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Tennessee must regulate kennels, trainers

Johnson City Press • May 16, 2019 at 8:00 AM

If laws were enough to deter crime, we wouldn’t have crime at all.

The logic Tennessee State Sen. Jon Lundberg applies to dog kennels and training facilities is particularly odd in that sense.

As Press Staff Writer Jonathan Roberts reported in Saturday’s edition, Tennessee has zero regulatory watch over such facilities and their employes. That lack of oversight became abundantly clear last week when animal charges were levied against a Johnson City training facility owner and a trainer. Authorities alleged the pair allowed a pit bull terrier puppy to starve to death in their care.

Lundberg told Roberts the charges meant different laws would not have prevented such a case.

“They were charged with animal cruelty for a reason, and I think that shows that our laws are effective," Lundberg said.

The opposite is true. If Tennessee’s laws had been effective, the puppy might still be alive.

Tennessee appropriately regulates all sorts of things — funeral homes, architectural firms, nail salons, nursing homes, hospitals, restaurants to name a few. You need a license to cut hair, to sell a house, to survey land, to auction an estate, to manage debt — the lists go on and on.

You don’t need a license, though, to manage a kennel or train a dog.

Tennessee does not set rules for or inspect facilities that board animals. Our neighbors in North Carolina, Georgia and Missouri do. The only laws referencing animal care says counties have the ability to establish and operate animal shelters and commercial breeders must be licensed to buy, sell and transport animals.

To his credit, Lundberg told Roberts legislators would look into regulating animal boarding and training facilities. They should do more than just consider it. They must act.

Tennessee must set standards for conditions, housing, bedding, feeding, veterinary care, length of stays, employee training and other aspects of operating pet stores, kennels and training facilities. Trainers must be licensed. Trainers must never be allowed to keep animals in unlicensed locations, including private residences.

People entrust their pets — often treated as members of the family — to such facilities and their caregivers. The state must protect the interests of families and the welfare of the animals.

Preventing cruelty requires more than punishment. It requires a watchdog.

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