Danville Area Humane Society Kills Pets, Wants More

Do you read/watch interviews and want to butt in to the conversation and question the answers given by the interviewee instead of just letting them slide? I do. This is possibly why Larry King never calls me back.

Michael Markarian, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund has an interview posted on his blog with Paulette Dean, shelter director for the Danville Area Humane Society (DAHS) in VA who lobbies for anti-chaining laws:

About 10 years ago, we strengthened our adoption guidelines. We knew that it would be a controversial move since we have a high euthanasia rate, but we also knew it was the right thing to do. We were laying a foundation for the future. Adopted dogs cannot roam and be chained, and adopted cats must be kept inside.

*butts in* How “high” is your kill rate?

From the data provided on the shelter’s website for the year 2008:

Intake: 2005 dogs, 3666 cats, 94 “other” pets
Returned to owner: 140 dogs, 26 cats
Adopted: 243 dogs, 142 cats

By my math, that makes the totals: 5765 pets in, 551 pets out.

Although no numbers are provided for how many pets killed, if we make an assumption that the pets who were neither returned to owners or adopted were killed, that works out to an approximate kill rate of 90%. So yeah, I guess I’d have to agree that the shelter’s kill rate is “high”, if by “high” you mean “insanely cruel”. I can see why you’d want to restrict and thus discourage adoptions.

And the shelter director spends her time lobbying for anti-chaining ordinances? From the shelter’s site:

The Danville Area Humane Society is thrilled to tell you that an ordinance was passed unanimously by Danville City Council tonight that bans the constant tethering of companion animals! As of July 1, 2010, it will be illegal to:

Tether a companion animal for more than 4 hours in a 24 hour period,
Tether a companion animal when the temperature is below 32 degrees
Tether a companion animal under 4 months old
Tether any sick or injured animal
Tether any companion animal to a fixed point. (specifics to be made public at a later date)

Well hurrah. I guess the shelter will take in even more pets after this ordinance takes effect. And presumably most all of those will be killed. How “humane”.

The shelter’s website is full of rhetoric against no kill and reads like a blame-the-public manifesto. The director admits in the interview that Danville “has the highest unemployment rate in the state, and also struggles with low education and high poverty rates.” Knowing that, is it truly helpful to restrict pet ownership further by imposing ordinances many owners will be financially unable to meet, especially when seizing those pets means they will most likely be killed?

My feeling is that 24/7 chaining is cruelty and should be prosecuted as such. But chaining for 4 hours or to a “fixed point” (?) is something many responsible pet owners do who can’t afford a fence. As long as quality shelter and clean water are provided, I’d certainly rather see a dog chained for part of the day by an owner who loves him than to see the dog in a garbage bag at the DAHS. That is, if we have to choose. And apparently, according to this shelter director, we do.

I’m Sure This Will Increase Shelter Adoptions

I mean, who wouldn’t want the opportunity to go to jail?

Warner Robins [GA] city council passed an ordinance Monday night setting up a fine and prison time for people who don’t sterilize their pets.

The law will apply to animals adopted from the city shelter.
[...]
Council member John Williams says the penalties [up to 6 months in jail and $1000 fine] will help control the city’s pet population.

Yeah but see, no. What it will do is drive pet owners away from the city shelter. Responsible pet owners want to neuter their pets in their own time with consideration for their individual circumstances and recommendations from their Vet. Or they may choose not to neuter but rather to safeguard their pet from unintended breeding. In any case, how many owners are going to be willing to risk jail time when there are so many other means of obtaining a pet? I couldn’t find any solid figures on the shelter’s adoption rates online but I did come across a recent petition against their use of the gas chamber to kill pets. If the shelter is gassing pets to death, why make it far less likely anyone will want to adopt from there by instituting fines and jail time for non-compliance?

But wait – there’s more!

John Williams is also leading an effort to protect people from vicious dogs in the city. That’s after police say a pit bull attacked a small child last week causing serious injuries to the girl.

Given Mr. Williams‘ approach to “helping” the city’s pet population, I can’t wait to see his ideas on “protecting” the public from biting dogs.

CA SB 250 (MSN) on Hold

Via Save Our Dogs:

The California Legislature is winding down for the year and SB250 has been placed on the inactive file. That means no further action until next year.

AKC puts it a bit more definitively:

Senator Dean Florez, the author of Senate Bill 250, has issued a press release stating that the bill will be put on hold until the legislature reconvenes in January 2010.

So I guess CA residents can give their fax machines a rest for a few months, at least regarding SB 250.

