When the Canine Health Board meets Tuesday the topic is clearly stated on the agenda: decide what, if any, alternative kinds of flooring besides solid or slatted floors will be acceptable in commercial dog kennels.
What's not clear is who's going to be sitting on the board.
Last month Gov. Rendell fired Bryan Langlois, the veterinarian for the Humane League of Lancaster County and one of his own picks to the nine-member board, following a protest at his East Fall residence.
Animal welfare advocates were concerned that Langlois might support wire or so-called "hog flooring" - which they contend is damaging but backed by the industry and the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association as being more sanitary because it doesn't have to be cleaned daily. (To which shelter operators respond: How many shelters use wire flooring? None. They say wire flooring only gives kennel operators a way to avoid daily cleaning. The Tenderfoot flooring website advertises "easy care for you.")
Rendell named a Pittsburgh veterinarian, Gwendolen Reyes-Illg, as Langlois' replacement. Now we hear that Langlois is back, to fill the seat of outgoing PVMA-representative Amy Hinton, who has resigned.
Neither the PVMA nor the Department of Agriculture responded to emails seeking confirmation.
The bipartisan, all-veterinarian board was the product of negotiations over the dog kennel legislation in 2008. Lawmakers decided they wanted animal professionals to make decisions about lighting, temperature and ventilation in commercial kennels, defined as selling, keeping or transferring 60 or more dogs a year or selling a single dog to a pet store. (Those regulatory recommendations are curretly under consideration before the Independent Regulatory Review Commission)
Rendell has three seats on the board, each of the four legislative caucuses has a seat and the PVMA and University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical School have one seat each.
The board shake up and meeting comes amid a fierce debate over what constitutes humane flooring for dogs that spend their lives in cages.
Under the law solid or slatted flooring is acceptable in commercial kennels but left open the ability of the Canine Health Board to consider alternative flooring. At issue was whether Tenderfoot flooring - originally designed for hogs and being promoted by breeders and others - could be considered appropriate.
Many animal welfare advocates view the plastic-coated woven wire as little - if any - improvement over the current wire cage flooring that thousands of breeding dogs have had to endure for years, causing painful ulcers on their paws, splayed feet and rendering the dogs unable to walk on solid ground.
As of today there are 178 commercial kennels in Pennsylvania, almost half the number two years ago. Nearly half of the 128 commercial kennels in Lancaster County, which has the most dog kennels, gave up their licenses in the past 18 months.
The board meets to discuss the flooring at 1:30 Tuesday in the VIP room of the Farm Show in Harrisburg.