Browsing "Animal Policy"

Bolstering the Black Market in Dogs

A raid of a very disturbing breeding operation recently took place in Jacksonville, Florida.

Not only were the breeders selling people sick pets, they were deceptively operating under five different business names, operating without a license, illegally importing dogs from South America, and forging documents. A quick online search reveals numerous complaints from people who had bought sick puppies from them, as well. Dishonest, inhumane, the type of operation that sickens and enrages decent people everywhere.

Every time a breeding operation like this is raided, there are calls for new regulations to “put these awful people out of business.” The fact is, virtually all of the recent raids we have tracked at NAIA are of breeders who are operating like this: illegally without a license (when required) or inspections, or with lapsed license and serious prior violations (where were the follow up inspections?). If current laws aren’t being followed or enforced, what makes anyone think newer, stricter regulations will affect anybody other those who are already complying: licensed, transparent, inspected breeders?

We have taken our share of flack at NAIA for taking a “Why not enforce existing laws first, before passing new laws?” position. Some people confuse this with an opposition to all regulations. Without enforcement, you’ll never get rid of the bad guys (who couldn’t care less about animal care regulations), while knee-jerk legislative responses simply place additional burdens on those who are already complying with the law. Taken to its logical conclusion: in the end all you’ll have left is the black market.

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Jul 9, 2014 - Animal Policy    13 Comments

So we’re gonna outsource dog breeding too?

We have long known that when it comes to dogs, the term “pet overpopulation” is a misnomer, and that we’ll most likely be facing a shortage of dogs in the near future — more potential owners than there are dogs available.

For the millions of American households that won’t feel complete without the companionship of the “family dog,” this could be a serious problem. So how do we head off this impending shortage at the pass? Well, one blogger has an idea! Just import them from foreign puppy mills!

Yes, I’m serious. Of course, the author does suggest raising standards to make them humane and respectable:

[...] we should look at an alternative strategy, which was employed by the high-end coffee industry, where American interests (private and non-governmental organizations) work with foreign organizations and countries to institute basic humane standards for animal welfare as it applies to breeding of dogs. Rather than an import ban of questionable utility (given all of the ways that commercial breeders/distributors can sneak dogs over the border in large volumes), why not target four to five countries and provide them with tools to enforce meaningful animal welfare standards and best practices?

You can be sure that dogs imported into the United States for resale will not be flying first class.

You can be sure that dogs imported into the U.S. for resale will not be flying first class.

People love animals, and they are going to get pets from one source or another. Nobody is questioning that. So the challenge of meeting that demand with dogs from humane, responsible sources is very real.

But just think about what it means that somebody is suggesting — with a straight face (we assume?) — going into countries with virtually no animal welfare standards, instituting “basic humane standards for animal welfare as it applies to breeding of dogs,” then putting those puppies through the stress of being shipped into the United States, and calling that part of a solution. This might work for coffee beans…

NAIA opposes the importation of dogs into the United States for resale, and finds the notion of sourcing our dogs from foreign breeding operations to be ludicrous.

We have to ask if the author really believes that the breeding of pets domestically, raising standards where need be, and sourcing dogs locally is so taboo that mass importation from foreign, large-scale kennels actually sounds reasonable? Or is this the work of a provocateur – the author just softening us up with an assault on the senses so great that we’ll be receptive to something that makes sense in the next installment?

At least for the first question, let’s hope not.

To assure the future availability of healthy, humanely raised pets in the United States, we need to look closer to home. Contact us at NAIA for solutions!

Jul 1, 2014 - Animal Policy    1 Comment

Police, Dogs, and a Happy Ending (For Once)

Some activists claim that a police officer shoots a dog every 98 minutes, while people in law enforcement often call dog shootings a rarity, and lament the fact that there is never as much (if any) outcry when a person is shot. Where does the truth lie? There are currently no accurate nationwide statistics available for police officers shooting dogs, but we know  it does happen, and any time it is avoidable, it is too often. Last weekend, there was a protest in Salt Lake City, Utah over the shooting of a Weimaraner inside a fenced yard, and earlier this year in Filer, Idaho, things became heated enough to spur a recall effort (which failed), after a police officer shot a disabled man’s dog during a child’s birthday party.