Bad News for CA Pet Owners

CA AB 241 was apparently passed by the CA Senate yesterday. The bill, according to the American Kennel Club, “will prohibit businesses and individuals who buys or sells cats and dogs from owning more than a combined total of 50 intact dogs or cats” (including puppies/kittens). I’ve blogged many times about why purported pet “protection” legislation that states number of pets determines quality of care makes no sense to me. Quality husbandry never has been and never will be determined by numbers of dog owned. One dog owned by a person can be neglected/abused. So can two dogs. As can 12 or 37 or 62. By the same token, all those same numbers of dogs might be well cared for by an owner. Granted the more dogs owned, the more help needed to provide quality care.

Another reason I find these numbers bills troubling is that the numbers vary greatly all across the country. In CA, HSUS says 50 is the magic number which equals “puppy mill”. But in NC, HSUS said owning 15 bitches was the puppy miller indicator. And there are other numbers in similar bills all over the country. Why the inconsistency? If indeed quality of care is determined by number of dogs owned, shouldn’t there be one number for all owners? If a NC breeder is a “puppy miller” because she owns 15 bitches but then moves to CA, does she become a “responsible breeder” because she’s well under the 50 limit?

But to me, perhaps the most disturbing element of these bills is that, in my crystal ball opinion, it will not stop at 50 (or 15 or whatever). This is a foot in the door, a chance to say, “Surely we can all agree that only an evil puppy miller would have more than 50 dogs”. If the anti-pet lobbyists in CA don’t try to get this number lowered in future, I’ll eat my hat.

In Philadelphia currently, the pet limit is 12 but there are efforts underway to get that number reduced. There’s no way to know if those efforts will be successful but assuming for the sake of discussion they are, perhaps the number will be reduced to 8. Then possibly a future amendment will cut it to 4. Noticing a trend here? This hasn’t happened – yet – but surely we’d be unwise to ignore the potential for having our rights as pet owners legislated away from us.

The anti-pet lobbyists don’t stand up and say, “We want a foot in the door so that eventually we can eliminate the right to own pets” because that would sound crazy. Instead they say things like “protecting pets” and “cruel puppy mills” which all sound dandy. And to those of us paying attention to the possible future direction of these laws, the lobbyists say, “That sounds crazy”. Clever work.

NC "Puppy Mill Bill" Out for the Year

Good job North Carolinians:

Senate Bill 460 was delivered a final defeat for the year today when its sponsor, Sen. Don Davis, pulled the bill from consideration by the House Finance Committee.

This was a bad “legislation by numbers” dog breeding bill that HSUS tried to force on the people of NC. I’m glad it’s off the table, at least for now.

NC: SB 460 Passes by One Senate Vote

SB 460 was passed by the state Senate in NC yesterday by a vote of 23 – 22. Since changes have been made in the bill after it left the House, I assume the bill has to go back to the House for their approval. North Carolina residents can find their Representatives here and urge them to vote NO on this HSUS sponsored “puppy mill bill“.

Why the Numbers Game isn’t a Game

Note: There is a story regarding the seizure of the Murder Hollow Bassets in Philadelphia circulating on message boards, e-mail lists and blogs. I have no way of knowing the full facts of the case or whether the post making the rounds is accurate. But to my mind, even if we totally discount it as fiction, the scenario is at least plausible which is what concerns me most. And since I just covered the topic of legislation by numbers yesterday, I thought I’d add some additional thoughts. Added: PSPCA has posted a bit about the seizure on their website. Added, 8-7-09: A blog at Philly.com has posted on the case as well. Added, 8-8-09: Article at Philadelphia Daily News

As I have often said, legislation sponsored by HSUS and other animal rights lobbyists fails to take into account that number-of-dogs does not correlate to quality-of-care. There are good dog owners who keep more than the number of dogs HSUS tells lawmakers is ok. That number by the way, varies from state to state and even within states – so why do we need a number- of-dogs stipulation in legislation exactly? If we can’t come up with a consistent number for the country to point at and shout “Bad owner!”, how can we possibly place any stock in “X is too many for here but Y is too many there”? It makes no sense. Breeders have different setups. One might be perfectly outfitted to care for 15 dogs very well while another living right across the street may be ill equipped to care for 2 dogs. But they would both fall under the same numbers rule.

And while we’re at it, warrantless searches and seizures of dogs, included in many of these HSUS sponsored bills, are prohibited by the US Constitution. I know there are some Constitutional law experts who own dogs and I hope one of them will step up and help the many dog owners who have had their dogs seized illegally or been coerced into surrendering them by crafty liars in fancy logo jackets.

