HARRISBURG - A panel of veterinarians has recommended strict new guidelines governing conditions in the state's licensed commercial dog kennels. Advocates say they would be the toughest in the nation.
The nine-member Canine Health Board, established in October under the new dog law, unanimously approved specifications Monday for temperature, humidity ranges, ammonia levels, and lighting for large kennels in the state.
"We looked to a combination of the best of science and engineering to protect the health and welfare of the dogs as well as the interest of breeders," Board Chairwoman Jen Muller of Philadelphia said.
After a 30-day public comment period, the guidelines, which would apply to roughly 650 commercial kennels, would go to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission for approval.
The state Department of Agriculture is working on cost estimates for renovations that most kennels would likely need to comply with the regulations.
Robert Yarnall Jr., founder of the American Canine Association, a registry group, said the guidelines unfairly target commercial breeders.
"If the board passed guidelines for the betterment, safety and welfare of all dogs in licensed kennels in Pennsylvania, we'd be for it. But 90 percent don't have to comply and 10 percent do. That's a great disparity."
Animal-welfare experts say the guidelines are stricter than any existing standards for commercial kennels.
"This is far superior to the U.S. Department of Agriculture standards" for commercial kennels, said Bob Baker, an ASPCA investigator and an authority on kennel legislation.
Under the law that Gov. Rendell signed in October, all commercial kennels - those that keep 60 or more dogs a year or that sell even a single dog to a pet store - must comply with a new set of standards that increase cage sizes, provide access to outdoor exercise, and ban wire floors by October 2009.
The guidelines add more requirements such as sufficient lighting, heating and cooling, and ventilation to provide humane conditions for breeding dogs kept in the kennels their entire lives.
"It's no longer just survival standards," said Bill Smith, founder of Main Line Animal Rescue in Chester Springs. "The legislation gave us health and safety standards and the guidelines go beyond that, concentrating on the comfort of the dog."