I apologize for being absent for so long. It's been a busy legislative session in Tennessee. Every year there are always lots of bills relating to animals introduced and it's important to analyze them to see how they impact pet owners, breeders, animal businesses such as groomers, boarding kennels, and others, and generally figure out if a bill is needed, stupid, redundant, or downright harmful. Many bills are introduced by legislators who have good intentions – often because it is requested by a constituent who sees a real need in their district. However, too often the bill only looks at one side of an issue or the problem is so particular that it's already covered under existing law or it would be foolish to make a state law to cover it.
There was an article posted online yesterday that caught my attention: Series of pet protection bills die in TN legislature According to this article, our House Ag committee is a black hole where good animal protection bills go to die.
From the article:
One proposal would have placed animal cruelty convicts on a registry for two years. One member of the House agriculture committee said it would endanger bird dog trainers, and the bill died.
Another proposal would have continued inspections at puppy mills. And a third would have required Tennesseans who tie up their dogs outside to give them at least 10 feet. Those bills aren't moving forward.
Supposedly, bills die as the result of some kind of “good ol' boy network.” Hogwash. I remember when I was new to legislation and the actions of legislators and committees seemed cruel and mysterious. I also thought things happened because of some good ol' boy network that was lined up against me and my friends. Well, maybe there is some of that at work in legislatures. People are only human and friendships probably play a role. But I can also say that what happens in the legislature happens because of hard work, study, and lots of communication.
Here's what happened to the bills above, for example. The animal abuser registry bill has been introduced in Tennessee repeatedly, and defeated repeatedly, for several years. It is pushed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), one of the most left-wing animal rights groups in the country. They seek to give animals legal status as persons and animal abuse registries – which have never been legalized by any state – are one of their pet projects, so to speak. While this particular bill may have been instigated by a local constituent group, it serves the same purpose. While many people think that animal abuse is a gateway crime to becoming a serial killer and other serious crimes, there is contradictory evidence. When legislators were given this information, they killed the bill.
The “puppy mill” or commercial breeder law in Tennessee was set to expire in June of this year. A bill was introduced that would have removed the sunset provision and made the law permanent. However, the commercial breeder law, established in 2009, was nearly $1 million over budget. The law was based on figures from HSUS that stated Tennessee would sign up 500 breeders by 2014. The state signed up 20 breeders. The program was a complete failure and it would have been incalculably irresponsible for legislators to allow the program to continue when it was based on inaccurate fiscal data from HSUS and losing $300,000 per year.
The tethering bill that would have required people to keep dogs on tethers at least 10 feet long was, frankly, a disaster of a bill. First, tethering is already covered in Tennessee's cruelty statutes. Second, this bill was opposed by dog trainers, hunters, and groomers. Why? Because the way the bill was written, it would have affected all of these people who use short tie-outs for dogs in the normal course of their training and work. A dog groomer keeping a dog in place with a grooming noose on a table could have been included in this bill – that's how slippery the language was. A dog trainer keeping a dog in place on a short leash could have been included. (Ever worked with a clicker trainer who tries to teach a dog the “quiet” command?) Hunters keeping dogs on a “chain gang” would have become criminals. That's why this bill was defeated. Not because of a “good ol' boy” network or because the House Ag committee is a black hole for legislation. It's because the House Ag committee actually has some common sense when it comes to dogs.
People may call these “animal protection” bills and bemoan the fact that they didn't pass but there were darn good reasons why all of these bills deserved to die. Just because something sounds good or makes you feel all warm and fuzzy doesn't mean it's really good for animals or animal owners.