I can guess what many of you are thinking: That’s just paranoia and things like that don’t happen to normal dog owners who take care of their dogs. Maybe you’re right.

My view is that this is exactly why these laws are dangerous: They dress themselves up as “puppy mill cruelty” bills but effectively target most all dog breeders. They lull dog owners into thinking the laws would never be used against them because they are responsible owners. But once these extremists get a foot in the door, they will whittle away at the rights of dog breeders and owners “until there are none”. From the city of Philadelphia:

Limits on animals are currently not based on size of property. At this time, a resident may keep 12 cats and/or dogs in a property. This Law is currently under review for an amendment to decrease this number. [emphasis=mine]

See what I’m saying? These laws aren’t about the cruelty of puppy mills, although groups like HSUS like to solicit donations under that guise. They are, even if unintentionally, about driving dog breeders out of business – all breeders. And eventually putting an end to dog ownership. But hey, maybe I’m just a tin foil hat wearing freak. Maybe they won’t come for your dogs. Maybe.

NC "Puppy Mill Bill" Set for Final Senate Vote Today

NC Senate Bill 460 is a “puppy mill bill” which HSUS played a key role in developing:

“We will soon introduce legislation that will help to crack down on the cruel puppy mill industry in our state.” [said Amanda Arrington, North Carolina state director for The HSUS.]

That bill is set for a final vote today. If you are a NC resident, a list of your state Senators can be found here.

Included in the current version of the bill:

  • “Commercial breeder” means any person who owns or maintains 15 or more intact female dogs of breeding age and 30 or more puppies for the purpose of sale. Nothing in this Article shall apply to those kennels or establishments operated for the purpose of boarding or training hunting, sporting, herding, show, or working dogs.
  • “Commercial breeding operation” means the physical location or facility at which a commercial breeder breeds or maintains intact female dogs of breeding age and puppies.
  • Commercial breeders shall provide adequate veterinary care to the intact female dogs of breeding age and any puppies in their care and custody. An intact female dog of breeding age shall not be bred without an examination from a licensed veterinarian to determine that the dog is in suitable health for breeding.
  • Commercial breeding operations shall be subject to inspection by duly appointed employees of the Department unless otherwise requested by a local animal control officer and authorized by the Department. In conducting such inspections, the Department employee or local animal control officer may inspect the records of the commercial breeder, the premises where animals are bred and maintained, and any animal used in the breeding program or any puppies in their care and custody.

I interpret this to mean that a breeder with 30 puppies for sale who cares for dogs in her home is prohibited by law from making decisions on breeding bitches unless a Vet signs off on it. Further, the breeder is subject to warrantless searches of her home and inspection of adults and pups by whoever shows up to do the inspecting. I don’t know about you but I don’t allow visitors when I have pups, especially if they’ve had contact with other dogs. It’s too great a risk to the health of the pups to my mind. And I prefer to make my own decisions on breeding bitches. Not that I wouldn’t consider input from my Vet, but my Vet may or may not be a breeder and his opinion would not trump mine. As for warrantless searches of my home – put me down for “nuh-uh”.

Commercial dog breeders are already regulated by the USDA. They’ve been falling down on the job for years but that is not an excuse to pile more intrusive laws on top of the already unenforced ones on the books. Let’s get the USDA the funding, manpower and resources it needs to enforce the laws as they stand. After they get their feet under them, let’s hear from them what tools they need to better insure humane care of dogs. Maybe laws will need to be strengthened, or more funding provided to enforcement, I don’t know. But to my way of thinking, it’s better to fully utilize what the government already has in place rather than add more laws, expense and burden to taxpayers. The idea that we can’t enforce the commercial breeding laws we have now therefore we must add more laws just doesn’t make sense to me.

We all want good quality care for dogs. I can’t see how this bill accomplishes that. We are a humane society, not a police state. Let’s work within the existing framework and see how things can be improved. I am all for progress but this bill is a giant step backwards to me.

Related: The Long Arm of HSUS in NC

The Long Arm of HSUS in NC

Although there was much coverage of the HSUS puppy mill raid and seizure of roughly 300 dogs in Wayne County, NC last month, a similar HSUS raid 3 weeks later in Lenoir County leaves some questions unanswered:

Rescuers have removed 50 dogs from a Lenoir County breeding facility after the owner was convinced that he had to shut it down.

A statement from The Humane Society of the United States said the dogs were living in substandard conditions in outdoor pens throughout the property.

