Animal right extremist groups influence public opinion in ways that threaten responsible dog fanciers.

By: Diane Vasey  Date: 01/9/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |

Dog fanciers today are living during a time of many changes in public policy regarding animals. As society moves further and further from its agricultural roots, so do people's perspectives of animals. Although there are many factors that contribute to changes in public attitudes, this article focuses on one, the animal rights movement, which has steadily progressed and has effectively influenced laws that restrict some of the practices to which dog fanciers have been accustomed. 

The American Kennel Club(AKC) is tracking the progress of laws that affect purebred dog owners and fanciers, and offers helpful information to those seeking protection of their rights and to legislators who are looking for ways to protect their communities with fair and enforceable laws.

"Preserving the rights and privileges of those who participate in the sport of purebred dogs is an important part of our mission," says Noreen Baxter, vice president of the Public Education and Legislation division at the AKC. "The AKC has profound respect for education as a means of ensuring the continuation of the sport."

Defining the Issues

There are critical differences between animal rights organizations and animal welfare organizations. Animal welfare groups seek to improve treatment of animals. Animal rights organizations, on the other hand, according to their leaders and literature, seek to end the use and ownership of animals. In the words of the best-known animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, "Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment." 

According to a briefing sheet published by the Washington, D.C.-based Capital Research Center, animal rights groups profess to work for improved animal treatment while their ultimate goal is to abolish the following: 1) the breeding and owning of pets; 2) the use of animals in biomedical research; 3) the raising of farm animals for food, clothing, and by-products such as insulin; 4) the use of animals in education and entertainment, including zoos, aquariums, circuses and rodeos; and 5) all forms of hunting (including field trial competition), trapping and fishing.

The Strategy of Illusion and Confusion

Their plan is to purposely and gradually chip away at the use of animals on different fronts, hoping that apathy, disbelief and lack of unified opposition will result in their ultimate success.

"By camouflaging their true agenda and encouraging the public to confuse animals rights philosophy with the public's own belief in principles of animal welfare, they have organized a powerful, highly sophisticated, media-savvy international movement designed to cash in on the fear, concern and ignorance people have regarding animals and animal issues," says Patti Strand, AKC Board Member and executive director of the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA), an animal welfare organization that supports responsible use of animals and works to protect our rights to own and breed dogs. 

Strand says one of the strategies of animal rights organizations is to create a "crisis" atmosphere to garner media attention and raise funding. They create a villain to blame for the crisis. Then they call on the public to help them put the villain out of business (send money and vote or call your senator). As a result, regardless of whether they win the battle, their media campaigns change public opinion. During the process, the public is fed a constant stream of negative misinformation and half-truths on the subject.

Animal rights organizations work aggressively to influence public opinion and public policy. From coast to coast, they back a constant stream of unreasonable proposals that affect dog breeders and owners: unfair lemon laws; overly restrictive limit laws, federal, state and local breeder licensing; laws that ban hunting with dogs, breed-specific laws, and more.

Direct Hits to Dog Fanciers and Pet Owners

Animal control laws have become increasingly more intrusive and restrictive. Many cities now tell people how many pets they may have and what breeds they cannot have. Many seek to control breeding by discriminatory license differentials. Some also seek to enforce the various ordinances by forcing veterinarians to violate privileged information, through the spurious rationale of combating rabies. 

Texas cities have tied ordinances to registration which have gone far beyond the original intent of rabies control, and include social and community issues that have little to do with that original intent, such as substantial fee differentials for sterilized animals versus intact animals. Veterinarians are being forced to provide pet-health records to city governments. Although the Responsible Pet Owners Alliance, Inc., and other dog fanciers had worked hard to oppose these ordinances, they were unable to prevent their passage.

Another way that animal rights organizations plan to dissuade the breeding of dogs is to make it so expensive and legally cumbersome as to exclude nearly everyone from doing so. In California, hearings on a spay/neuter ordinance were held in August. The proposal contains several provisions that will greatly impact fanciers. These include a mandatory spay/neuter requirement, unless an owner has obtained an unaltered-animal permit. The cost for the permit will be $100 per animal per year. Breeders will be required to obtain an annual $200 permit for each animal and will be restricted to one litter per animal per year, unless they apply for a special, one-time-only two-litter permit. Breeders must also report a buyer's contact information to the Department of Animal Control Regulation. Ordinance violators will face 100-percent penalty fees. At the time this issue goes to press, there is a final hearing scheduled for Oct. 6 in South Central Los Angeles.

