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:

 

Apr 10, 2014 - Shelter & Rescue    3 Comments

Fewer Puppies Entering Rescues and Shelters Is a GOOD Thing

Interesting article on the ASPCA Professional blog today.

Interesting because it acknowledges pet overpopulation trends we have been following for years:

[…] trends all point to the very real likelihood (assuming the community pulls together at least at some levels) that your community, too, will not have many puppies some day soon. Look at the following graphs showing puppy intake in 10 different communities that we partner with. You will see that in almost all, puppy intake is down.

An interesting admission, to be sure. But even more interesting is the tone of the overall blog. A cynic would say it almost sounds like they’re worried there won’t be enough homeless puppies in the future. Uh… isn’t sheltering and rescue supposed to be about putting itself out of business, not keeping its corner of the pet selling market?

If people are having trouble finding puppies in shelters, isn’t that a good thing? Yes, lip service is given to the “great news” of fewer puppies entering the sheltering system, but the author’s concern is palpable. She is clear that she wants people getting dogs from them, as opposed to the other, bad sources.

And it would be easy to infer from this blog that there is no such thing as a “good source” outside of rescue for getting a dog. Perhaps that viewpoint is the problem, why there is such concern over fewer and fewer puppies coming through the door. For when the possibility of getting a dog from a reputable breeder is finally broached near the end of the entry, it is immediately written off as a form of elitism:

Responsible breeders are expensive, and as I have said before, I personally do not think having a dog in the family should be an elite activity. The benefits of having a dog, both physically and psychologically, are too powerful to leave just to the ‘Haves.’

Interesting position to take. Especially when one can easily pay several hundred dollars to adopt a dog from a rescue — certainly not pocket change. Is paying a few hundred more for a dog from a reputable, known source, a dog with predictable traits (energy level, size, coat, etc.) really out of reach for all but the “Haves?”

This is just a strange article all-around. We at NAIA do not fret, but celebrate fewer puppies entering animal shelters and rescues, and sincerely hope the trend continues. We also celebrate puppies born to reputable breeders, living in great homes with great care their entire life, never having to be rescued and rehomed.

Apr 8, 2014 - Animal Law    No Comments

What is Animal Law? Available for Download

What Is Animal Law? by Jerrold Tannenbaum, M.A., J.D.,  published in the Cleveland State Law Review, is now available for download. This is a must-read for anybody who wants to understand the complex and often-confusing issue of animal law, and covers the importance of how it defines itself.

An excellent and important article, don’t miss it. Click the links below to read:

Abstract

Article

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.

If I Ran the Dog Show…

At NAIA we believe that hands-on experience with animals is one of the greatest ways of fostering a child’s sense of responsibility and empathy, and of laying the groundwork for a realistic view of animals and our connection with them. Groups like 4-H have long provided youth with hands-on experience in areas such as agriculture — but when it comes to the world of purebred dogs and dog shows, there has been virtually no concerted effort to nudge forth the next generation.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t start now…

Great fun for a great cause. Click the image above to open it in PDF format and order your book(s) today!

You can order the books through our donation page or by clicking here.

Apr 2, 2013 - Animal Rights    2 Comments

Feld to Receive Attorney Fees from Animal Rights Groups

Great news for Feld Entertainment: they will be recovering at least some of the $20 million they had to spend fighting a frivolous lawsuit from HSUS and company!

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of Washington, D.C., did not yet decide how much is owed, the National Law Journal reports. The circus producer, Feld Entertainment Inc., says it has spent more than $20 million defending itself in the suit claiming that the circus was abusing its elephants.

Feld won the case in 2009 after a six-week trial. On Friday, Judge Sullivan noted that “the plaintiffs were unable to produce any credible evidence that any of them had standing to pursue their claims.” The judge also reminded the litigants that the testimony of the plaintiffs’ star witness had been “wholly incredible, and in certain instances, he testified falsely.”

This case has been a long ordeal for Feld, and we salute them for standing up for the truth in the face of years of distortion and smear-attacks by animal rights activists. It would have been so much easier to lay down and try and settle out of the public eye. Instead, they fought back, brought the truth to light, and taught us all an important lesson.

The Wall Street Journal explains why this is so important:

Mr. Pacelle is upset that plaintiffs have been nailed for abusing the courts to harass a law-abiding company.

Judge Sullivan’s latest order is a reminder that the real bullies here are the activist groups who have gone to extreme measures to shut down a staple of American family entertainment.

Congratulations, Feld Entertainment!

Science explains why we can’t have a serious discussion about animal welfare…

How many topics of discussion can you think of where disagreements are as likely to become personal and vicious as animal welfare? One? Two? None? And have you ever wondered why, despite our ever-growing knowledge of animals and animal care, somebody changing their mind on an animal welfare issue — even when presented with concrete facts to the contrary — is such a rare occurrence? Well, wait no further — science may have just uncovered the answer…

It’s the insults, stupid:

In other words, it appeared that pushing people’s emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their pre-existing beliefs.