Local officials inspected the property after receiving an anonymous complaint and found no evidence of intentional abuse, but the unidentified property owner voluntarily surrendered the animals.

The statement said the property owner signed a contract with local officials barring him from breeding any dogs in the future.

What I’m reading here is “anonymous complaint”, “no evidence of intentional abuse”, and I guess we are supposed to take the word of the HSUS regarding the “substandard conditions”. And the owner was “convinced” to “voluntarily” surrender the dogs. Yes, I have questions.

In trying to find additional information, I came across this piece on WNCT but it was written by someone from the HSUS. In fact, all the articles I came across regarding this raid seemed to be taken from the HSUS statement. So does the HSUS raid NC “puppy mills” (what exactly is a “puppy mill” in legal terms?) and then report on their activities for the local news in NC now? At least they don’t have their hand in legislating the rules dog owners of NC have to live by – oh wait a second:

“We will soon introduce legislation that will help to crack down on the cruel puppy mill industry in our state.” [said Amanda Arrington, North Carolina state director for The HSUS.]

How soon is now?

North Carolina doesn’t have a law regulating puppy mills – breeding facilities that mass produce puppies for sale. Legislation backed by Sen. Don Davis, D-Wayne, could be introduced next week, however.

Davis said the bill is still being drafted to make sure it is fair for reputable breeders, but the Humane Society of the United States, which organized Thursday’s meeting, said the legislation could require oversight and a license for breeders with 20 or more adult females.

Here is a pdf of HOUSE DRH10581-RF-9. Excerpts from the House version:

  • “Commercial breeder” means any person who, during any 12-month period, maintains 15 or more adult female dogs for the primary purpose of the sale of their offspring as companion animals.
  • Prescribe the manner in which animals may be transported to and from registered or licensed premises.
  • Commercial breeders shall not breed female dogs less than 18 months or more than eight years of age and shall provide adequate veterinary care to the female adult dogs and their offspring. An adult female dog shall not be bred without an annual certification from a licensed veterinarian that the dog is in suitable health for breeding.
  • Commercial breeding operations shall be subject to inspection by duly appointed employees of the Department or by local animal control officers. In conducting such inspections, the Department employee or local animal control officer may inspect the records of the commercial breeder, the premises where animals are bred and maintained, and any animal used in the breeding program or their offspring. Denial of access to the commercial breeding operation shall be grounds for revocation of the commercial breeders license.”

Senate Bill 460 (same bill) was introduced to the NC Senate earlier this month – pdf here.

This bill sounds alarmingly vague and intrusive. I most assuredly care about protecting dogs from cruelty but as in all things, we must respect the civil liberties we are entitled to as US citizens. We must not allow a so-called “Humane” Society to overly influence our local law enforcement agencies, our local free press and our state lawmakers. We the People are a compassionate, no kill nation of pet owners who neither need nor want a nanny state created by a fundraising group of direct-mailers. We are the real humane society.

Contact Senator Davis and let him know how you feel about this bill (current status: Referred to Commerce) and the apparent overreaching involvement of the HSUS in NC law enforcement, press, and lawmaking:

Senator Don Davis, NC Senate
300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 525
Raleigh, NC 27603-5925

(919)733-5621

Don.Davis@ncleg.net

The HSUS and Prop. 2 in CA: The Big Picture

The NYT Magazine takes an in-depth look at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and their support for Prop. 2 in California. Prop. 2 would require farmers to house chickens, pigs and veal calves in less restrictive conditions. It’s mainly about chickens though as CA has LOTS of chicken farmers and almost no pig or veal producers. Prop. 2 requires that chickens be able to fully extend their wings without touching the sides of a cage:

That doesn’t mean that California chickens will live like the chickens in the final scene of a Proposition 2 commercial, in which a handful of them peck and strut in the grass of an idyllic farm. “Free-range” chickens have access to outdoors — though that may be only a slab of concrete — while cage-free hens live in henhouses and usually never go outside. And depending on the producer, the henhouse may be a comparatively roomy, modern system with plenty of space and sunlight. Or not. The worst-run operations are dirty, dark barns crammed with thousands of chickens that never see daylight.

The article also looks at the toning down of the shock campaigns of previous animal rights efforts in order to appeal to a larger demographic. And specifically, under Wayne Pacelle’s leadership, how HSUS has shifted much of its focus away from pets and baby seals toward farm animals:

That more-palatable mainstream message, coupled with the Humane Society’s political power, is what the animal rights movement in America has needed for a long time, argues [Peter] Singer, the Princeton bioethicist.

This is a well written and thought provoking article. Read it here.

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