A Woman’s Work Is Never Done
By: Carol Williams Date: 10/31/1997 Category: | Animal Legislation | Canine Issues |
This story actually began in 1973 with the first updating of the Clark County, Washington, animal control ordinance in 15 years. We didn't know at the time that we were waging a war that would go on for years and perhaps never be resolved.
Duncan Wright, then president of the American Dog Owner's Association, came to town and we held news conferences with local TV news people. Duncan spoke at meetings and to the County Commissioners privately. The ordinance was updated but was not as severely as some would have liked.
In 1975, I wrote a fairy tale and submitted it to Kennel Review, the most popular dog magazine of the time. The tale was about a couple who owned two dogs and had to keep them hidden from authorities during the day because pet ownership was allowed only in certain sectors of the county where they could be counted and controlled. It was turned down - I'm sure the editors thought I was some sort of fanatical nut! But here we are, more than 20 years later, fighting for our lives no matter what area of animal use we enjoy.
In a semi-perfect world we would not have to worry about what our elected and appointed public officials are doing in office. They would be fairly administering laws and ordinances to benefit the community. Once we had done our duty by voting intelligently, we would be able to sit back and not worry about the various branches of national, state, and local governments.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Good people who get elected to office are inundated with people who have private agendas. If officials hear only one side of an issue, they are often influenced in their thinking. This is what happens when minority animal rights people peddle their influence and the majority (us) is silent. Once the animal rights people have influenced whole departments with their half-truths and lies, it is very difficult to change the situation. As Mark Twain said, "History is strewn thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill but a lie well told is immortal."
We thought we were safe because we had private meetings with our officials and told them about the animal rights movement. We gave them literature, facts, and figures and told them how to identify AR-speak. We felt comfortable - until one day in 1995 when I got a call from one official who told me that I should attend a meeting of the Animal Control Advisory Board to hear about a proposed addition to the animal control ordinance.
There were only three people in the audience, an increase over typical attendance that the board noted. I found that five of the nine people on the board were strong animal rights advocates and one was a horse owner who generally voted with her animal rights friends. The majority of these people had been on the board for several years and had been eroding the ordinance little by little. They were proposing mandatory spay and neuter language and breeder licenses with numbers that would have to be included in puppy or kitten sale advertisements.
When I strongly objected, they said, "We just want to stop the killing."
I answered, "Guess what? So do we, but this won't do it."
I had the statistics that euthanasia rates had been steadily declining over the past 10 years, but they weren't interested.
When I cam home from that meeting, my life became consumed with calling everyone I knew and many people I didn't know to tell them what was going on. I got in touch with some active cat people and we formed the Clark County Purebred Breeders Association. I made a mailing list from dog show catalogs and the cat people gave me their list. We mailed our first newsletter to inform purebred owners and fanciers about the proposal and asked them to speak out at the next board meeting. About 40 people came and spoke against mandatory spay and neuter. The board was stunned.
When one of the board members again said, "We just want to stop the killing," a member of the audience replied, "We want it to stop too. We think the humane society and animal control should quit doing it and find homes for the adoptable animals."
I told them about the no-kill shelter in San Francisco and gave them information bout it. They had never heard of it.
Our request to make a presentation at the April meeting was accepted. It was suggested to me privately that maybe so many people did not need to attend as the crowd was distracting to the board.
We worked on our presentation for a month. We gave it to the board and a standing-room-only audience of about 75 people. We had the presentations organized in binders, one for each board member. Two of us took turns going through the material section by section.
We began with an introduction: "We represent the responsible dog and cat breeders of Clark County. We believe the responsible breeding an exhibition of dogs and cats is of value to society in order to preserve the domestic breeds and to produce animals with desirable and predictable characteristics."
It doesn't work
We gave them a definition of coercive legislation: "Governing by force. Involves regulations that are directed more toward obedience to a political power that protection of common community interests or individual rights. Laws that compelling obedience regardless of the ethical principles of the people regulated."
We then explained why coercive legislation doesn't work:
- It doesn't lower euthanasia rates
- It costs too much
- It creates an "us vs them" mentality that polarizes the community
We then took each part of the ordinance and the proposed amendments to which we objected, explained the effect it would have, and gave our suggestions for improvement or elimination.
We finished the presentation with a list of 20 alternatives to "help the community move forward in a positive way toward more responsible pet ownership. Some of these programs are beyond the purview of the ordinance but the solution to the issues is through the programs, not the ordinance.
We had a huge ovation from the audience and a "thank you very much" from the board.
One the way
We then prepared packages containing our proposals, statistics, and a copy of The Hijacking of the Humane Movement by Rod and Patti Strand and delivered them to each of the county commissioners.
We began to be asked to meetings with various agencies at which we brain-stormed issues and possible solutions. We put out a periodic newsletter. We kept in constant contact with the director of animal control and the director of the local humane society. We had a good turn-out at every Animal Control Advisory Board meeting.
One of the animal rights board members resigned, saying, "It isn't fun any more."
Spay and neuter language was not put in the ordinance.
Several board members were still determined to get mandatory license numbers listed in ads for puppies and kittens for sale. We worked diligently against this proposal and when it came before the county commissioners for approval, our people spoke against it. After the commissioners heard the testimony, they rejected the proposal unanimously.
Roses and Thorns
This past two years hasn't been all roses. We've had to take a very strong stand against the animal rights people. The work has been intensive; the amount of time, effort, and personal money that went into accomplishment of our goals was remarkable.
We had a lot of wonderful ideas but not a lot of money to implement them. Then came the Greater Clark County Kennel Club with a donation of $10,000, seed money that enabled us to accomplish many things for the animals and people of the county. Throughout the effort, we received constant and invaluable advice and counseling from Cat Fanciers of America.
We learned several things along the way.
- You can never be less than diligent in keeping track of what your city or county is doing.
- You can never let the animal rights advocates believe you are willing to compromise. They view compromise as a sign of weakness and will take advantage of it.
- You can never bring animal rights activists around to your point of view.
- You must stay focused on your mission, get your facts straight, and never forget your goal or theirs.
Animal rights advocates want to eliminate the ownership of animals. Their modus operandi is to chip away, little by little, until they have accomplished their goal. Our goal is to educate and convince local officials that we are the good guys and we are doing what is right. We must never give up.
Carol Williams was elected chairman of the Clark County Animal Advisory Board in December 1996. All but one of the 1995 board have resigned. She is also NAIA business director.
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