The outcome of such battles is not always bleak for dog fanciers. One example of success - however temporary - is the recent decision regarding the Doris Day Animal League's (DDAL's) petition to require federal licensing and inspection of all dog breeders, hobby and commercial. The United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has been considering this petition for two years, and announced in July that currently it is not going to change the definition of breeder to include hobby breeders. The petition failed only after lawsuits, letter-writing campaigns, and a lot of work from concerned fanciers. "For right now, Uncle Sam can't come into hobby breeders' homes," says Stephanie Ortel, legislation manager with the AKC's Canine Legislation department. "The USDA decision is a great example of fanciers responding to an issue, taking action and achieving the desired result of preventing negative legislation from impacting the sport." Now that the USDA has rejected the petition, it appears almost a certainty that the Doris Day Animal League will reopen its lawsuit and attempt to win in court.

American society today is faced with well-funded and finely tuned campaigns to change animal cruelty laws in local and state legislatures. The effort is spearheaded by humane societies and other groups with an increasingly narrow view of appropriate animal care. 

"The effort to rewrite animal cruelty laws is clearly part of a nationwide campaign to limit animal use," says Norma Bennett Woolf, who is editor and feature writer of the NAIA News and Dog Owner's Guide, a bimonthly publication for pet and show dog owners in print and on the Internet. She is active in dog issues in Ohio as president of Clermont County Kennel Club, vice president of a regional Akita breed club, and corresponding secretary of Ohio Valley Dog Owners, Inc. The Ohio Legislature faced a bill in its 1998 session that 1) applied only to "companion animals," defined as "animals kept as pets or mascots" by individuals and ironically, at the time, exempted breeders; 2) included language that could have banned ear cropping, tail docking and the confining of dogs and cats in crates; 3) allowed humane agents to impound animals based only on reasonable cause (an educated guess) and required probable cause (evidence) only at the pretrial hearing; 4) allowed the court to order the accused to pay costs for care of impounded animals before the trial; 5) allowed court-ordered forfeiture of the animals before trial if the accused could not pay the animal care fees; 6) allocated fines for conviction to the humane society that brought the charges; and 7) raised subsequent offenses to a felony equal to domestic abuse.

Speaking of raising penalties for cruelty convictions, an August article in The New York Times reported that animal lawyers' strategy includes a nationwide campaign to increase the criminal penalties for animal cruelty. In 1994, all but six states regarded such violations as misdemeanors, punishable by small fines and short jail terms. Now 27 states make violations felonies, with fines of up to $100,000 and prison terms of up to 10 years.

For updated information about the Ohio bill, Woolf can be reached by e-mail at editor@naiaonline.org.

The majority of dog fanciers busily go about enjoying our sport oblivious of the progress of animal rights organizations. Inch-by-inch, mile-by-mile, the extremist groups gain momentum - now with combined annual incomes (of just two of them) that exceed $50 million, and now with 15 years' experience in the legislative process.

Common Sense May Not Be So Common

Lest you believe that common sense as you know it will prevail in matters of legislation, remember this: What seems like common sense to you may not be as common as you think. Animals rights extremists are working hard in schools and courts to convince everyone that it is unethical to use animals at all, for anything - and that all forms of confinement are unacceptable. In the past few years, evidence of their progress has become more apparent in the legal system.

Lawyers are creating a new field of animal law with far more ambitious goals than traditional anticruelty laws. "They are filing novel lawsuits and producing a new legal scholarship to try to chip away at a fundamental principle of American law that animals are property and have no rights," says William Glaberson in the Aug. 19 New York Times article "Legal Pioneers Seek to Raise Lowly Status of Animals."

"The animal lawyers say the idea that animals are mere property evolved centuries before modern notions of some animals as sentient beings with perceptions and even emotions," wrote Glaberson. "The lawyers have been moving on many different fronts to establish precedents that they say could provide a foundation for direct attacks on the property status of animals."

One of a "handful" of victories for them last year included a federal appeals court decision that gave a random zoo visitor the right to sue the government on behalf of a chimpanzee that the visitor believed looked "lonely." The suit was filed under amendments to the Federal Animal Welfare Act, which said conditions of confinement must assure the animal's "psychological well-being."

"The decision has been widely viewed as giving people new powers to challenge the living conditions of animals that are publicly displayed," wrote Glaberson.

