A Letter From a Concerned Breeder and A Response

Posted on 05/16/2009

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Dear Citizen X,

I must confess my ignorance about a lot of the bills coming before
state legislatures regarding breeding and “breeding mills”. I do
wholeheartedly agree that “breeding mills” where there is no care and
concern about the breeding animals, breeding programs and no socialization
of the puppies and kittens should be eliminated.

I am a big advocate for breeders who take proper care and concern
(health and socialization/attention and daily positive human interactions)
of their breeders and the offspring and have appropriate, good medically
sound breeding programs. The size of the breeders does not preclude animal
care, socialization and good breeding programs. However, it is much easier
for those of use who have smaller catteries and have the time and passion
for our animals, their care, socialization and sound breeding programs.

It occurs to me from some of the e-mail postings I’ve seen, that some
bills are trying to eradicate breeding of purebred cats and dogs entirely.
What is the rational behind all the bills trying to eliminate pure breed dog
and cat breeding? Is it just to eliminate the ‘breeding mills”? If so, the
cure appears to be addressing the wrong problem..

Response:

I’m not sure where to start answering your questions, but I’ll try.

First, you need to understand the difference between animal rights and
animal welfare, since the legislation we’re fighting is engendered by
radical animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (PEtA) (PEtA killed 97% of the animals they “rescued” in 2008) and
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which does not operate a
single pet animal shelter, but uses its millions of dollars in donations
from the public (obtained under false pretenses, i.e. “help the poor
animals”) to promote legislation ultimately designed to eliminate all
breeding of all animals. Their goal is a vegetarian society, or as close to
it as possible. ‘Their way, or the highway. ‘ Negotiating with them is not
possible: give them a docked tail, and they’ll take the whole cow.

How do you define the difference between breeding “mills”- a word the
ARists (Animal Rights Activists) have coined to reverberate with negative
connotations (which we try to avoid using because of its reflexive
denigrative response) – and commercial breeding facilities which are
regulated and supervised by the Department of Agriculture? The ARists lump
all breeding facilities together, the good with the bad. They don’t
differentiate: all breeding facilities must be bad because breeding itself
is a bad thing. They raid isolated situations, those that have perhaps
slipped through the cracks or managed to avoid being DA regulated- and
rightfully so in some cases- then create an “incident” that they proceed to
exaggerate to tar all breeders- large and small- with the same brush. The
thing is, all of the “mills” are not necessarily “mills,” and it may be a
temporary problem that could easily be fixed; or it may even have been
contrived by the ARists. The pictures you see of “tragic circumstances” may
not have been taken at that particular facility at all, or they may have
been ‘doctored.’ If you look closely at some of the photos of some of the
raids, you can often see that the animals actually look well fed and
well-socialized, if not manicured. They have been confiscated on a pretext.
They’re only “in desperate condition” because the rescue operation says they
are, so they can raid them and sell these pedigree animals at great profit
to themselves.

Again, the ARists do not differentiate between large hobby breeders and
large commercial breeders. As far as they’re concerned, all breeders are
“pet dealers,” who should be licensed and regulated by imposing limits,
fees, specifying housing structures (impossible for home hobby breeders to
satisfy), and who should be inspected arbitrarily and at will by specified
officers designated by the state (or township, county, etc.) Preferably,
these officials should be officially appointed representatives of their
organizations! You can see how that would lead to harassment, warrentless
search and seizure, possible arrest resulting in an undeserved criminal
record, attorney fees, potential huge fines, for the breeder affected and,
ultimately, the end of the breeding “facility”. So, one by one, breeders-
large and small- are eliminated, and as Wayne Pacelle, President of HSUS has
said, “One generation and out.” 

I don’t think there is a single responsible breeder who would not like
to see the end of neglectful breeding operations, large or small, commercial
or non-commercial. We hobby breeders “police” ourselves fairly well. Most of
the associations with which we are affiliated have a code of ethics, an
oversight system, and we try to help each other when a problem is drawn to
our attention, before it becomes untenable. We are fairly well
self-regulated, and we don’t want or need government regulation or
intervention, especially when such laws are passed that violate our privacy
and the First Amendment or the American Constitution. The vast majority of
us raise our animals “underfoot,” so to speak, or in catteries or kennels
designed for the comfort and well-being of our valuable animals. Why on
earth would we jeopardize their lives and safety? Their well-being is
crucial to our breeding programs and our chosen lifestyle. Whether our
facilities are large or small is nobody’s business but our own, as long as
we’re providing our animals with quality of life. There is absolutely no
rationale to give local authorities the right to come in and seize our
animals and then to dispose of them at will- at our expense, and their
profit! Because, inevitably, there is little or no recourse for the breeder;
and what recourse there may be is too little, too late. By the time a case
is brought before a judge, the breeding program has been destroyed: the
confiscated animals may have been hurt or indiscriminately impregnated or
killed in shelters where they are ‘stored’ until the charges are resolved;
the “rescued” animals may have been sold or adopted (for a nice fee, since
pedigree animals are always in demand) ; the owner has been outrageously
billed for “board;” and another hobby breeder is down for the count.

Neglectful huge commercial kennels are an entirely different ballgame,
as are “hoarders.” Both sad and often tragic circumstances are inevitably
conspicuously descried in the media, reflecting badly on all of us. Somehow,
the slant always implies- if not stated outright- ‘ it’s all those bad
breeders again!” So the locals jump on the bandwagon to institute laws that
govern all of us indeterminately. This is the source of the Mandatory
Spay/Neuter and Limit Law legislation: first on the community level, then,
eventually, state level, where it is inexorably ‘guided’ by the animal
rights organizations, primarily the cash solvent HSUS, as the only solution
to shutting down the “puppy mills” (their derogatory language again!) and
‘saving all those poor animals ‘rescued’ by misguided individuals’ from
themselves.

