Outdoors: Don Steese's Outdoor Perspectives column, State barking up wrong tree with new regulations
If you're the owner of a sporting dog in Pennsylvania, be afraid...be very afraid. According to the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, the state of Pennsylvania is taking steps to regulate sporting dog breeders with the same "iron fist" it intends for abusive commercial breeders. Recently, sportsmen who tried to object to the oppressive dog care proposal were abruptly silenced. At issue, according to the Alliance, is a set of dog care regulations proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in December 2006. Among the requirements are expensive animal housing upgrades, mandatory daily exercise, (hunting doesn't count), and the keeping of daily sanitation and cleaning records. The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Sporting Dog Defense Coalition and other dog organizations have been urging Gov. Ed Rendell, state lawmakers and the Department of Agriculture to rewrite the dog law so that sportsmen will not be caught up in the regulations. More than 200 Pennsylvania sportsmen who realize the threat that the regulations pose to hunting attended a Dog Law Advisory Board hearing July 11 at the Radnor Hunt Club in Malvern. The meeting was advertised as an opportunity to focus on sportsmen's concerns about the proposal. However, when USSA Associate Director of State Services Evan Heusinkveld began to offer testimony, Deputy Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Jesse Smith ruled him out of order, and seized the microphone. National Beagle Club of America Board Member Wanda Borsa, a New Freedom resident whose beagle pack is called Holly Hill Beagles, also tried to comment. She, too, was stopped before being able to express her concerns. "Ms. Smith and the Department of Agriculture do not want the public to know how insidious these regulations are for the future of hunting dogs," said Heusinkveld. "State regulators could not find a single existing kennel that would be in compliance with the proposal."In a recent message to the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, Deputy Secretary Smith wrote, "The Department is attempting to apply more uniform and enforceable regulations to all kennels." Until now, the department had, according to the Alliance, been trying to convince sportsmen that the dog care policy was aimed at unscrupulous commercial breeders and was not meant to impact hunters."The Department of Agriculture has admitted its anti-hunting stance. Sportsmen are not sure if this is a position of the Rendell administration or merely one loose cannon within the administration," said Rob Sexton, USSA vice president for government affairs. "We do know that the governor himself sparked the issue, but hope the anti-hunting position doesn't reflect his true feeling about hunting dogs.">From the outset, sportsmen have, according to USSA, suspected that the regulations are a product of animal rightists. Groups like the Philadelphia-based Main Line Animal Rescue, and the New York-based American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have certainly had more access to the process, and their representatives have yet to be muzzled at public hearings. USSA is urging Pennsylvania sportsmen and sporting dog enthusiasts to contact Gov. Rendell and state lawmakers and demand that these dog care regulations be withdrawn. I spoke with a USSA representative who said that parts of the proposed regulations were more stringent than regulations which govern children's day care centers.Nobody wants to see dogs being treated inhumanely, but it would seem that these regulations, if adopted, would put most sporting dog kennels, and hobby breeders out of business. A call to Rob Miller, advisor to Governor Rendell for hunting, fishing, and conservation was not returned. n Don Steese of Northumberland is a lifelong outdoorsman whose column appears weekly in The Daily Item. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.