I recently wrote about Animal Rights from my perspective as a former HSUS employee. I’m writing again because sponsors for a kennel inspection bill proposed in Maryland (S.B. 839/H.B. 940) and the Puppy Uniform Protection Act (PUPS), a Federal Bill to amend the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) are actively seeking votes. These bills will have an effect on people who care for dogs.
Bills do not have to be written by legislative experts so they often have unforeseen consequences. In this case, they intend to solve problems we do not have.
The Federal proposal was previously offered in various versions by the Doris Day Animal League (DDAL) as the Puppy Protection Act in 2001. DDAL had sued the USDA over their enforcement of AWA and when USDA prevailed, proposed legislation was the response. After its merger with HSUS, DDAL tried again to add restrictions to AWA under the name of Puppy Animal Welfare Statute (PAWS). The most contorversial part of the PAWS version was the suggestion that USDA outsource inspections of breeders to a private company, perhaps HSUS. Due to the conflict of interest, it was not supported by politicians. The latest version does not mention how the increase in inspections is to be handled.
Lobbyists will tell you that the current version of the PUPS Act makes it easier for USDA to shut down puppy mills* but it’s not true. The Bush Administration’s Inspector General found that the USDA has not enforced the Animal Welfare Act sufficiently to evaluate its effectiveness against so called puppy mills (some have proposed that the IG report was written with the assistance of lawyers from HSUS. At least one former HSUS attorney now works for USDA). Understaffing is a part of the problem but since PUPS would require inspections of all caretakers of dogs shared by rescues, shelters or breeders, but not necessarily hoarders and….get ready….specifically exempting pet stores it would not be possible to enforce the law without a huge growth in the USDA or …outsourcing the inspections.
Lobbyists attack anyone who opposes PUPS (or Prop B or MD 839/940) by questioning their motives rather than by addressing concerns. As one of the only organizations specifically representing dog owners, the AKC opposes PUPS, which the lobbyists say means that the AKC supports puppy mills.
Lobbyists also criticize the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) for opposing the bill. PIJAC was the organization to discredit one of the main selling points of the Bill. There is nothing in PUPS that will prevent anyone from selling puppies on the internet. Yet the bill has been promoted for just that purpose. So your vote to close the internet loophole will not do that at all.
Attacking the motives of those with concerns about the bills is a debate tactic that won’t work on a smart voter. Opposing this bill in no way makes you a breeder or a supporter of any kind of animal mistreatment. In fact, a current House Bill in Maryland which requires publication of breeder information and holds retails stores responsible for the health of puppies they sell, has my support.
Once you read the AWA, you won’t understand how any puppy mills exist at all. The AWA already prohibits all the things you’ve seen on every extreme rescue video. Even if the USDA couldn’t handle a specific complaint (which of course they can and do), there are very few of these horrendous, overpopulated, poorly run breeding factories, so they would be able to prioritize and address those first. In addition, all states have laws prohibiting failure to provide care for your animals. If local enforcement is a problem, we can address this, too.
These Bills are good examples of a battle between animal rights and animal welfare. HSUS raises over $100 million annually from donors who want to end animal suffering. The organization used to share about half of its take with local shelters. Nowadays, the money is spent to enact laws that govern the way people interact with animals or sue the government over the application of existing laws. In 2009, there were 147 such bills proposed in over 40 states. Most of us vote in favor of such laws because they are promoted as necessary to save innocent animals from bad humans. The problem for most voters is that is no one with even half the budget of HSUS exists to give any opposing arguments. Those who believe that animals have the right to be free of use for food are not sure what to do about making animals responsible for their natural behaviors once they are emancipated. People do not realize that animal welfare is any different from animal rights. The animal rights purists want to eliminate all uses of animals. And to be clear, this includes “using” animals for companionship, help with work and hunting, even seeing eye dogs are unacceptable to the self named “abolitionists.”
Please read the PUPS Amendment to the AWA for yourself because sorting through the rhetoric is almost impossible. A similar law that was placed on the ballot in Missouri was ammended because it contradicts and confuses established law already in the state. HSUS claims the bill was repealed against the will of the people. This is false. A bill passed by referendum can be ammended by duly elected officials. The current campaign, also using donor dollars, to overturn the corrections is called “Your Vote Counts” and the advertisements to garner support tell voters that they have been wronged. The problem is that the moey being used to change voting laws in the state is all coming from outside the state. But it helps justify HSUS spending hundreds of thousands of donation dollars on political campaigns instead of sending it to puppies that need care.
So what does the bill say? If you have an ownership interest in OR custody of an intact female dog over 4 months of age and you or another one of the people you share owner interests with convey** 50 puppies in a year, you qualify for home inspection by the USDA. “50 puppies” appears to affect only large volume breeders. However, good breeders and rescues (and shelters) maintain ownership interests in all dogs they place through sales and adoption contracts. And while a breeder may not directly place 50 puppies in one year, she may maintain an ownership interest in every dog she’s ever raised which over a career will possibly reach this thresh hold. More urgently, a shelter hopes to place at least 50 dogs in a year, perhaps 50 every month. If at any time there are 50 puppies not spayed by the time they are 4 months old (which is a controversial procedure) the rescue is subjet to USDA inspection.
For those of you who don’t mind government inspections because you have nothing to hide, you need to read the AWA. No carpeting is allowed in USDA inspected facilities, so foster homes will be out. Standard dog crates are too small so you will need to build enclosures to house rescued dogs. You will need a written exercise plan for all dogs and proof that you follow it. For Borzoi, this is a particular concern. A dog must be able to reach a “running stride” within his enclosure which makes the entirety of the inside of many homes unacceptable as Borzoi “enclosures”. Excercise in the plan cannnot include any “forced” activity, such as fetch or agility. A veterinarian can exempt a dog from the plan for health reasons but it must be reviewed every 30 days. And the question remains, who will do the inspections?
One impossible aspect of the PUPS proposal is that dogs are guaranteed the freedom to behave in natural ways while at the same time required to be neutered. This is a contradiction that puts caretakers on the wrong side of the law, either way.
In this time of budget crisis, millions of donation dollars would be better spent through grants to animal caretakers who want to upgrade their facilities as well as to the hiring of more officers so that the job can get done today.
If you have an opinion on this amendment or the MD Bills under consideration contact your representative.
*Puppy Mill is a hard term to define. What about rescue mills? Activists don’t want to define it because once they do, they can be sued when they malign people who are not it by saying they are. The number of dogs and the condition of the facilities are not the only factors in deciding whether animals are treated properly. There are breeding factories with veterinarians on staff and spotless conditions run by large corporations. I would not buy a puppy from a factory like this, however it would meet the standards of the PUPS Act. I believe the best environment for a puppy is with a family in a home. This option may end if PUPS becomes law.