Of course “the cure” is addressing the wrong problem! It’s not a cure,
it’s a curse. We already have loads of laws in place to deal with individual
problems of abuse and irresponsibility, if only local animal control would
enforce them! Legislation that can be randomly employed by the ARists to
ultimately eliminate all breeding, eventually, of all animals: pets and farm
animals, inclusive, should absolutely not be condoned. The large animal
breeders- horsemen, cattlemen, poultry growers, et.al.- are finally
beginning to recognize that such legislation could easily be applied to them
by simply changing a word or two. National organizations like Farm Bureau,
NRA (whether we like them or not, they’re on our side) and hunting and
fishing advocates are now monitoring proposed legislation that presently
affects only small animals and they are rallying in opposition, recognizing
the potential danger. As you can conclude, termination of all breeding will
ultimately lead to the extinction of not only pets, but food animals, thus
fulfilling the stated goals of the animal rights activists.

What is animal welfare, by comparison? You’ve already described it
well, in your own words.

“I am a big advocate for breeders who take proper care and concern (health
and socialization/attention and daily positive human interactions) of their
breeders and the offspring and have appropriate, good medically sound
breeding programs. The size of the breeders does not preclude animal care,
socialization and good breeding programs. [… it is much easier for those
of use who have smaller catteries and have the time and passion for our
animals, their care, socialization and sound breeding programs.”]

That is the basis of animal welfare. It isn’t how many animals you
have, it’s how well you care for them. “Good” rescue organizations recognize
and support this concept, and they intervene only when there is a real
problem. Then, except in true extremity, rather than seizing the animals,
they offer assistance. These are the groups that promote “No Kill” shelters,
as advocated by Nathan Winigrad in his book Redemption, and establish TNR
(Trap/Neuter?Release) feral cat programs and low-cost spay/neuter clinics
and mobile vaccination and s/n surgical units. Many of them work with
breeders, especially those who operate specific breed rescue projects and
participate in local TNR programs. They utilize our knowledge and expertise
in coping with nearly any threatening situation, from behavioral questions
to covering disasters. They know that we are supportive of voluntary
spay/neuter programs, that our pedigree pets go to vigorously screened new
owners already desexed or with a spay/neuter contract. They know that it is
rare that a pedigree animal will show up in their shelters because
responsible breeders will always take back an animal that has been displaced
by divorce, death, or any other circumstances, at any age. (Bo Obama is a
case in point: the new owners’ old dog couldn’t cope with the Portuguese
Water Dog pup, so he was returned to the breeder, who was able to promptly
and very successfully rehome him.) If a pedigree animal does come to a
shelter, it isn’t there long: almost every pedigree dog and cat breed has
its own specific Breed Rescue to claim it. Animal Welfare organizations as
individuals may not agree with the deliberate procreation of animals, but
they respect our rights as responsible breeders. They know we give back!
So, since we esteem the work they do in our communities, a mutual regard has
been established. Unlike radical animal rights activists, animal welfare
organizations acknowledge that we have rights, and they don’t cross that
line. They are opposed to stringent mandatory spay/neuter and limit laws,
because such legislation could adversely affect shelters and foster homes.
We have our differences, but for the most part, they’re on our side.

People like you are invaluable opponents to animal rights legislation.
First, you are willing to learn, and you ask the right questions. You want
thoughtful answers that give you solid ground for opposing extreme
legislation. Second, you have friends among the public sector that you can
educate. Start with the premise “Friends don’t let friends donate to HSUS
and PEtA,” and explain why. From there, it’s an easy step to the issues
driving proposed MSN and pet-limits legislation, and the harmful
ramifications should such laws be passed. Third, join groups like NAIA
(National Animal Interest Alliance) and your state pet-law list or one of
the online lists like Pet-law, Cat-law, Breeders Law and Ethics. All of
these lists emphasize current legislative issues, proposed laws and their
progress, and how to oppose (or support) them- and the provide bill analysis
and rationales. Fourth, make friends with your local animal welfare
organizations and shelter personnel. Volunteer your services, if you can,
and discuss issues with them. You may have to agree to disagree among
yourselves, but the important thing is to establish rapport so you can call
on their help as the need arises. (And it will!) Fifth, get acquainted with
your legislators, from the local to the state (and national, if possible)
level. You can make the rounds of their offices and introduce yourself
personally. Tell them you are concerned about bills affecting animal rights
and animal welfare, and ask their aide to put you on their mailing list, so
you have a heads-up as bills are introduced. You can also meet your
representatives at campaign events, and develop a relationship later. You
want them to see you as a constituent and a voter. Finally, put your local
and state websites on your “favorites” list in your computer for easy
referral. Check frequently for potentially nasty legislation. Call your
representatives to see where they stand on these bills, why, and watch to
see if the bills are moving. Take action accordingly. 

By this time, you’ll have ‘made your 50,’ as the dog fanciers on
Pet-law say. That means they have convinced 50 unaware people to become
aware, alert, and ready to take action when our companion animal lifestyle
is threatened.

We can take the bite out of the radical animal rights agenda if we all
make a coordinated concerted effort. 

Okay: go get your 50