The Humane Society of the U.S. HB538 "commercial" breeder measure passed the Virginia House on 2/12/2008. It will clear our Senate within days. HSUS is about to gain in Virginia what it couldn't in years of Washington lobbying the Santorum Pet Animal Welfare Statute - AKA PAWS. VAPAWS (HB538) requires hobby dog breeder licensing and inspection for anyone selling puppies at retail as well as wholesale, if they're over a certain size. Virginia has an early, very short and frenetic legislative session. Its 2008 agenda included over 30 animal rightist supported bills. HB538 was HSUS's top priority.
Sportsmen and hobby breeders here lost to HSUS's five paid Richmond professional lobbyists, its DC personnel and numerous very well coordinated local semi-pro anti activists. HB538 duplicates and supplants the federal licensing system that registers and inspects all large dog breeders and investigates any dog breeder with four (4) or more females about whom a tip or a legitimate complaint has been received. USDA-APHIS has 5700+ Class A breeders that it monitors and inspects at least once per year, including 14 in Virginia. The federal government did 10,000 inspections last year, checking compliance with 60 pages of detailed dog care standards.
HSUS personnel used the public firestorm over Michael Vick's despicable dogfighting and created their own inflammatory anti-dog breeder hyped press. Horton's Dogs in Carroll County, Virginia, the HSUS "Virginia is for Puppy Mills" cause cilhbre, was well known to local authorities and the animal control officer (ACO) for years. He had a business license, a 500 dog kennel permit, five employees, bought dog food by the ton and advertised puppies in newspapers and on the Internet. He sold both retail and to pet stores and should have been federally licensed and inspected by law, but wasn't. On that there's no dispute.
That situation was a local political problem, not a federal law or enforcement shortfall. Someone could have brought Horton to the USDA's attention at any time. Three months after the well-publicized HSUS November "raid," there still hasn't been a complaint lodged with USDA, nor has the local ACO returned to that facility, which continues to sell puppies. Horton remains in business and still meets the USDA definition of a licensed "dealer." The fourteen USDA licensed and inspected VA dog breeders are listed on the USDA-APHIS website. This isn't some mysterious, unknown or unaccountable animal welfare service, just one the State Veterinarian's Office and ACOs need to learn about, rather than being asked to supplant, or duplicate the federal program at great cost to local taxpayers and risk to responsible dog owners.
HB538 requires local county ACOs to review pet store records and to enforce both new state dog kennel inspection standards and those of USDA-APHIS. This is totally absurd, as the bill has internal self-contradictions, as well as numerous conflicts with federal animal care regulations. Further, the new inspection system will cost $ millions to implement, none of which has been budgeted. The counties and cities have been saddled with another unfunded mandate from Richmond. The bill's precise details may be found at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?081+ful+HB538
Suffice it to say that Virginia's new "commercial" breeder definition includes many hunt clubs, those with co-owned dogs and other responsible breeders that aren't "puppy mills."
Despite all of this opposition, it's usually easier to stop a bill than it is to pass one. That didn't happen in Virginia, for the second significant time in three years. We lost the crucial committee vote (9-Y 8-N). The lessons learned during our 2005 PAWS opposition fight were forgotten. HSUS announced last year that it was taking its PAWS anti-breeder effort to the states and that Virginia was its first target. Please learn from our mistakes and prepare to better defend your sport and your dogs.
Freely forward and cross post.
Bob Kane, President
Virginia Hunting Dog Owners' Association
Chairman Emeritus, Sportsmen and Animal Owners' Voting Alliance