COULD CANIS FAMILIARIS BE THE NEXT ENDANGERED SPECIES?

COULD CANIS FAMILIARIS BE THE NEXT ENDANGERED SPECIES?


By:  Date: 09/7/2004 Category: | Uncategorized |

Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here representing the American Kennel Club at the National Animal Interest Alliance's national conference on animal and environmental extremism.

All of us at this conference have experienced the threat of animal rights activism and extremism in our own spheres of interest. Speakers preceding me have talked about the threat to hunting and fishing, the threat to the use of animals in biological research, and the threat to animal agriculture, among others. In the few minutes I have with you this morning, I'd like to talk about another target of the animal rights movement, and in some respects the most insidious of all – the threat to pet ownership. In particular, I want to talk about two aspects of the animal rights threat to pet ownership. One is the importance of "connecting the dots" for ordinary pet owners so that they understand the larger picture and the long term objectives of the animal rights movement – what the animal rights view of the perfect world with respect to the relationship of humans and animals really looks like. The second is the animal right movement's process of incrementalism – the process of getting to their view of the perfect world in very small steps and one constituency at a time, even if it takes a very long time. And I want to talk about the federal Animal Welfare Act as one of the venues for this incrementalism.


Connecting The Dots

Redefining man's relationship with dogs is probably the most difficult challenge the animal rights movement faces. The fact that the movement has taken it on at all is testimony to how serious the movement is – how totally committed to redefining the position of humans and animals in the world. For the vast majority of the population, who are not committed animal right activists, it is the very experience of keeping and interacting with our pets – the human-pet animal bond – which the animal rights movement exploits to secure popular and financial support for their cause. The challenge the animal rights movement faces in seeking to eliminate pet ownership is how to further their objective without alienating the people on whom they depend for support.

People who are less sophisticated about the animal rights movement than those in this room, which is to say 99.5 percent of the general population, are often amused or amazed when I tell them I am the federal lobbyist for the American Kennel Club (http://www.akc.org). The threshold question always is "But what do you do?" or "Who is opposed to the American Kennel Club"? When I start talking about the animal rights extremists, most people are totally unaware that pet ownership is one of their targets. Many people know of the animal rights opposition to fur and leather, many are aware of the opposition to hunting, or at least to certain forms of hunting, some know about the animal rights opposition to animal agriculture, or at least to veal, and a few know about the animal rights opposition to the use of animals in medical and biological research.

While many people are aware of these targets of the animal rights movement, most ordinary people do not feel immediately threatened by the extremists, because research, agriculture and even hunting and fur are things that are removed from the daily experience of most people. But the general population is almost totally unaware of the animal rights opposition to pet ownership. Even many dog owners, fanciers and breeders don't understand the animal rights movement's position on pet ownership. If they have any awareness about it at all, they assume the opposition is to 'puppy mills' or dog fighting or animal cruelty. Most pet owners, and even many members of the purebred dog fancy, assume that the organizations we know as the animal rights movement are made up of animal lovers more or less just like them, albeit perhaps a bit more zealous. They are shocked to learn that the radical animal rights movement opposes the mere keeping of a pet as "animal fascism." Most of my purebred dog colleagues have never heard the term natural dog – the term animal rights activists use to refer to what we call mutts, and their dismissal of purebred dogs as "unnatural" dogs.

The reality, as all of you in this room are aware, is that the bulk of the financial support for the animal rights movement comes from common ordinary pet owners – people who love their animals, people for whom the human-animal bond is a central and fulfilling part of their lives, and people who still naively believe that animal rights organizations are really just animal welfare or humane organizations, whose members get a bit carried away with the idea at times. They believe that by supporting these organizations they are furthering the values they themselves hold. They wouldn't dream that they, the people from whom the animal rights movement derives its financial and political support, are among the animal rights movement's primary targets. It is a testimony to the strategic cunning, as well as the hypocrisy, of the animal rights movement, that the movement is willing and able to raise most of its money from the very people whose rights they are trying to abridge!

One of the greatest challenges we all face is the task of unmasking the true agenda of the animal rights movement. It's not enough to talk only about the issues in our own sphere of interest, whether it be fur, hunting, veal, vivisection or whatever. While we talk about these issues, it is important that we also relate them to the overall animal rights agenda. We all need to be engaged in the crusade to educate the public that the animal rights movement is not about a world where all animals are treated kindly and humanely, the way their donors treat their own pets, but about a world where there is no relationship between humans and animals except possibly coexistence. (And if Ingrid Newkirk's outlook that she regrets taking up the air, water, food and space that might otherwise go to an animal were to prevail, maybe not even coexistence.)