Stories like this are far too common, but negative interactions between law enforcement and dogs are not the rule, and the stories that cause outrage get the most attention. While often late in coming — typically a reaction to pets being tragically killed — more and more and we are seeing police receive training in non-lethal methods of dealing with dogs, and just a few days ago we get this story

After responding to a residential burglar alarm Thursday morning, Sgt. Gary Carter and Officer Heather Gibson were flagged down by some residents walking in the 400 block of North East Street who reported that a dirt-covered, white pit bull was chasing them in an “aggressive” manner. “This dog is so vicious, please get him,” one woman reportedly yelled to the officers.

If you are the type who follows police/pet encounters in the news, you are probably holding your breath right now, given what is typically reported, but what happens next is, quite frankly, adorable:

Carter and Gibson coaxed the hungry and thirsty canine into a patrol car with a protein bar and some head scratches.

Getting some pets from the police

Had the officers been frightened by the dog’s dirty appearance or apparent breed type, this could have ended very differently. Certainly it helps that Sgt. Carter is a dog lover, but even if he nor Officer Gibson had a history with dogs, Arlington has safeguards in place:

The Arlington Police Department implemented mandatory training two years ago to help officers identify the difference between aggressive and nonaggressive animals and know how to respond in situations when a dog is inside a home or roaming freely in a neighborhood.

People in the neighborhood were scared and calling for help, saying the dog was “vicious” and “chasing” them. The officers, who had received the mandatory training recognized that the dog was in fact, merely dirty and hungry, and deescalated the situation in a humane, touching manner. Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of knowledge to save a life; we hope to hear more stories that end like this as more police officers receive training in how to properly deal with domestic animals.

May 27, 2014 - Animal Policy    2 Comments

Health Alert Regarding Imported Dogs

A health alert has been issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the increasing number of dogs being imported from rabies endemic countries with questionable documentation.

A particularly disturbing line in the alert is this:

These documents state that the puppies are older than 4 months of age and
fully immunized against rabies. However, upon examination, these animals were found to be less than 4 months old and sometimes as young as 4-8 weeks of age. Documentation has also included falsification of birth location and breed registration. 

Clearly they are seeing a lot more than honest, innocent mistakes.

One of NAIA’s longstanding campaigns has been to awaken the public to the threats posed by the irresponsible importation of animals into the American pet marketplace — especially from countries still suffering from diseases and parasites that have been largely eradicated in the United States.

NAIA appreciates the attention the CDC is giving this matter, and looks forward to the publication of the finalized USDA rule outlying the importation of dogs less than 6 months of age for resale (which includes transfer by adoption).

 

PuppyShot

 

Apr 23, 2014 - Animal Policy    No Comments

NASPHV Addresses the Issue of Unregulated Animal Importation

Applause applause! On April 21st, the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) released a policy statement recognizing the threat to humans and animal health posed by the unregulated importation of animals — rabies, in particular.

Throughout the last decade, the growth of the importation of dogs for the pet trade, especially by unregulated rescue and black market dog peddlers has been of great concern to NAIA, and it is great seeing these issues addressed.

NASPHV Statement

More Background:

 

APHIS: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Real life makes for great movies.

Just in the last 5 years, moviegoers have been enthralled with Social Network, Secretariat, Black Hawk Down, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, all films based on real events. It’s tempting to conjecture that if the travails of the dog fancy over the last twenty years were ever made into a film adaptation, surely the movie would fall within the genre of a “spaghetti western.” Why? Because the line between heroes and villains is blurred, morality is flexible, and the remaking of an American tradition is happening before our eyes.

SpaghettiCowboy

With “spaghetti westerns,” Italian filmmakers repackaged the classic American western and influenced the way an entire generation looked at traditional stereotypes. In much in the same way, the animal rights movement challenged the public’s perception of all dog breeders by painting ethical ones with the same broad brush used to color substandard breeders. To hear radical groups say it these days, all breeders (good, bad or ugly) are responsible for pet overpopulation, the deaths of millions of shelter dogs, poorly bred dogs living in agony, and climate change.

SadDogFor years, images of caged and sad-eyed shelter dogs have beamed nightly into our bedrooms through our television sets, and the public responded with donations that have made at least one humane society very rich, indeed.

Entrusted to oversee the welfare of animals in the United States, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the Department of Agriculture received complaints from a public concerned about the humane treatment of pets bred in commercial facilities and sold in pet shops, especially those sold over the Internet, a venue never imagined when the Animal Welfare Act was written over forty years ago.

To handle these complaints and be compliant with the Animal Welfare Act’s original intent, APHIS responded in May 2012 with a proposed rule to narrow the definition of a “retail pet store,” and license and regulate internet-based breeders and sellers who acted as dealers. The agency invited comments for 90 days during which time it received 75,584 individual comments, 134,420 signed form letters, and 213,000 signatures on petitions submitted by groups supporting or opposing the proposed rule.

