Four puppies died in the fire that destroyed an outbuilding in Lancaster County on Christmas eve.
An investigation conducted by state dog wardens on Thursday found that 14 dogs were in the building at the time of the blaze, at 77 Espenshade Rd. in Ronks, including six puppies. Only two puppies survived, said Samantha Krepps, spokeswoman for the dog law enforcement office..
Fire officials said at the time they did not believe any dogs had perished in the fire, which was linked to a faulty heater keeping the puppies warm.
The dog breeder, Amos Smucker, was cited for failing to have dog licenses for eight adult dogs, including one Bernese Mountain dog, three West Highland Terriers, three Golden Retrievers and a Jack Russell, said Krepps.
Smucker was not cited for running an illegal kennel because he did not meet the threshold for a license at 26 dogs. In fact, one must be in possession of, sell or transfer 26 dogs in order to be required to hold a kennel license.
Breeders, pet stores, boarding facilities and rescues holding non-commercial kennel licenses are inspected at least twice a year and must have fire extinguisher and a smoke detector on the property.
The tragedy underscores the need for a reevaluation of the kennel license threshold, said Tom Hickey, a member of the governor's dog law advisory board.
"It's an artificial number," he said.
When more than 200 commercial kennels closed following the passage of the 2008 dog law requiring even more stringent regulations for breeders selling more than 60 dogs a year, closing inspection reports indicated many breeders were left with 23 or 24 dogs.
There is little doubt among animal welfare advocates that those dogs were unlikely to be pets, rather they were intact breeding females capable of collectively producing as many as two hundred puppies a year.
With smaller unlicensed breeders the 26 threshold has created a shell game of sorts throughout Lancaster where dogs housed on large Amish and Mennonite farms are shuttled between outbuildings or among family members so dog wardens will not find the magic 26 number under one roof.
The dog law enforcement office has been successful in shutting down illegal kennels by tieing sales records to certain breeders, but that can be a long process.
Perhaps it's time to increase investigations or lower that "26" number, says Hickey.
After all, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has historically required any dog breeders with more than three breeding females who sell to pet stores to carry a license. Just this fall, the agency expanded its rule to include anyone with more than three breeding females and selling puppies over the Internet.
So if Smucker was selling his puppies via the breeder aggregator websites like Greenfield Puppies, Keystone Puppies or Lancaster Puppies he would need a federal license.