Salt Lake County Animal Services. Breeders also would be subject to annual inspections upon receiving a permit.
County Councilman Randy Horiuchi said the ordinance attempts to make Salt Lake County a "more friendly place for animals."
"I'm convinced the responsible breeders in our county will definitely comply with this ordinance and feel in many ways it will be helpful to them," Horiuchi said.
Gene Baierschmidt, executive director of the Humane Society of Utah, said the ordinance creates a humane standard for dogs used for breeding.
"The overall goal is it will help reduce the number of dogs that have to be euthanized in animal shelters throughout the state of Utah, particularly in Salt Lake County." Baierschmidt said between 20,000 to 30,000 dogs are euthanized each year in Utah, although that number has drastically improved since the mid-1980s when some 60,000 dogs were put down.
"We hope if this ordinance is passed, hopefully other cities will adopt it as they did the tethering ordinance," Baierschmidt said. That ordinance created criminal penalties leaving family pets tied up outside for excessive time periods or in severe weather, although first-time offenders would receive only a warning.
Breeders who fail to comply with the newly proposed ordinance could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and a penalty of up to six months in jail.
Baierschmidt said the Humane Society hopes that other municipalities will consider similar restrictions.
Hatch and Horiuchi said the county would act on complaints or when they become aware of animals in the county animal shelters that were produced in mills.
"We try to pass these ordinances in the hopes of influencing people, not go on some kind of hunt," Hatch said. "If a problem comes to our attention that can be corrected, it (the ordinance) certainly becomes a tool that can be used."