Ethical breeders, already battle weary from poorly written legislation affecting them, cringed at yet another regulation intended to target substandard breeders, but one that would probably impact them, as well. Nevertheless, they wrote letters, participated in conference calls, and were among the individuals who provided 70,000 signatures to a petition submitted by the AKC expressing concern over the future of responsibly bred dogs and small/hobby breeders.

And then they nervously waited.

When the final rule was announced during a USDA-hosted conference call on September 10th, the fancy felt its greatest fears realized. Despite a Herculean effort to inform USDA about the unintended consequences of a regulation aimed at commercial breeders, the final rule was virtually unchanged from the original language.

Hobby breeders were incredulous. How could this happen to them? They were law abiding. They spent countless hours reviewing genotypes and phenotypes before selecting a suitable breeding pair. They sacrificed to run health tests, slept in their dogs’ whelping boxes, carefully screened potential homes, and cried their eyes out when saying goodbye to a puppy they had raised.
As verbiage of the final document “sank in,” hobby breeders read it and found themselves mostly confused. How could they meet standards worded for breeders with different realities?

To the detriment of the hobby breeder, a last minute document posted by the USDA has gone largely unnoticed, and consequently, it’s done little to dispel the depression and outrage felt by the dog community. This document must be regarded by dog fanciers before they’re ready to “chuck it all in.”

In the finest tradition of a particularly popular “Spaghetti Western,” let’s review “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” of this new regulation, and the document which followed it, the Retail Pet Store docket.

The Good:
NAIA legislative director, Julian Prager, JD, reviewed the Retail Pet Store docket, a 91 page document intended to help clarify the USDA’s position of the new rule, and interprets it as evidence that hobby and residential breeders are exempt from its worst fears of regulation.

Of particular interest to hobby breeders is that while all dealers must be licensed by APHIS, not every breeder is a dealer. Key in determining whether one is a “dealer” or a hobby breeder is the purpose of the sale of a dog or a puppy.

  • If a breeding is done to maintain bloodlines or produce working dogs, a license is not required;
  • Shipping semen, a bitch, or an animal for breeding purposes does not require licensing.
  • Any number of breeding females may be owned as long as the sale of a dog or puppy takes place face-to-face, and the buyer, seller and dog are in the same place at the same time at the time of the sale or delivery of the dog, and the location of the transaction can be anywhere;
  •  The person who takes possession of the dog at the time of sale or delivery is the buyer even if they’re not the ultimate owner. This is important to know if the ultimate owner is sick, elderly or disabled and needs someone to act on their behalf;
  • The rule won’t limit the number of dogs one can own/co-own, breed or sell. It’s designed to regulate under the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) those who sell dogs as pets over the Internet or “sight-unseen.” Remember, this only applies to the dogs on one’s premises.

The reasoning for this language is one responsible dog breeders can get behind: When the Office of Inspector General audit found that over 80 percent of sampled breeders weren’t licensed under the Animal Welfare Act because they sold pets over the Internet (thereby claiming “retail pet store” status), the Department of Agriculture realized that this involved a lot of dogs. Tightening up regulations on Internet sales impacts the kind of breeders who hurt the ethical ones. Revising the definition of “retail pet store” brings dogs purchased through “sight unseen” transactions under the protection of regulation so that they receive basic standards of care. The buyer also benefits by personally seeing a dog before purchasing it and ensuring that it is healthy.

The Bad:
The ambiguity of the regulation on certain issues requires greater clarification:

