Recently HSUS aired an announcement on their website congratulating Wisconsin Governor, Jim Doyle, and the state legislature for enacting a law “to regulate large scale puppy producing operations, known as puppy mills.” AB 250 regulates anyone who sells more than 25 dogs or 3 litters a year. In HSUS language, this separates small-scale breeders from puppy mills.
HSUS continues by stating, “In addition to Wisconsin, bills to regulate puppy mills were enacted by the 2009 state legislatures in Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington.” WRONG! In their zeal to pat themselves on the back and keep the momentum alive for potential success in their multi-million dollar campaign to regulate dog breeders, HSUS forgot how to count! It seems they also forgot to check the results as posted on their own website. Arizona bill HB2517, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Young Wright (D, 26), failed as did Nebraska LB677 sponsored by Sen. Ken Haar (District 21).
In an unprecedented drive, HSUS introduced 33 commercial breeder/regulation/licensing bills across the country from late 2008 thru 2009. Of these 21 died, 8 passed; 4 are pending – due to either the legislatures still in session or bills qualifying to be held over for 2010. Full listing is available on the SAOVA website http://www.saova.org/news/StateBreederBills2009.pdf
Numbers played a huge role in the drafting and promotion of the HSUS commercial breeder/regulation/licensing bills – a long name to use but I am loathe to call them “puppy mill” bills even long enough to write this commentary.
What is the definition of commercial or large scale dog breeding? The answer according to HSUS appears to depend on what the region can be convinced to believe. To crack down on alleged puppy mills in Washington State, HSUS determined 10 intact females was the magic number; Tennessee, Montana Minnesota, and others used 20 as the beginning point for licensing; North Carolina’s commercial breeder bill was set at 15, and in Illinois HSUS determined that only by licensing breeders beginning with 3 intact females would the state be saved from being overrun with puppy mills. One HSUS state director recently explained – a hobby breeder is someone with 6 who breeds only one or two litters a year; anything more than that is a commercial breeder/puppy mill.
Another strategy in the HSUS legislation is to limit breeders by placing caps on ownership. A 25-dog magic number was proposed in legislation this year as the limit of breedable dogs one could own in Colorado, Delaware, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Washington.
There is no logic to the idea that an owner can care for 25 dogs but not 26, or even 100. Ownership caps are nothing more than a limitation of personal rights and the ability to build a breeding program, run a business, or earn a living.
USING NUMBERS TO CREATE A CRISIS
To keep legislation moving, it is always useful to have a crisis at hand.
HSUS claims there are more than 10,000 large, puppy mills housing 200,000 to 400,000 breeding dogs producing up to 4 million puppies a year. If Americans add approximately 8 million dogs to their households a year and HSUS also claims nearly 50% of these come from friends, is HSUS saying the other 50% come from substandard sources?
In Tennessee before the commercial breeder bill was enacted, HSUS claimed 10,000 puppies were for sale every day in the state. In North Carolina, HSUS claims their previous estimate of 200 puppy mills was in error – the number is actually 400 and growing as the state is becoming home to breeders fleeing states where regulatory laws have been passed. Illinois voters were urged to enact Chloe’s Bill before the onslaught of puppy mills could become a blight on the State's reputation.
The same sound bites are distributed in every state with a pending breeder bill and the proclaimed crisis of abuse or overpopulation is NOT new.
In “The Humane Society of the U.S.: It's Not about Animal Shelters” Daniel Oliver writes:
“HSUS promotes restrictions on pet breeding and ownership that would sharply limit the supply of pets and ultimately deny many responsible pet owners the pet of their choice. It maintains that there is a ‘raging pet-overpopulation crisis . . . an appalling overabundance of dogs and cats caused by human carelessness and irresponsible breeding.’ Because an estimated 4.5 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the U.S., HSUS has called for the elimination of large dog breeding kennels and the enactment of mandatory pet sterilization laws.”
Oliver continues that in 1993, HSUS proposed mandatory pet sterilization laws and high license fees to deal with alleged pet overpopulation. HSUS called on local, county, and state legislators to enact either voluntary or mandatory dog and cat breeding bans and to initiate mandatory pet sterilization laws, including a two-year moratorium on all breeding. For each puppy or kitten born in violation of the moratorium, the owner or person possessing the animal would pay a penalty of $100.
TAKING BACK THE INITIATIVE
To quote Washington, D.C. analyst Steve Kopperud, “The problem we have has almost doubled because we have allowed the activists to define us; we have allowed the activists to tell the public what we do and how we do it and frankly, we’re sitting back and continuing to allow that to happen.”
We are the experts and must take back that role. We must get our message back to the public and to our legislators. We can no longer afford to have HSUS and animal rightist philosophers frame the issues, labeling us as exploiters and legislating away our rights. The battle will begin again in 2010 and we need to be ready.