Sportsmen Want Proof that More Kennel Regs Are Necessary

 

State still insists more rules needed for all kennels

October 19, 2007 (Pennsylvania)

Sporting dog enthusiasts object to the state ratcheting up regulations on all licensed kennels in Pennsylvania without demonstrating why the action is necessary for the hunting dog community.

During a meeting between officials of Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration and members of the USSA’s Sporting Dog Defense Coalition (SDDC) in October, the state insisted that there be increased care and facility regulations for all kennels, including those that house hunting dogs. The SDDC believes current regulations are sufficient for the hunting dog community, and imposing additional regulations will be an unnecessary burden on sportsmen.

“We are not convinced there is a chronic problem among the sporting community that mandates such action,” said Rob Sexton, USSA vice president for government affairs. “Sportsmen want the state to allow recently increased dog law enforcement and upgraded prosecution capabilities to snag offenders instead of turning up the heat on all kennel operators.”

The SDDC has spent the better part of the year building grassroots opposition to dog care regulations put forth by the Department of Agriculture in Dec. 2006 at the governor’s behest. The regulations were announced as part of Rendell’s initiative to eliminate so-called puppy mills in the commonwealth; however, sportsmen will be caught up in the regulations, which include daily exercise requirements that do not include hunting or field trialing; immediate repairs to rusty fences and cracked concrete; a minimum number of daily air exchanges in kennels; and many other unrealistic requirement.

The administration told USSA it does not want to hurt sporting dog kennels. The governor’s senior staff has been persuaded that a one-size-fits-all policy to regulate small-scale dog breeders with the iron fist intended for abusive, commercial breeders will not be effective.

"We were pleased to hear the governor's commitment to not hurt sporting dog kennels,” said Sexton. “Before we agree to costly and time consuming regulations, the government must demonstrate that the problems cannot be handled by new enforcement capabilities. The sportsman community is well-behaved; we do not deserve to be treated in the same fashion as flagrant violators.”

The sporting dog community and hobby breeders support the effort to crack down on abusive commercial breeders, but it will not accept sweeping regulations that will cripple the future of hunting with dogs.

State Reports

PA Newspapers Realize True Impact of Dog Regs USSA media tour producing results

October 1, 2007 (Pennsylvania)

Beginning Sept. 24, a team of USSA campaign professionals and an exceptional panel of volunteers sat face-to-face with Pennsylvania newspapers and sporting dog organizations to spell out how proposed dog care regulations will put kennels and hobby breeders out of business while driving the cost of hunting dogs through the roof. The regulations were put forth by the Department of Agriculture at the direction of Gov. Ed Rendell, whose stated goal is to "remove the stain of puppy mills from the commonwealth." Unfortunately, they will reach far beyond that target.

Among the excessive regulations are mandates that rusty fences and cracked concrete be immediately repaired; dogs be kept in individual cages that will be approved by a licensed veterinarian; and air and floor surfaces be maintained at specific temperatures. The regulations are often contradictory, including requirements that runs be flat, and at the same time have a grade. The rules are so excessive regulators cannot find an existing kennel in compliance, and the state estimates the cost of the upgrades to be $10,000 per kennel. Breeders who can afford to remain in operation after complying with the regulations will be forced to raise prices.

Harrisburg Patriot News, Oct. 1, 2007 (Editorial)

Instead of focus on puppy mills, dog law revisions on wrong path

With much fanfare, Gov. Ed Rendell took on the state's "puppy mills." He brought in a new dog law advisory board last year, created a sort of state "dog czar," and had the Department of Agriculture propose tough new kennel regulations.

Although we originally applauded those efforts to address Pennsylvania's dreadful reputation for indiscriminate mass breeding of dogs in sometimes unsavory conditions, we now take pause.

The process has become mired in controversy, with nearly 50 reputable breeding and sporting groups raising concerns under the umbrella of the U.S. Sportmen's Alliance. These groups, which include the American Kennel Club and the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs, feel the new regulations are a "one size fits all" approach that fails to address the differences between kennel operations and specific breeds.

More troubling is that representatives of these organizations say they've been shut out of process. John Gibble, president of the Northeast Beagle Gun Dog Federation who was appointed to the Dog Law Advisory Board last year, told The Patriot-News Editorial Board new regulations were mailed to board members last November, prior to their first meeting on Dec. 13.

Three days later, they were posted in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. And he adds that his input since then has largely been ignored. Significantly, the critics are backed by the state's Independent Regulatory Review Commission, which last spring reported the proposals are too broadly applied and are "at odds with the recognition that not all kennels are alike."

Regulations like standard crate sizes, the amount of exercise required and the surfaces exercise should be conducted on fail to recognize that the different breeds and sizes of dogs also have different space and exercise needs.