  • The rule seems to indicate that if a dog is sold as a breeding prospect, to maintain bloodlines, or as a working dog (hunting, herding, or security, for example) a breeder is exempt from requiring licensure. If a dog is sold as a pet, however, a breeder isn’t exempt. It’s significantly important, therefore, that a breeder is able to demonstrate their purpose in selling a puppy, but how is this done, and what kind of “evidence” will be indicative of compliance?
  • Of concern is that this regulation might encourage a bit of  “creative” truth telling. If a breeder determines that a puppy isn’t a breeding prospect, they have the option of putting a limited registration on the dog to preserve the gene pool – but at the same time, they’ve now invited APHIS to investigate their sale because they’ve designated the puppy as “pet quality” and the new regulation stipulates that only “dealers” can market or sell or a puppy sold “as a pet;”
  • Further explanation is needed on the issue of puppies received in lieu of a stud fee or for the receipt of a puppy back from the sale of a female on a breeder’s terms. Although these don’t qualify for the exemption based on owning four or fewer breeding females and selling puppies born and raised on a breeder’s premises, APHIS might find their sale exempt under other provisions of the AWA regulations;
  • What about the sale of dogs whelped or born by C-section at a veterinary practice? As long as the dogs are sold in face-to-face transactions, this is, one supposes, a moot point – but who decides?
  • Leaving to an APHIS inspector the determination of what a “breeding female” is is entirely too subjective. Ideal breeding ages vary from breed to breed, and former show dogs are sometimes left intact by breeders who feel it’s the best interest of their dog to avoid surgery;
  • Breeders are now hamstrung from selling puppies to “repeat customers” living out-of-state, buyers with whom they’ve had a relationship because they previously owned a dog bred by the breeder and demonstrated themselves as ideal homes; Conversely, if an out-of-state buyer wishes to purchase a puppy from a breeder they’ve come to trust, their puppy will cost a lot more when additional travel and hotel expenses are factored in;
  • If one must open their home to an APHIS inspection, the regulation requires that the breeder be at home five days a week during business hours. This is problematic for the person who works or attends dog shows.

 

SpyFace
The Ugly:

  • The new rules expand the influence of USDA/APHIS at a time when the public is reeling from revelations of privacy leeks and admissions of government scrutiny of the private sector;
  • APHIS estimates that between 2,600 and 4,640 dog breeders will be affected by the new rule. It’s likely that more than a few will have to become licensed breeders in order to comply with the new regulation which is sure to generate additional income for APHIS. APHIS has suggested that even at the highest end of the cost of a license (an estimated $760 for a breeder with gross revenues in excess of $200,000), they point out that it’s still less than the price of many purebred dogs. Using their own figures and logic, however, that means that if one were to multiply the “high end” of the range of affected breeders (4,640) by $760, this is an additional income of $3,526,400.00 for the Department of Agriculture, hardly chump change even for a government agency. In that light, a cynical person might be tempted to think of another “Spaghetti Western:” A Fistful of Dollars;
  • During the USDA conference call, the answer to many questions posed was that APHIS officials would “determine [them] on a case-by-case basis.” Given human nature, this kind of ambiguity invites charges of potential shenanigans – preferential treatment, cronyism, maybe even potential pay-offs; It is an ugly thing to think, but there will be some who will think it;
  • APHIS has indicated that it will use various methods to access publicly available information to identify breeders they determine may need an AWA commercial breeding license. These methods include “reviewing” the marketing and promotional materials of breeders and Internet retailers. If breeders become fearful of non-compliance, if not government intrusion in their lives, what financial impact will this have on the sites of national breed clubs, the AKC or even pet-finder sites?
  • Given that there are former animal rights activists now in the employ of the USDA, law-abiding, ethical breeders feel vulnerable to the anti-breeder bias of people in high places, and with vague rules and a lack of specific guidelines in certain situation, there is real concern about discrimination;

As Don Miguel Rojo said in A Fistful of Dollars, “A man’s life in these parts often depends on a mere scrap of information.” There are dozens of nuances in this regulation that need to be clarified, and the NAIA will be reviewing them more in depth in the coming weeks.

~ Susi Szeremy, 10/11/13


A writer and editor by profession, Susi is also the creator of KnobNots pet safety signs, as well as the dog blog, DogKnobit. An owner/breeder/handler of Pulik since 1978, she is active in the dog fancy where she is a co-chair of Judges Education for the Puli Club of America.

Dec 14, 2012 - Animal Policy    11 Comments

You Shoot My Dog, I’ll Sue Your City

Earlier this month, dog lovers everywhere were outraged after a police officer shot Colonel, a non-threatening, 29-pound, seven-month-old puppy. Thankfully, Colonel received medical attention and survived his injuries (though it certainly couldn’t have been fun having shrapnel removed from his belly). After the incident, Al and Barbara Phillips, Colonel’s owners, filed a lawsuit against Chicago and the shooter, which is now going to federal court.

According to neighbors (and the lawsuit), aside from not being much of a physical threat, Colonel was wagging and behaving in a completely non-threatening manner. This really makes you wonder what kind of experience and/or training police officers have when it comes to differentiating between friendly and vicious dogs — because it’s not like this is the first time a restrained or non-threatening dog has been shot by police. After international furor over a pointlessly tragic dog shooting in Austin, Texas, steps have been taken to prevent this kind of tragedy from occurring in the future… how long (and how many lawsuits) before Chicago does the same?

