Liam Hughes is director of the Maine Animal Welfare Program, Maine Department of Agriculture. He answered several questions from the Lakes Region Weekly about dog kennels.

Q: What qualifies as a large-scale dog breeding facility and how many are there in Maine?

A: There are 118 licensed breeding kennels in Maine and we have three categories: 1-10 breeding females, 11-20 breeding females, 20-plus breeding females. Only two breeding kennels are over 20 breeding females, a majority are 1-10 females.

Q: Is there a minimum number of visits that regulators make each year to breeding kennels?

A: Animal Welfare tries to inspect all kennels in the state yearly or when there is a complaint against that facility.

Q: Are the visits announced?

A: No, the humane agents go during normal posted business hours.

Q: What are you finding in terms of dog health and kennel conditions on these visits? What’s the range of findings?

A: Health issues are explored and remedial action is taken.

Q: How many regulators are there for the state?

A: Maine does not have regulators; we have five humane agents and one veterinarian that work on inspections and investigate animal cruelty throughout the state.

Q: In general, in your estimation, is there an issue with puppy mill conditions in Maine? Are the dogs being fed, and otherwise cared for properly?

A: All known facilities are inspected and conditions approved.

Q: Have any Maine breeders been shut down in recent years for violations? What would trigger the state closing an operation down?

A: Yes. If there is a problem with a specific breeder, we will address it with the breeder and work with them to improve the animals’ living conditions. Depending on the situation, it may be resolved with education. If the conditions do not improve or worsen, the state will start to take action.

Q: Any comment on the Maine Citizens Against Puppy Mills’ effort to ban sales of puppy mill pets?

A: That is a public policy debate that should go to the Legislature. We enforce the laws after they are adopted.

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