June 4, 2018
Issue of animal cruelty not addressed
Last year, Animal Humane Society, along with Animal Folks and two taxpayers of Cass County, sued the Minnesota Board of Animal Health for violating the commercial breeder law by granting a state license to a dog breeder we believe was convicted of cruelty against animals.
The law states the board must refuse to issue an initial license when a commercial breeder "has been convicted, other than a petty misdemeanor conviction, of cruelty to animals.” The lawsuit sought an order that would have required the Board to revoke the commercial license of dog breeder, Deborah Rowell of Cass County. The case was a tedious labor of love for staff and volunteers at AHS. Learn more about the case.
In a judgment filed last month, the Minnesota Court of Appeals dismissed the lawsuit on procedural grounds, stating the lawsuit was time-barred because it should have been filed within 60 days of a license being issued. Due to this opinion, the courts did not address the primary issue of animal cruelty, leaving the breeder’s license intact. As of this date, Rowell is still breeding and selling dogs.
“We were hoping the Court would address the issue of animal cruelty and come to a different conclusion,” says Kathy Mock, chief government affairs & community engagement officer at Animal Humane Society. “Instead, the case was dismissed on a technicality.”
AHS and Animal Folks contacted the Board of Animal Health after they learned Rowell was granted a license. Despite repeated letters and meetings with the Board lasting over a year, the decision was not reversed. That’s when AHS and Animal Folks chose to file the lawsuit.
Because the courts did not address the animal cruelty issue, key questions remain unanswered. Why did the Board issue this breeder a license, even though they had ample evidence from the criminal case showing cruelty? How does the Board interpret and report animal cruelty?
This case also highlights the need for greater transparency of commercial breeder data. Currently, all data relating to commercial dog and cat breeders — including inspection reports, enforcement actions, kennel size, and other information relative to the health and safety of the animals — is classified as private and is not available to the public.
AHS will continue to work on improving how the commercial breeder law is enforced and what data is provided to the public. The plaintiffs were represented pro bono by Robins Kaplan LLC, who we thank for their diligence and persistence in this case.
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