CONFERENCE COMMITTEE STRIPS PUPPY PROTECTION ACT FROM FARM BILL
Good intentions are not enough!
By: Patti Strand Date: 04/26/2002
For Immediate Release: April 26, 2002
For more information, Patti L. Strand, (503) 761-1139; firstname.lastname@example.org
Portland, Oregon: Hooray! Today the members of the US House-Senate conference committee said "no" to the so-called Puppy Protection Act (PPA) and omitted it from the final version of the Farm Bill.
After wading through reams of sensationalized material, Senators and Representatives determined that, although it was drafted with good intentions, the PPA offered only misguided, unenforceable public policy. Consequently, the PPA proved that leaving animal experts out of the process produces bad results.
"The PPA was inspired by special interest groups that fundraise using emotional animal welfare issues," said Patti Strand, president of the National Animal Interest Alliance. "As such, it was based on sound bites and depended on evidence from organizations operating outside the mainstream who aim to restrict all dog breeding. While supporting the ideal of eliminating substandard breeding operations and thereby improving animal care, NAIA believes that any legislation designed to do so should not only flow from passion about animal well-being, it should be grounded in science and reason."
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Kennel Club (AKC), organizations that also promote animal well-being and oppose substandard breeding operations, also opposed the PPA.
The Puppy Protection Act
The Act had three provisions, none of which were acceptable to knowledgeable dog professionals and enthusiasts.
1. Breeding frequency: The PPA breeding frequency provision would have created a precedent in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) by transferring the authority for breeding decisions from breeders to the federal government. Doing so would have prevented even the most responsible breeders and owners from working with their veterinarians to make appropriate breeding decisions about the health and well-being of an individual animal. NAIA agrees with the AVMA that the decision of when to breed or not breed an animal is an animal health issue best left to professional judgment.
2. Socialization standards: NAIA strongly opposes the imposition of socialization standards before they are developed by the groups most qualified to draft them. NAIA agrees with the AVMA that the socialization provision was "premature and ill-advised" and supports the AKC's conclusion that there is no basis in current science and no consensus among breeders, veterinarians or animal behaviorists as to what constitutes acceptable "socialization standards."
3. Enforcement provision: The three-strikes-and-you're-out" provision was so poorly written it could actually have hampered USDA's ability to revoke licenses for a single violation that severely harmed animals and could have led to regulatory abuses.
NAIA opposes substandard breeding kennels commonly called "puppy mills" and strongly supports their closure. The PPA, however, failed to effectively address the most critical issue of enforcement and placed responsible hobby breeders in the same category with irresponsible, large-scale breeders.
The Real Problems
The number one problem plaguing the commercial dog-breeding world is the large number of commercial kennels that operate in violation of the AWA without being licensed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Current interpretation of the law hinders USDA from tracking pet store puppies back to their suppliers, a situation that hampers the agency's ability to locate illegally operating kennels. The number one priority for people who want bad kennels closed is to identify the illegal operations that currently duck USDA licensing requirements.
Another problem is that large breeders in Eastern Europe and other foreign locales have found a ready market for their puppies in the US. It appears that the production of most of these puppies is totally unregulated. NAIA would like Congress to consider legislation to assure American consumers that the puppies and dogs sold in international commerce are healthy and raised in conditions that would be acceptable under the AWA, regardless of their country of origin.
NAIA also notes that campaigns to stop pet overpopulation have been so successful they have caused a shortage of puppies and small dogs in many shelters. Rather than declare success and close their doors, some of these shelters now pay for puppies and dogs and import them from other cities, territories and countries so they will have dogs available for adoption. NAIA believes some of the rescue groups and shelters participating in this relocation process are acting as dealers and pet stores and should be licensed accordingly.
The PPA was based on propaganda generated from a mixture of extreme cases and a deliberate blurring of the distinctions between the bad kennels that all responsible people want to close and ones that operate within the law, sometimes with superior, even state-of-the-art care and facilities. The PPA was promoted by groups that depend on the emotional impact of legislative campaigns to raise money for their coffers and bring their anti-breeding agenda into mainstream thought.
"Everyone should be concerned about the well-being of animals," said Strand, "but when we pass laws to regulate these operations, we need to make sure that our decisions are based on facts and sound reasoning, not propaganda. Otherwise our efforts will do little more than address distractions while real problems remain unresolved. It's difficult to make good decisions in an atmosphere where fundraising is paramount and emotionalism rules the day."
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