[…]

The emotions come faster than the “rational” thoughts—and also shape the retrieval of those thoughts from memory. Therefore, if reading insults activates one’s emotions, the “thinking” process may be more likely to be defensive in nature, and focused on preserving one’s identity and pre-existing beliefs.

This is why we can't have nice things.

Why we can’t have nice things.

Don’t believe the findings? Then how about next time you’re having a discussion online about animal welfare issues, you take a step back when the trolls arrive (this usually occurs within 2-3 minutes) and observe for yourself what happens once the fur and the slurs start flying. Do these attacks actually convince anybody of anything (“While I initially disagreed with your position on, I find your ad hominems oddly compelling…”), or do they only serve to “rally the troops,” put opponents on the defensive, and ultimately prevent any real discussion from occurring?

Ah, if only the well-reasoned and researched discussion of complicated issues were as simple and instantly gratifying as trench warfare with the trolls. Unfortunately, pummeling isn’t nearly so effective as persuasion. Science says so.

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:

Dec 4, 2012 - Shelter & Rescue    5 Comments

Rescue Without a Cause

Throwing puppies from a moving car is the kind of sick behavior you’d expect from a deranged teenager or hardened criminal, not a self-proclaimed animal rescuer, but that’s what Sheriff Heath White of Torrance County says happened last November:

Torrance County Sheriff Heath White said that, in the recent case, [Debra] Swenerton was caught in the act — tossing the dogs one by one from the driver’s side window of her vehicle — by deputies who had been alerted by the puppies’ owner.

To make matters worse, authorities suspect that this isn’t an isolated incident — that Swenerton has been dognapping for years, and may be tied to nearly 60 reports of missing dogs:

Edgewood animal control officer Mike Ring said the arrest of 59-year-old Debbie Swenerton ‘really cracked the case’ of some 60 dogs that have gone missing over the past few years.

Ring believes that Swenerton stole the dogs and then gave them to shelters, saying that they were strays she had rescued. He added that there is a possibility that Swenerton belongs to a larger group of animal activists that are concerned over the treatment of pets.

Furthermore, according to Torrance County Undersherriff Martin Rivera, Swenerton repeatedly called in cases of dog abuse on owners who were taking perfectly fine care of their pets. Assuming she is behind at least some of the disappearances, it really makes you wonder what kind of conditions these missing dogs were being “rescued” from. Vigilantism is bad enough, but to “save” a perfectly well-cared-for dog, a dog who is likely a well-loved family member, and give them to a shelter that could be using resources on animals who actually need help is obscene.

Thankfully, the puppies in this instance survived with minimal injury, but you can’t help but wonder about the rest…

 


Is she really a prisoner in her own home?

 

Nov 30, 2012 - Animal Rights    No Comments

Defamation Is Not Freedom of Speech

Jessie L. Smith has a history of looking out for animals. Having served three years as president of the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area, Inc., and later as state special deputy secretary for dog law enforcement in Pennsylvania, she’s got the pedigree of an animal advocate. And not just in words, but action: during her time as deputy secretary, she worked to enforce her state’s dog law, shutting down many horrendous kennels that did not — or would not — comply with animal care regulations. By her estimation, her agency shut down about three-quarters of Pennsylvania’s substandard kennels.

To most people, these credentials and accomplishments would be impressive, but in the eyes of some of the more zealous animal advocates in her community, she did not move with enough speed or aggression. It didn’t matter that Smith was often on the same side as them: her adherence to the process of law and the fact that she seemed more intent on shutting down bad kennels, rather than all kennels made her “the enemy.”

As we have documented many times, if you are on the wrong side of an animal radical, insults, slurs, and even threats are to be expected. It’s just what they do. So it should come as no surprise that instead of simply criticizing the way she did her job, it became personal. And vicious. Without evidence, Smith was regularly accused of engaging in unethical and illegal behavior, most notably bribery and sexual misconduct. And according to Smith, these weren’t simply the rude, hateful comments you often get from zealots, but a deliberate, dishonest smear campaign designed to destroy her reputation and ability to do her job.

Because of this, she filed a defamation suit against her chief attackers for deliberately and maliciously spreading lies about her. As her lawyer has attested, public officials have to accept a certain level of hostility. It’s part of the job. And disagreements, especially on passionately-held beliefs can become vicious at times — but wantonly destroying someone’s reputation with lies crosses some very clear lines.

The attorney who is attempting to get the lawsuit dismissed characterizes this as a freedom of speech issue, saying it will make people afraid to criticize public officials if it is allowed to go forward. But this is a rather self-serving, alarmist misinterpretation. Reasonable people understand that accusing somebody of taking bribes and sexual misconduct in writing goes a lot farther than second-guessing policy decisions or saying you think an official is doing a terrible job. But of course, we’re not dealing with reasonable people here…

Stay tuned. A judge is now deciding whether or not the case can go forward.

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