The Phillips’ are seeking at least $350k in damages:

The seven-count suit claims excessive force, illegal seizure, violations of their right to due process and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Phillips also claim police retaliated against them for exercising their right to free speech, in speaking to the news crew.

And in case you were wondering, this is the dog that so frightened the police officer:

Humane Society Legislative Fund Attack Ad Rejected by Television Stations

So the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) launches an absolutely nuclear political attack ad that stops just short of claiming U.S. Rep. Steve King’s favorite hobby is dragging children to dog fights (before you ask, he is on record opposing all forms of animal fighting and he supports state laws that criminalize it), and now they are shocked — just shocked — that television stations in Iowa are refusing to air it.

Dane Waters, political director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said in an interview on Monday he disagreed with the station managers. “If they have a problem at all I believe it is more political than anything else,” Waters said.

Ah, hiding behind the old “it’s just politics” excuse. Of course the networks’ refusals have nothing to do with the ad’s graphic sensationalism or because its message has been judged to be “patently false.” Just as the HSLF ad has nothing to do with the fact that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) considers King to be a major thorn in their side, right (because it’s just a coincidence that Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of HSUS spent much of last July and August attacking the representative…)?

Sure, if you say so.

Reasonable people can have disagreements over policies and their implementation; it can be messy, but it is better than the alternative, and a vital component of living in a free society. Unreasonable people view those with dissenting opinions as fools or devils to be dismissed, defamed, even destroyed if necessary — ideological totalitarians, to put it kindly. Judging by the HSLF’s methods of attack and reaction to being called out  – unfettered by facts, reason, or decency — it is fair to say they have cast their lot with the unreasonables.

The only good things about this latest campaign is that it serves as a stark example of the vicious, discourse-killing dishonesty the humane industry employs upon those who stand up to them, and of why so many people are afraid to speak out, even when it is clear the facts are not adding up.

According to King’s website, all eight networks have now pulled the ad. Good for them.

 

May 18, 2012 - Animal Policy, Animal Rights    5 Comments

Indiana Supreme Court Says State Overreached in Dog Seizure

Earlier today, the Indiana Supreme Court said in a 5-0 ruling that the state (with the assistance of HSUS) overreached in seizing and placing 240 dogs over unpaid taxes.

For some background:

On June 2, 2009, Virginia and Kristin Garwood each were ordered to pay $142,367.94 in allegedly unpaid taxes from the sale of puppies at their Mauckport, Ind., farm.

When the Garwoods were unable to pay, Indiana State Police and Humane Society volunteers seized 240 dogs from the farm, including the Garwoods’ pets. All the dogs were sold to the Humane Society the next day for $300.

That last sentence, the little thing about them selling the dogs for only $300 is revealing; the raid obviously wasn’t just about collecting taxes…

Stay tuned — this is an incredibly important ruling, and we’ll be able to release a lot more information on this story next week.

May 14, 2012 - Animal Policy    4 Comments

A Bipartisan Fight Against Breedism

The good news? Maryland’s atrocious court decision declaring pit bull and pit mixes “inherently dangerous” is already being challenged legislatively, and by a very unexpected team:

A court’s apparent sense of “breedism” has led to an extraordinarily rare legislative pairing.

As the fallout continues over a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that calls pit bulls inherently dangerous, two state delegates on polar opposite sides of the political spectrum are co-sponsoring legislation that would overturn the court’s ruling.

This quick turnaround is  incredibly important; since last month’s decision, landlords are already telling their pit bull-owning tenants they can’t keep their dogs. This means the loss of beloved family pets, shelters and rescues being overrun with dogs, as well as a financial hit for a state that is already facing economic struggles. When it comes to this legislation, time is of the essence.

And this is where the bad news comes in:

It appears unlikely that the legislation will receive a serious look from the House of Delegates, however. House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, is not expected to put on the agenda anything more than the state’s fiscal 2013 budget.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least try. “Unlikely” and “unexpected” doesn’t mean “impossible,” and stranger things have happened. And if enough animal lovers speak up, legislators cannot help but hear.

Our sister group, the NAIA Trust, has released an alert on this issue. If you are a Maryland resident and a dog lover, here’s a chance to help make a difference. While the intent is simple and clear, the bill itself has not yet been officially released. However, a copy has been made available through scribd.com.

If you are able to make it, there is also a peaceful rally scheduled for tomorrow outside the capital in Annapolis from 2:30 to 4:30pm.

Help me grow up in a breed blind world!

 

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