Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Breeding, or not breeding (responsible dog breeders, or puppy mills?)

Issues regarding professional dog breeders (referred to by some as "puppy mills") are making the news this spring, partially courtesy of the National Geographic television channel.

The writer at IE Politics received an email complaining about National Geographic's efforts in support of proposed Animal Welfare Act amendments.

On May 8, 2009, National Geographic TV will launch their United States campaign against the sale of puppies by professional pet retailers. Dog Whisperer’s Cesar Millan narrates the documentary entitled “Inside Puppy Mills.”...

This is part of a very public campaign of the animal rights movement to amend regulations in the Animal Welfare Act, economically preventing the professional breeding and retailing of puppies in the United States. However, all humane societies and rescues would be exempt from regulation and would potentially be the only remaining option for the public to acquire puppies. Rescues and humane societies charge a “minimum mandatory donation fee” for each puppy that they sell to avoid any state or federal laws concerning the sales of puppies. Rescues and humane societies already have total immunity under all states “puppy lemon laws” for reimbursements of veterinary bills, civil penalty fines, and criminal penalties.

Unfortunately for the emailer, IE Politics has a different view:

[A]nyone who knows me knows that I would be very happy to see breeders highly regulated, taxed, and investigated. There’s a special place in hell awaiting most of them. Good for National Geographic!

Note that the email did not say that the regulations would PREVENT professional breeding and retailing. Instead, it said that the regulations would ECONOMICALLY PREVENT professional breeding and retailing. Here's an overview of the referenced episode:

Every year, millions of dogs are mass-produced at puppy mills - often packed in tiny wire cages, neglected, dehydrated, dirty and chronically sick - and then sold legally to pet stores throughout the country. In this powerful episode, Cesar sees puppy mill horror and works to rescue and rehabilitate caged pups with the animal rights group Last Chance for Animals. With hidden cameras, LCA operatives spot check Los Angeles county kennels, rescue eleven dogs considered worthless by breeders and learn from Cesar as he teaches them how to immediately rehabilitate the traumatized pups.

Last Chance for Animals describes the underlying campaign:

Last Chance for Animals’ (LCA) “Puppy Mill Free Stores” campaign is aimed at:

Stopping pet stores from selling puppies supplied from puppy mills, beginning in the Greater Los Angeles area

Educating the public to "ADOPT, DON'T SHOP!" when choosing a companion animal

Establishing Los Angeles as a national model for putting an end to the puppy mill industry

Working with pet store owners by educating them about the horrific conditions and inherent cruelty of puppy mills

Supporting pet stores when they agree to stop selling puppies from puppy mills and to deal only in rescue and shelter dogs (it is not LCA’s intent for the stores to go out of business)

But this current campaign wasn't necessary to change some stores. Neither Petsmart nor Petco sell dogs or cats.

I wanted to give the emailer's association, the American Canine Association, their chance to bark about the issues involved, so I went to its website to find its position papers of professional dog breeding. However, this is all I found.

National in scope, ACA maintains an active presence on both state and federal levels with issues affecting the canine industry. On request, ACA will provide legislative updates and concise evaluations of bills relevant to the canine industry.

So they missed an opportunity to defend themselves. But I did find a defense at vindy.com, in an October 2007 article. It turns out that much of the dog breeding is done by Amish families in Pennsylvania.

"This is huge. This is not just a backyard thing," said Ervin Raber, an Amish breeder from the Millersburg area. "We've got a lot of young people that have borrowed money and built homes based on the income from this industry."

Passing legislation that would create additional state registration requirements and extensive care standards for such operations likely will force many in the community to quit, Raber told lawmakers Thursday during a committee hearing at the Statehouse. "It will probably put 80 percent or better of our people out of business."

Raber was one of of 100-plus people, many representing communities in Holmes County and beyond, who packed two committee hearings rooms to show their opposition to proposed legislation increasing the regulation of dog-breeding kennels....

"We oppose legislation that harms responsible breeders with baseless edicts about dog housing and care, legislation that ignores input from breeders who would be regulated, requires criminal background investigations, burdens breeders with high costs, and fails to protect the rights of those who are accused of breaking the law," said Norma Woolf, who spoke on behalf of a dog owners group from southwestern Ohio....

Holmes County Commissioner Joe Miller said the legislation would have a devastating effect on the area's 400-plus kennel operators.

"It will shut down many of the kennels currently operated in Holmes County," he said. "We're a small community, a small county ... The people don't ask for anything from the government. All they want is an opportunity. The people work hard and play by the rules. We kindly ask that you do not deny them that opportunity."

If you're familiar with Amish practices, you can see how the reference to the government fits. The Amish may be considered one of the first libertarian groups in the United States.
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