We should all be sobered, and I believe we are, by the fact that the animal rights movement has been able to raise up to $100,000,000 or more annually, by the estimates we have heard at this conference, largely from the very people they are seeking to do in, without most of their donors/targets realizing what is going on. One of the reasons they have been able to do that is because they have been, for the most part, masters of the process which I call "incrementalism". For the most part they have learned to be patient and take very small steps, sometimes exploiting genuine problems and sometimes exploiting opportunities that circumstance drops in their lap, to make small gains and establish new public policy precedents which can be exploited and expanded over time.


The AWA and 'Incrementalism'

One of the best examples both of exploiting opportunities and incrementalism is the recent history of the federal Animal Welfare Act, which has been mentioned in passing at this conference, but which so far we've not really focused on. Let me give you a brief history of the Animal Welfare Act and a couple of recent examples of incrementalism and exploitation of opportunities at work.

The federal legislation which is now known as the Animal Welfare Act (http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/publications.html) began life on August 24, 1966, as the Laboratory Animal Protection Act. Prior to that, the regulation of animal welfare was considered the province of states and local jurisdictions. However, after a campaign of sensationalized exposes of alleged animal abuses in medical research laboratories (about which we now have reason to be highly skeptical), Congress was persuaded that states and local jurisdictions were not up to the task of imposing humane standards on research laboratories, and decided to make this a federal responsibility. Part of the argument for federal legislation also was that federal research facilities, and facilities conducting research using federal funds, were alleged to be a large part of the problem, ergo the federal government had a responsibility to regulate them.

After enactment of the Laboratory Animal Protection Act in 1966, significant amendments to the Act were made in 1970, 1976, 1985, and 1990 along with less comprehensive amendments on several other occasions. By 1990, legislation that had started life as the Laboratory Animal Protection Act – to regulate the treatment of animals in research facilities – also regulated animals in zoos, aquariums, animal exhibitions such as circuses, the transport of animals by common carriers, handling and sale of animals at auctions, and breeders who sell dogs and cats at wholesale for use as pets or for hunting, breeding and security purposes. It had also been insidiously renamed the Animal Welfare Act.

In addition to the many amendments to the Act actually enacted, there have been many additional unsuccessful attempts in Congress and the courts to expand coverage of the Act, both with respect to the activities regulated and with respect to the species covered. (Significantly, the Act does not regulate agricultural animals.) Barely a year goes by that Congress does not have before it several proposed amendments to the Animal Welfare Act. For example, in just the last few years litigation has been undertaken to bring under the Act persons who breed and sell dogs and cats at retail from their residences, who are currently exempted from coverage, and rats, mice and birds, which are also currently not covered. Coverage of rats, mice and birds was also proposed in Congressional legislation, as was legislation to require airlines which carry animals to retrofit cargo holds, and legislation to require the federal government to regulate the age and frequency of breeding of dogs and the socialization of puppies. Both the addition of rats, mice and birds and the regulation of breeding and socialization of dogs became major issues of controversy in the 2002 Farm Bill.

The legislation to require federal regulation of the breeding and socialization of puppies is an excellent example both of incrementalism and the hypocrisy of the animal rights movement. The legislation, artfully titled the Puppy Protection Act, was introduced in both the Senate and House in the last Congress at the behest of the HSUS. The legislation has been reintroduced in the House in the current Congress, and is currently pending.

This year, the HSUS's PPA campaign is being spearheaded by John Goodwin, a recent addition to the HSUS's executive staff. Mr. Goodwin's animal rights credentials are impeccable. This is the same John Goodwin who founded the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade and advocated animal releases and arson to drive fur farmers out of business. He pled guilty to vandalizing fur stores in 1993 and spent two years under house arrest. After his release, he used the rest of the decade to encourage activists to use theft, vandalism, and fire against furriers and mink ranchers. In 2000, he decided to switch to politics to further his animal rights agenda. HSUS hired him in 2001, giving him access to its $100 million treasury to achieve his goal for 'the abolition of all animal agriculture.' Sounds like a real animal advocate!

The HSUS argues that the PPA is needed to address the problems created by 'puppy mills.' The HSUS argued vehemently to Congress, and, in a cynical attempt to pit hobby and show breeders against commercial breeders, also argued to the purebred dog fancy that the Puppy Protection Act was not intended to regulate hobby and show breeders, but just those bad puppy mills. The truth, of course, is that the HSUS has a longstanding and well documented history of opposing all purposeful breeding of dogs, and especially purebred dogs, by all breeders. The HSUS makes no distinction between hobby and show breeders and commercial breeders. In the HSUS's view, there is no such thing as good breeders or responsible breeders. To them, purposeful breeding is by its very nature bad and irresponsible, and every breeder is a puppy mill.

