by Cindy Cooke
United Kennel Club Legislative Specialist
Remember the old Paul Simon song: "50 Ways To Lose Your Lover?" The
Animal Rights movement, well funded and determined, has come up with
almost that many different ways to make dog ownership expensive,
inconvenient, and ultimately, impossible. When PETA first burst on to
the public stage, they were very direct in stating their goals:
Let us allow the dog to disappear from our brick and concrete jungles-
-from our firesides, from the leather nooses and chains by which we
enslave it. The cat, like the dog, must disappear... We should cut
the domestic cat free from our dominance by neutering, neutering, and
more neutering, until our pathetic version of the cat ceases to
exist. (John Bryant, Fettered Kingdoms: An Examination of A
Changing Ethic (Washington, DC: People for the Ethical Treatment Of
Animals (PeTA), 1982), p. 15.)
It didn't take them long, however, to see that their message wasn't
playing in Peoria. Since the 80s, PETA and the rest of the AR
organizations have evolved a more sophisticated arsenal of tactics.
Instead of coming at us head on, they are nipping at our flanks, our
heels, and our throats.
Breed-specific laws. The breed-specific dangerous dog law didn't
originate in the AR community but it has been adopted by PETA. While
oozing concern for the poor, abused "pit bulls"on its web site
PETA sadly proposes that we end the breed's exploitation. Their
solution? Not an all-out assault on dog fighting. They propose that
we use breed-specific laws to solve the problem-that is, we end the
suffering of pit bulls by eliminating pit bulls. It's part of the
plan to eliminate our dogs, one breed at a time.
„« Look at how this works in Ohio. State law defines vicious
dogs as follows:
a.. A dog that, without provocation, has killed or caused serious
injury to any person;
b.. A dog that, without provocation, has caused injury, other than
death or serious injury, to any person, or has killed another dog; or
c.. A pit bull. This law applies not only to purebred American Pit
Bull dogs, but also to other pure bred and mixed breed dogs that have
similar physical and behavioral characteristics. Animal Control
Officers make the determination as to whether or not a dog is
a "breed of dog commonly known as a Pit Bull."
The maximum penalty for a violation of this section on a first
offense is a $1,000 fine and up to six months imprisonment. If the
dog seriously injures a person, or this is a second offense of this
section, the charge may be filed as a felony.
This is the kind of law that PETA is endorsing. If the Animal Control
Officer says your dog is a pit bull, it IS a pit bull and a vicious
Dog limits. Kalamazoo County, the home of the United Kennel Club, has
only one township left where an individual may legally own more than
3 dogs. Dog limits have been found unconstitutional in two states,
but cities and counties keep enacting them. Why? Proponents of dog
limitation ordinances claim they want to reduce noise and nuisance
problems. Since all jurisdictions already have laws prohibiting
nuisances, dog limits are unnecessary. These laws are really designed
to prevent the breeding of dogs.
Again from the PETA web site:
"No breeding can be considered responsible."
Mandatory spay neuter laws with breeder/litter permits. These laws
are popping up like dandelions in jurisdictions all over the United
States. In just the past few months, dog owners have fought these
laws in VA, NC, Oklahoma, TX and Wisconsin. The Los Angeles city
ordinance is pretty typical and was enacted after dog and cat
fanciers fought the bill for almost two years. The law requires that
all dogs and cats be spayed/neutered unless the owner buys a
breeder's permit. The price for a permit is $100 per year per
unaltered dog. Each breeder is limited to one litter per year. When
puppies are sold, the breeder must report the names and addresses of
all purchasers to the Animal Services Department. Noncompliance may
result in a misdemeanor conviction and a fine of $500.
In the past four months, NC dog owners have been fighting an even
worse law in their state. It is impossible to speak too highly of the
UKC coonhunters who were among the leaders in this battle. PETA hired
an individual whose sole job was to walk this bill through the
legislature. The most frightening aspect of this fight was the bias
of nearly every newspaper in the state.
Dog owners wrote numerous editorials and letters to the editor but
most of the newspapers refused to print them. Because the bill also
included a small tax on pet food, the newspapers and most other media
outlets insisted that money-grubbing dog breeder and hunters were too
cheap to pay a small price to help unwanted stray dogs. Once again,
while the dog owners may have won this battle, they lost the "image"
State regulation of breeding. A few months ago, a Massachusetts
lawmaker introduced a bill that redefined the term "commercial
breeder." The original bill said that anyone who bred more than a
single litter per year was a commercial breeder. Commercial breeders
have to comply with some fairly expensive state regulations. For
example, a commercial breeder must have a separate kitchen for the
dogs. (Are you listening? Get ready for lots more renovations!)
Fortunately, Massachusetts already had a strong federation of dog
clubs. When they responded, the bill was first amended to three
litters, and then withdrawn.
