Our local newspaper, The News & Observer, ran an article on Saturday about the latest status of SB 460, also known as the Puppy Mill bill. This issue is near and dear to my heart for several reasons. As I sat down to write a letter to the editor about my point of view, I realized that I would never be able to say everything I wanted to in less than 200 words. Here is my full rant on the article.
Dear News & Observer Editor,
For submissions to your newspaper, you require that all letters to the editor keep to a maximum of 200 words. Frankly, that’s not nearly enough.
Since February 2009, I’ve been an ardent supporter of SB 460, also known as the Puppy Mill bill, introduced by Senator Don Davis and backed strongly by the Humane Society of the United States. In fact, I’ve been such a supporter that I used a vacation day last February to participate in Humane Lobby Day.
Upon arrival to the NC Legislative Building, we were briefed all morning on the three humane animal bills in question. We were given information about times and locations to meet with both our local state senator as well as our state representative. I was able to sit and talk with the late Senator Vernon Malone. I am fortunate that this circumstance allowed me to meet him before his passing. He was a good man.
Senator Malone looked at all of the literature we had brought. He listened with an open heart. He cared very much about animals and even shared some of his stories about pets he had. Then he got down to business. He was able to show us that feelings on our heart don’t make a defensible position on the senate floor. He not only had to answer to us but to all his constituents. He cautiously reviewed the materials and asked for more specifics on two of the bills before he would even feel comfortable addressing them.
As for the Puppy Mill bill, he didn’t hesitate in the slightest and offered to co-sponsor the bill. He realized, as did we, that the bill wasn’t intended to restrict anyone’s hobbies or livelihood. It was to ensure humane conditions for all animals that were part of a breeding program. It required provisions for the most basic of care and applied only to those breeders with 15 or more dogs.
So why did the bill fail? Because the bill was opposed by one of the largest lobbying organizations in the state, the N.C. Pork Council. And why was a livestock organization lobbying against an organization looking for humane treatment of animals?
Angie Whitener, the Pork Council’s lobbyist, said her group does not oppose puppies so much as the bill’s main backers, the Humane Society of the United States.
Whitener said the bill was about more than just dogs. She said she believes the Humane Society’s end goal is to eventually stop meat production for human consumption.
This is the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever read. I’ve been a card-carrying member of the HSUS for as long as I can remember. The organization was founded on the principles of humane treatment for all animals. Perhaps the real fear by the Pork Council is the exposure of the conditions in which the livestock in this state is kept.
To make the leap from an organization purchasing stock in Krispy Kreme donuts in order to pressure them to purchase eggs from cage-free hens to this “powerful” organization ending the consumption of meat tells me that the HSUS is a lot more powerful than I thought or that the N.C. Pork Council is full of nothing more than hogwash.
Dog groups also oppose the bill. Steve Wallis, president and lobbyist for the N.C. Federation of Dog Clubs, said the bill would hurt hobby breeders and cause counties to spend money they don’t have to enforce such a law.
Really? We don’t have enough manpower to enforce the law, therefore it shouldn’t be a law. Is that really what Mr. Wallis wants us to believe? But what really got me was his statement that was either extremely naive or plausible deniability.
Wallis said that breeders largely police themselves through peer pressure and that authorities should enforce existing animal welfare laws, not add an extra layer of regulations.
“We have standards that we require for puppy purchasing,” he said. “We don’t need Senate Bill 460. We have laws that convict animal abusers.”
One final note for you, Ms. Whitener, and to you, Mr. Wallis, and to all of our elected officials…
Just ask my dog Emma what she thinks about the Puppy Mill bill. She can’t speak so I’ll tell you what she would say. She would tell you how she spent the first 6 years of her life in a puppy mill near Wilmington. She would tell you how she was forced into litter after litter. She would show you her gums where her teeth used to be but have since been removed because they had all rotted. She would show you the cataract that obstructs vision in her left eye. And she would show you her rear thigh where a large chunk of muscle mass is missing. But don’t get too close to her. She clearly doesn’t like large men and cowers in fear whenever they come near. I’m sure it had nothing to do with her owner. They do just fine policing themselves with peer pressure.
Humane treatment should be a right for all living creatures, not just for those that don’t stand in the way of business.