The Agriculture Department has estimated the costs of complying with these new regulations at between $5,000 and $20,000, a cost that will be much easier to bear for large commercial operations and not "hobby breeders," whose interests aren't profit-oriented but in carrying on a breed's history and characteristics.

Members of the alliance contend existing laws are on the books to address puppy mills if there was adequate enforcement. They also suggest defining such operations in state law, and applying different regulations to different types of kennels.

We continue to think that Gov. Rendell, a dog lover who has two golden retrievers he has taken in as rescues, is well-intentioned and on the right path in addressing Pennsylvania's reputation as "the puppy mill capital of the East."

But those raising red flags are a cross-section of organizations and individuals across Pennsylvania who are experts in dog breeding through medically sound and humane methods.

The Governor should tell the Agriculture Department to go back to square one, revisit the proposed regulations in their entirety, and hold more public meetings in which everyone is satisfied they've had their say. After that, make any regulations part of a state law that requires legislative approval.

To continue ramming these proposals through is going to further splinter interests that really have much more in common than they do differences, and possibly impose the heaviest financial and regulatory burdens on the wrong breeders.

State Must Give Increased Dog Law Enforcement a Chance to Work Sportsmen: Contact Governor Today!

August 17, 2007 (Pennsylvania)

(Columbus) – Sportsmen want Pennsylvania to scrap new dog care regulations that will eliminate hunting with dogs while new enforcement measures for dog law violators are implemented and evaluated.

On Aug. 15, the attorney general’s office granted a recent Department of Agriculture request to allow prosecutors to try criminal cases dealing with the state dog law. The department had been requiring law enforcement officials, not lawyers, to represent the state in such cases. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, prosecutors have been acting strictly as advisors to dog wardens who have often been unable to convict animal abusers, many of whom are represented by professional attorneys.

While violators escaped justice, the department has pursued a restrictive set of new regulations that will put sporting dog kennels and hobby breeders out of business. Breeders who can afford to remain in operation after complying with the regulations will be forced to raise prices, since the state estimates the cost of implementation will be as much as $10,000 per breeder. These factors will leave hunters seeking to buy quality puppies to retrieve ducks, chase rabbits or point pheasants high and dry.

The regulations were proposed at the direction of Gov. Ed Rendell, whose stated goal is to “remove the stain of puppy mills from the commonwealth.” Unfortunately, the proposal will reach far beyond that target.

“The regulations will apply to the hobbyist the same as it will to the large commercial breeder,” explained Rob Sexton, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance vice president for government affairs. “It makes as much sense as having the same worker rules for U.S. Steel as for a neighborhood lemonade stand.”

The USSA and its allies in the fast-growing Sporting Dog Defense Coalition have tried for months to convince the Department of Agriculture to withdraw the regulations and rewrite the dog law to create a distinction between commercial operations and hobbyists. Sportsmen have repeatedly inquired whether there is sufficient enforcement ability to address abusive breeders. The exposé by the Philadelphia Inquirer and the result-ant request by the Rendell administration to the attorney general prove that enforcement has been lacking.

Sportsmen’s groups continue to implore the department to abandon the meat-cleaver approach to the problem and give the new prosecutorial abilities a chance to show results. They have also committed to help change the dog law, which will allow the department to isolate the abusive commercial breeders.

However, the Department of Agriculture insists that the regulations continue to move forward. Making matters worse, recent rhetoric from the agency and the governor’s office refers to a need for “uniform regulations that apply to all kennels” in Pennsylvania.

A one-size-fits-all policy has contributed to many hunters’ beliefs that there is an anti-hunting agenda behind the effort.

“Hunters support bringing abusive commercial breeders to justice,” said Sexton. “However, the governor and the Department of Agriculture know how sportsmen will be hurt by the proposed rules, so our members and allies wonder who is behind the continual push that ignores hunters’ pleas.” The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), both support a ban on hunting and have advocated strongly for the regulations.

Sportsmen must continue to urge Gov. Ed Rendell to withdraw the dog care regulations. For a sample letter, use the Legislative Action Center at www.ussportsmen.org to take action. Send letters to Gov. Ed Rendell, 225 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA, 17120. Sportsmen should also take time to call the governor’s office and leave a message opposing the regulations. Phone: (717) 787-2500. Fax (717) 772-8284.

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance is a national association of sportsmen and sportsmen’s organization that protects the rights of hunters, anglers and trappers in the courts, legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress and through public education programs. For more information about the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and its work, call (614) 888-4868 or visit its website, www.ussportsmen.org.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 25, 2007 Dog Breeder Rules Rewritten

Wilkes Barre Times Leader, Sept. 30, 2007

Sportsmen Groups Say Planned Puppy Mil Law Has Far-Reaching Bite

Hazleton Standard Speaker, Sept. 27, 2007 Groups Blast Dog Law Proposal

Appearing in the Daily Local News, November, 2007

Why Don’t the PA Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and Dog Law Advisory Board Go After the Puppy Mills Instead of Targeting Al Kennels?