What is so frightening about the introduction of this bill? Well,
first of all, Massachusetts does not have an overpopulation of
unwanted dogs. In fact, Massachusetts shelter populations have
dropped so much that they are importing unwanted dogs from North
Carolina and Puerto Rico.
Secondly, this represents one of the sneakier tactics of the AR
movement. They introduce a bill they know we will hate. When we
object, they smile sweetly and say, "Well, how many litters do YOU
think a breeder should have in a year?" They are counting on us to be
non-confrontational at this point.
They want us to give them a number, no matter how high. Why? Because
they just want to establish the principle that the state can tell you
how many litters you may have each year. If we agree to 20 litters,
next year they will be proposing an amendment to reduce the number of
Massachusetts breeders were too smart for them this time. They
objected to the bill and offered no compromise. The bill was
NJ is now facing a similar bill, but because of strong opposition
from the dog people, this bill appears to be headed for a similar
Guardian v. owner. This AR-driven concept has a warm, fuzzy appeal to
legislators and, in many cases, dog owners. Elliot Katz, the head of
In> Defense of Animals, has had lots of success in convincing
lawmakers that this is just a way of forcing dog owners to feel more
responsibility for their animals. Of course, the AR true believers
know that this change would completely strip dog owners of their
constitutional protections. As a property owner, your right to own
your dog is protected by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution that
states that you may not be deprived of your property without due
process of law. As a guardian, your relationship with your dog is
defined by the state, subject to the whims of local lawmakers and
supervising judges. In Michigan, for example, where guardians may not
legally interfere with a ward's reproductive rights, a dog guardian
could not legally spay or neuter his dog.
Cruelty as felony. Most of us at one time or another have read about
some horrendous act of cruelty or neglect and thought, "That dirt bag
should do hard time." So when a state proposes to make animal cruelty
a felony, most of us think, "Why not?" This is another situation
where the AR people expect us to agree with them, put the law in
place, and then tighten the screws each year. The problem is in the
definition of cruelty. Take a look at how this played out in a court
in Washington State.
A couple was charged with second-degree animal cruelty for having two
severely malnourished horses on their farm. The Washington state
cruelty law states: An owner of an animal is guilty of second degree
animal cruelty if he or she knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal
negligence fails to provide the animal with necessary food, water,
shelter, rest, sanitation, ventilation, space, or medical attention
and the animal suffers unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain as
a result of the failure.
The court said:
As "pain" is not defined by the statute, we must give it its
ordinary, dictionary meaning. State v. Edwards, 84 Wn. App. 5, 10,
924 P.2d 397 (1996), review denied, 131 Wn.2d 1016 (1997). Webster's
Third New International Dictionary 1621 (1969) defines "pain", in
pertinent part, as "a state of physical or mental lack of well-being
or physical or mental uneasiness that ranges from mild discomfort or
dull distress to acute often unbearable agony." Webster's II New
College Dictionary 539 (1999) defines "hunger" as "the discomfort,
weakness, or pain caused by a lack of food."
The jury heard testimony from several neighbors, Humane Society
officers, and a veterinarian, all of whom supported the State's
theory that the horses were underweight and malnourished.
The court ruled: That Princess Tarzana and Silver felt extreme
hunger is a reasonable inference from this evidence. And that
extreme hunger is capable of causing at least "mild discomfort" is
also a reasonable inference. Webster's Third New International
Dictionary 1621. The nature of our sufficiency review requires that
we accept these inferences. Therefore, sufficient evidence indicates
that Princess Tarzana and Silver suffered unnecessary and
unjustifiable "pain' under the governing definition of the term.
Think about it. Causing mild discomfort is sufficient to justify a
felony conviction of animal cruelty. Is there anyone reading this who
hasn't jerked a lead, pinched an ear, treated a wound, or otherwise
caused mild discomfort to a dog? Activist courts, egged on by AR-
influenced media can change the meaning of language until it
Banning the use of dogs on public land. AR organizations have
encouraged their true believers to take jobs in areas where they may
influence the ability of hunters to use public lands. This tactic has
started to pay dividends this past year when field trialers suddenly
found themselves denied the use of public lands. The most common
excuse for these bans is protection of the environment, but it's
clear from reading AR web sites that they see this as a means of
eliminating hunting. Fortunately, hunters are better organized and
more politically aware than the average dog owner and they are
successfully resisting these changes in most jurisdictions.
There are many, many more weapons in the AR arsenal than can be
included in this article. However, while they have struck the first
blows with success, dog owners everywhere are starting to win some
victories. North Carolina, Massachusetts, and New Jersey dog owners
have stood fast for their rights, and have some wins to show for it.
But before we get too smug, know this:
Last year, 72% of all people claiming to support animal rights
contacted a legislator at least once about an animal-related issue.
Can you and your dog-owning friends match that? You had better.