A bill that would create more transparency in the pet breeding business gains traction at the Capitol

a woman holds a puppy
Sen. Bonnie Westlin, DFL-Plymouth, holds Cupcake, a 7-week old German Shepherd mix puppy, at a press conference on the Dog and Cat Data Transparency Bill on Wednesday. Westlin is a co-author of the bill.
Ellie Roth | MPR News

A bill that would create more transparency within the dog and cat breeding business is gaining traction at the Capitol.

The bill would make a breeder’s annual state inspection report available to the public and require breeders to post any violations on their website. This information is not considered public under current state law.

A decade ago, the Legislature adopted a bill that would provide statewide oversight of dog and cat breeding businesses in Minnesota, due to growing concerns about animal welfare within the industry. But the Minnesota Pet Breeder’s Association lobbied for a last-minute addition to the bill that classified all dog and cat breeder data as non-public.

A reporter interviews a puppy
MPR News politics fellow Ellie Roth interviews Cupcake at the Minnesota State Capitol.
Dana Ferguson | MPR News

There are more than 100 state-licensed commercial dog and cat breeders operating in Minnesota. In the past five years, state inspectors issued 47 violations to licensed breeders, according to the Board of Animal Health.

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“Consumers are currently prevented from seeing any data about which breeders had violations, the nature of those violations or how those violations were addressed,” said Sen. Bonnie Westlin, DFL-Plymouth, a co-author of the bill.

As the law stands, consumers wishing to purchase a pet from a breeder have no way of knowing if that breeder has been issued a violation. It’s difficult to gauge how many animals the breeder has, or information regarding animal health and facility conditions.

Advocates argue that the bill would put breeders in line with regulations and the same level of transparency that nonprofit shelters must provide. They believe that licensed cat and dog breeders should be held to the same data transparency standards as other state boards.

“For most boards, the licensee name has to be on the website. If there’s any violations, it has to be on the website,” said Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley, who is sponsoring the bill in the House. “We just want consistency between dog and cat breeders and these other boards.”

a man holds a kitty at a podium
Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley and Sen. Bonnie Westlin, DFL-Plymouth, speak at a press conference regarding a bill that would address the lack of transparency in dog and cat breeder data that is available to the public.
Ellie Roth | MPR News

The Minnesota Pet Breeders Association opposes the bill, arguing that making this information public would be a breach of privacy and would affect private citizens who raise “purpose-bred dogs or cats for people who want a particular kind of pet with predictable characteristics.”

“The bill would be a great disservice to the public by inviting individuals and groups opposed to pet breeding or animal ownership to interfere with professional and hobbyist breeders who are raising happy, healthy puppies in the manner required by law,” the Minnesota Pet Breeders Association wrote in a letter addressed to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Broadband, and Rural Development, that heard the bill on Wednesday.