The decision reaffirms that we are living in a changing society. Steven Wise, a Boston lawyer who teaches animal law at Harvard Law School, has argued that "right to bodily integrity and liberty should be given first to chimpanzees and bonobos because they are so similar to people." He is one of a group of about 30 lawyers who spend most of their time on animal issues. Wise said the legal work now being done on behalf of animals was paving the way for change: "It's a long-term strategy to show that animals are not just things for our use."

"Their goal is make it intellectually uncomfortable for the legal system to continue to declare that animals lack legal rights because they are property," writes Glaberson. "That simple legal proposition is the foundation for many common human activities, including the ownership of pets, all forms of animal exhibition, the eating of meat, hunting and the use of animals in medical research."

"There is a huge fundamental difference between tending to the welfare of animals because you intrinsically care about their well-being, versus tending to their welfare because the animals have rights," says Bill Horn, Washington, D.C., counsel for the Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, who was assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks at the Department of Interior during the Reagan administration. "The animal lawyers' presumption is that an animal that has emotional response and feels pain is the moral equivalent to a human being. Once you step over into that realm, where do you stop?"

What You Can Do

1) Become more aware. Learn how the animals rights agenda impacts dog fanciers. Watch the progress of animal rights organizations both in national media and in your local community. Investigate the materials that are provided to children in your schools. (One study stated that the primary occupation of members of animal rights organizations was "teacher.")

Read newsletters provided by animal welfare organizations such as the NAIA News, and request a subscription to Taking Command, the legislative newsletter provided by the AKC. If you know your club has not officially designated a member as legislative liaison, consider filling this important post. Does your state have a federation? Why not form one to share information and coordinate efforts among clubs? The AKC Legislation department has information that will lead you through the process, and will work with you to get the federation up and running. Contact them by e-mail at doglaw@akc.org, or speak to an AKC legislative coordinator by calling (919) 233-3720.

2) Actively support organizations that protect animal welfare and protect your right to responsibly own, breed, train and exhibit your dog. Consider the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA), which works for animals using reason, common sense and truth. The NAIA is the only national animal welfare group composed of nationally respected experts from diverse animal interest groups that work together to support animal welfare and oppose animal rights extremism. The NAIA hosts an award-winning web site at www.naiaonline.org and publishes an acclaimed newspaper serving media, lawmakers and people who need factual information about animals and animal issues. For more information, call their membership director at (760) 788-9108 or their headquarters at (503) 761-1139, e-mail Strand at execdirector@naiaonline.org, or write to the NAIA at P.O. Box 66579, Portland, OR 97290-6579.

As you learn more about the animal rights agenda and movement, you'll discover smaller, singularly focused animal welfare organizations you also may wish to support.

"Animal rights organizations depend heavily on small contributions from thousands of individuals. If the millions of dollars that animal lovers give each year can be redirected to animal welfare organizations, animals will be much better served," wrote Daniel Oliver, in a briefing sheet from the Washington, D.C.-based Capital Research Center. Oliver is editor of Alternatives in Philanthropy and author of Animal Rights: The Inhumane Crusade. He is writing a second book on the subject.

3) Educate people in your community. Work with your dog clubs to develop fliers for distribution that teach donors how to learn more about the animal rights organizations. Many good-hearted donors are deceived into believing that an organization is using their money for the humane treatment of animals. Annual reports will reveal where the organization's money was spent, and donors might be surprised to learn that less than $5,000 of a $13.4 million budget was allocated to shelter or spay-and-neuter programs in the United States. Some donors, misled by fund-raising literature, are not aware of the illegal acts that their organization is committing, and will insist that the animal rights organization of which they are a member "would never do that," even though its leaders publicly claim that they do.

4) Help donors understand the issues behind the issues, and help them get the facts. Anyone who intends to donate to animal welfare groups can look into the ideology of the group by writing and requesting a written reply (not a brochure) to the following queries: a) Ask if the group is involved in activism or lobbying to eliminate ownership and use of animals by humans; b) Ask for their position on eating beef, poultry, fish, etc.; on use of animals in medical research, sports, fishing and hunting, aquariums, zoos, use of leather, fur, wool, etc.; c) Ask them whether their board of directors are people who use animals, and ask about the ideology of their board members; d) Request copies of the 990 IRS forms for the past two years and a copy of the contract with their fund-raising agency; and e) Ask if they use their funds exclusively for shelter and rescue of animals or if they use funds for other purposes. If the donor does not get satisfactory answers in writing, they should be advised to seek a different animal welfare group for their donations.

In short, dog fanciers must take notice and do something. Timing is important. The rights you save may be your own.

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