SALT LAKE CITY — Over the objections of dog breeders, the Salt Lake County Council unanimously approved the state's first ordinance to regulate puppy mills.

The council voted 9-0 Tuesday to approve the "Volume Dog Breeders" ordinance, which will require anyone in the unincorporated county to obtain an annual license if they breed more than one litter of dogs during a 12-month period. Anyone convicted of an animal cruelty charge within five years of seeking a license would be denied a permit, the ordinance states.

The council agreed to revisit the issue within a few months to allow more input from breeders and kennel clubs. A Canadian expert on regulating puppy mills is planning to visit Utah to offer his expertise.

Many breeders who addressed the council said the ordinance was not necessary because the vast majority of breeders in the county were reputable and the ordinance would harm their operations. Most puppy mills in Utah operate in rural parts of the state, they said.

"It's not us not finding homes for these dogs. It's not us selling dogs in front of Walmart," said Cathy Williams of West Jordan, who breeds purebred miniature schnauzers.

However, a representative for the Utah Humane Society said there are mills in the county and regulation is needed to crack down on their practices.

Standards for protecting breeding dogs from the elements would be required, as well as annual examinations by licensed veterinarians. Detailed records of any dog being bred would have to be kept for a minimum of five years. "A dog may not be bred if a veterinarian determines the dog is unfit for breeding purposes," the ordinance states.

Breeders who fail to comply with the ordinance could be charged with a class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and a penalty of up to six months in jail.

Council Chairman Joe Hatch said the county would act on complaints or when they become aware of animals in the county animal shelters that were bred in mills. Enforcement activities would be conducted during regular hours and with notice, he said.

About 20 other municipalities across the country have passed similar ordinances.

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