In October 2006, Governor Ed Rendell declared war on the “puppy mills”—abusive commercial breeding operations that have been an animal welfare embarrassment to the Commonwealth for years. None of us wants to see these types of unsavory breeding kennels exist. The Governor with great fanfare in the media put them on notice that they will not be tolerated, appointing a Special Deputy Secretary of Agriculture for Dog Law Enforcement, Jessica Smith, and hiring a Special Prosecutor.

The Governor dismissed the old Dog Law Advisory Board, replacing it with a new board which included a representative group of 16 canine experts and heads of canine organizations, such as the head of the University of Pennsylvania Vet School, an AKC representative, the president of the Northeast Beagle Gun Dog Federation and the president of the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter. He also appointed an ‘at large’ group to the board who appear to have no qualifications beyond their animal rights views and agendas.

They were directed to propose tough new regulations to answer the Governor’s mandate to “remove the stain of puppy mills from the good reputation of the Commonwealth.” The regulations proposed by the Department of Agriculture, however, went far beyond the Governor’s directive. In a 67-page document called DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, [7 PA. CODE CHS. 21, 23, 25 AND 27], they would impose “one size fits all” regulations on all kennels. The advisory board experts had no input in writing the document, and at their meeting on March 14, 2007, their objections were loud and clear—where were they when the ‘at large’ animal rights group apparently wrote the proposed regulations? How could any kennel in the state begin to comply with regulations that were so overly egregious that they would cost tens of thousands of dollars for even the best kennel or animal shelter? The proposed regulations do not define puppy mills or different types of kennel operations, or put teeth in the process of prosecution of abusers.

The proposed regulations appear to be merely a laundry list of opportunities for citing and prosecuting any breeder, kennel or dog group in this state at the will of the new Special Prosecutor on direction of the animal rights advocates. If adopted, the regulations will cause large numbers of responsible hobby breeders and hunters to leave the state. The impact on canine supply businesses and tourism revenues will be devastating. As written, they appear to make short-term events like dog shows and field trials illegal, as well as make interstate visitor/ participants at these events subject to fines and confiscation of their dogs and kennel vehicles, because they would violate the regulations. Why isn’t it illegal and a violation of the procedures of the Department and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for an outside group, whatever its aims or political stripe, to be able to impose its will in an arbitrary and punitive fashion on a very large group of honest, caring dog owners and breeders, who are voting citizens of the Commonwealth?

The Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission in a 21 page report in April roundly condemned the proposal as ill-conceived, confusing, misguided in not defining puppy mills, attacking all kennels with a “one size fits all” approach, and fiscally irresponsible. The IRRC recommended that the DLRB start over and fix the existing Dog Law after taking comment from stakeholders across the state. Special Deputy Secretary of Agriculture for Dog Law Enforcement, Jessica Smith has quashed comment by stakeholders in the public meetings she was directed to hold by the state Internal Regulatory Review Commission. She cancelled all future meetings after the July 11 meeting with sportsmen at the Radnor Hunt in Malvern, PA, ostensibly to rewrite the proposal in light of negative expert comments. The new document was due October 1, but Ms. Smith has stated that it was not completed for various reasons.

I urge that this proposal be withdrawn.

I hope that Governor Rendell will not be a rubber stamp for these attacks on honest citizens’ rights. We are sure that the Governor wishes to find and prosecute real abusers of animals. He must act, control his Special Secretary for Dog Law Enforcement, and bring to an end this planned attack on reputable breeders, boarding kennels, animal shelters, and sportsmen, whose licenses and contributions pay the bills for our state and national parks and wetlands. It is vital that everyone writes, e-mails and calls their Senator and Representative, and the Governor, to demand that a proper dog law be implemented to go after “puppy mills”.

As Senator Andrew Dinniman said at the Dog Law Advisory Board hearing at Radnor on July 11, "Those who know foxhunting, beagling and basseting know that poor conditions and the abuse of dogs go against the very essence of the sport. Foxhunters, beaglers and basseters do a great job taking care of their dogs.

"Puppy mills are a real problem, and we must take the necessary steps to close them down," Dinniman said. "But sporting-dog clubs aren’t puppy mills, and we don't want to treat them like puppy mills. In terms of regulations, one size does not fit all.”

James F. Scharnberg, 20 Beatty Lane, Charlestown Township, Malvern, Pa 19355 610-827-1037 houndesign@aol.com Member, National Beagle Club, Chester County Foxhunters Association, US Sportsmen’s Alliance Sporting Dog Defense Coalition, Sustaining Member, Masters of Foxhounds Association

 

 

 

 

 

 

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