Thursday, July 28, 2011

Read It and Weep: Anti-Dog Legislation Is Alive & Well~~~by Jennifer Walker

I spent four years as the Legislation Chairperson for the American Boxer Club. During that time, I’ve seen the purebred dog fancy progress from completely ignoring most legislative issues to developing a small but determined and often effective minority of activists who spend countless hours defending our rights to own and breed dogs, and to consult with our veterinarians to determine their care. I’ve also seen an onslaught of anti-breeder, anti-owner, anti-animal legislation, which reached a fevered pitch this year and will no doubt be even more frenzied in the next session. We have both won and lost battles to choose medical care for our dogs, in terms of mandatory sterilization laws and anti-cropping laws; to choose the most effective means of humanely restraining our dogs via anti-tethering laws; to determine our ideal number of dogs based on our own capabilities through pet limit laws; and to breed our dogs in our homes as the result of restrictive breeding laws that use numbers, rather than care, as the “puppy mill” determiner.

In May 2011 I regretfully resigned my Legislation post. It is an extremely important position, and unfortunately the last I heard it had not yet been filled. I was not doing it justice – I have become alternately, and sometimes concurrently, disheartened, disillusioned, and disgusted with the entire subject, and thus became ineffective at fulfilling the purpose of the position. Disheartened, because it seems at times there’s no way to win a war when the other side has hundreds of millions of dollars to push legislation and lobby lawmakers and we have only grassroots efforts and minimal funding. Disillusioned, because I honestly used to believe that legislators wouldn’t knowingly pass laws that are ineffective, expensive, and unconstitutional, and I have since found that they will and do if they can somehow benefit from it. Disgusted, because despite the best efforts of people far smarter than me, some of our own Boxer Clubs have thrown other breeders under the bus and supported legislation that makes breeding dogs a crime. I also got tired of being reported as a spammer for sending legislative updates to Member Club Secretaries, as I was requested to do. It appears that it’s not only health testing about which the majority of our breeders prefer to keep their heads in the sand.

Following is a slightly modified and streamlined version of my final Legislation Report. The original can be found in the June 2011 ABC Bulletin.

The animal rights assault on dog breeders continued with force in 2010-2011. Fifteen states introduced breeder-restriction bills in 2010, and 12 states in 2011. A number of similar bills were proposed or adopted at the municipal and local levels. At least five state bills passed and many are still pending. With few exceptions these bills subject breeders to regulation based on the number of dogs they “own, maintain, or have control over” and often include co-owned dogs that reside elsewhere. In many cases, 4- and 6-month old puppies are counted as “breeding dogs.” The number of dogs allowed before a breeder is considered “commercial” range from 25 in many states to 15 in Maryland, 10 in Illinois, 6 in New York. In unincorporated Salt Lake County, Utah, if you “own or are responsible for” more than one intact female and whelp a litter, you are subject to regulation and must obtain a breeding license. (An amendment provides for a free five-year “responsible breeder” license if the person belongs to an AKC/UKC breed club with a qualifying Code of Ethics. The ABC Code of Ethics does not meet the ordinance’s criteria.) Alternatively, some laws base regulation on the number of dogs sold in one year – from 25 to as few as five.

Meanwhile, the Federal PUPS bill (the third incarnation of the Federal PAWS bill, which failed, twice, and lost Rick Santorum his seat) continues to gain sponsors. This bill defines a “breeding female” as an intact female 4 months of age or older, defines a “high volume retail breeder” as someone who owns or co-owns one or more breeding females that produce 50 or more puppies in 12 months, and requires such a breeder to abide by USDA engineering standards and regulations, which make in-home breeding impossible. (Fifty puppies in a year might be difficult for one breeder; fifty puppies in a year when you co-own bitches with other breeders is far less difficult.)

Unfortunately, some breeders, many rescuers, and even a handful of Boxer Clubs support breeder-restriction bills, with the mistaken belief that they will stop “puppy mills.” They won’t. Every state has adequate animal welfare laws, which if enforced will address the truely substandard kennels. People who are ignoring the existing laws are unlikely to follow new laws – they will move their breeding operations to the back woods and sell their puppies on the side of the road, thus eliminating even a customer-based inspection process. What breeder-restriction bills do is make moderate- to large-scale breeding illegal, and turn many conscientious breeders into criminals.

In the midst of the constant deluge of anti-animal legislation, however, some rays of light have appeared:

The Governor of Nebraska, Dave Heineman, flat-out stated that the richest animal rights group was not welcome in his state, stating the group “is anti-agriculture and they’re out to destroy animal agriculture.”

Alaska’s Congressman, Don Young, refused the group’s “Humane Legislator” award in March 2011, given by the organization due to his 2010 legislative activities. Young’s basis for the refusal was that they are “hypocrites, plain and simple, and I will not join them by accepting this award.”

In April 2011, Young and five Congressmen from Missouri sent a letter demanding Federal involvement in the IRS investigation into the group’s non-profit status, stating, “By its own admission, [the group] spends more than twice as much on ‘advocacy and public policy’ than any other category of expenses.”

A breeder-restriction bill that capped the number of dogs a breeder could own, lowered existing standards of care, and increased licensing and enforcement without providing funding for the same was repealed by state lawmakers. A compromise bill was then passed which improved conditions for dogs in breeding facilities, provided funding for licensing and inspection, and removed the 50-dog limit. The animals rights group, which spent $2 million lobbying for the original bill, has vowed to bring the issue back again, because they want to limit the numbers regardless of the care.

We still have many battles to wage in our war with the animal rights groups who would take away our hobby, our passion, our hearts. Over the years we have become more proactive, rather than reactive, but we still need to work on that front. If you want to preserve your rights to breed, own, and enjoy your Boxers, talk with your legislators before any legislation is introduced – most state representatives have local in-office days when they will meet with their constituents. Tell them exactly what legislation may be heading their way, and tell them who is behind it – a group that has been investigated by the Attorneys General of two states for fraudulent fundraising, that is the subject of a current IRS investigation for excessive lobbying activity, that is a defendant in two federal lawsuits (one for racketeering, the other for illegal search and seizure), and that spends less than one percent of their one hundred million dollars of donations each year on hands-on care for dogs and cats. Remember, we are the experts on dog breeding, not the animal rights activists who have never bred – and many of whom have never even owned – a dog. 

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