The most insidious and dangerous aspect of the PPA is that it would, for the first time, inject the federal government into regulating whether, when, and how animals can be bred (http://www.akc.org/love/dip/legislat/ppa_0221.cfm). Currently, neither the Animal Welfare Act nor any other federal statute regulates breeding practices of any species of animals. The HSUS wants desperately to establish the principal that it is within the purview of the federal government to regulate breeding. Once they've established that principle, they'll work on the details.

Nowhere is this more vividly illustrated than in the specific breeding provisions in the PPA. The PPA would require the USDA to set standards for breeding bitches and requires that these standards not permit breeding a bitch earlier than one year of age nor whelped more frequently than three times in a 24-month period. Most bitches can't be bred more frequently than that. This, mind you, from an organization that only a few years ago was campaigning to stop all dog breeding! The hypocrisy of the HSUS strategy is transparent. Once having established in federal law the principle that the federal government can dictate when and how much to breed animals, based on an apparently reasonable and non-threatening standard, they'll work on changing the numbers and expanding the principle to other species later. After all, if it is within the federal government's scope of responsibility to regulate when and how often dogs are breed to protect their welfare, how about cows, horses, gerbils, rabbits, rats, mice, etc.? What's the difference? That's incrementalism at work.

The proposal to amend the Animal Welfare Act to expand regulation of air carriers which carry animals is another example of incrementalism at work, and where it can lead. Air carriers were brought under coverage of the Animal Welfare Act in the 1980's. When carriers were first brought under coverage, the Act set standards shipping containers, feeding and watering while animals were under the carriers' control for extended periods, maximum and minimum ambient air temperatures for safe shipping of animals, and the like. In 1998 a well publicized incident occurred where a dog named Boris, obviously not acclimated to being in a crate, chewed its way out of an approved airline shipping container during a flight from Florida to Newark. When the aircraft cargo door was opened at Newark, Boris, whose mouth was by then torn and bleeding, jumped from the cargo hold and was at large on the grounds of the Newark airport for a couple of days before finally being captured and returned to his owner.

The ASPCA, which had been looking for a federal legislative issue to spearhead a fundraising campaign, immediately talked Sen. Frank Lautenberg into introducing the "Boris Bill," which would have required air carriers which carry animals to retrofit aircraft cargo holds with positive air flow and air temperature equipment at a cost of about $1 million per aircraft, and impose other costly and burdensome obligations on air carriers. None of the measures required by the Boris Bill had anything to do with the circumstances contributing to Boris's escape; they were clearly designed to discourage air carriers from transporting animals at all. Nevertheless, the ASPCA and other groups argued that these additional measures were necessary to further the established federal responsibility under the AWA to assure the welfare of animals in air transport.

The requirement to retrofit cargo holds was eventually dropped, and the other provisions of the Boris bill were significantly watered down. But a body of onerous reporting requirements was enacted that have the potential for invading the privacy of persons who ship animals by air, facilitate harassment of animal owners and carriers, and which may yet prove too costly for some carriers to implement. Regulations implementing the residue of the Boris bill that was enacted into law have yet to be finalized, and the impact on access to air transport for persons wishing to ship animals has yet to be known. The point is, the animal rights movement ended up incrementally increasing federal regulation of air transport of animals with no justification, simply by exploiting an opportunity.

The history of the Animal Welfare Act is the history of the struggle between Congress and the animal interest and animal welfare groups to craft reasonable and effective approaches to genuine problems, and the animal rights activists trying to exploit these issues and create issues to further their long term agenda. Having established the responsibility of the federal government to regulate the welfare of animals, it is a battle that will quite literally never end.

I want to be clear that the American Kennel Club supports the objectives Congress intended the Animal Welfare Act to accomplish - reasonable regulations to address genuine problems. We have seen how, in a few short years, the scope of the Animal Welfare Act has been expanded. When legislation is as broadly titled as "the Animal Welfare Act," there is virtually nothing that can't be argued as within its scope. We all need to be extremely vigilant not to let this legislation get out of control.

In closing, I want to thank Patti Strand and the NAIA for once again bringing us all together to discuss these issues. We are all busy fighting the battles that directly affect our interests, as it should be. We all also know that we are all affected by everything that occurs in the animal rights public policy arena. I like to liken it to a bowl of Jello – no matter where you poke it, the whole thing wiggles. To repeat the challenge that virtually every speaker at this conference has made in one way or another, all animal interest groups need to take a very expansive view of what affects each of our individual interests. We desperately need a mechanism for communication, co-ordination, strategizing and taking collective action to expose the animal rights agenda, not just to our constituencies, though we need to do that too, but to every American. I hope this conference turns out to be the seed that germinates into that mechanism.


 



I am using the term “pet ownership” not in the context of the controversy between the terms “owner” and “guardian”, but rather as shorthand terminology for referring to human’s keeping of animals, principally dogs , for companionship as opposed to economic uses.


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