Friday, February 23, 2018

USDA Third-Party Confusion

Carlotta Cooper

Leave it to USDA-APHIS to somehow manage to terrify both dog breeders and the Humane Society of the United States at the same time. It would be going too far to say that shared fear has made these groups into allies but everyone seems to be confused, suspicious, or downright petrified about USDA’s request for feedback about third-party inspections.
If you’re not familiar with this issue, Bernadette Juarez, Deputy Administrator of Animal Care with APHIS, provided information about the idea to AKC Delegates in Orlando in December. A few weeks later USDA sent out the first notice to stakeholders, asking for feedback about groups that were already carrying out third-party inspections. Comments can now be posted in the Federal Register.
This is the pertinent part of the USDA’s request:

USDA Seeks Public Input on Recognizing Third-Party Inspections and Certifications of Animal Welfare Act Facilities
USDA Animal Care seeks your input on whether we should recognize inspections (and similar reviews) by third-party programs when determining the frequency of federal inspections for facilities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act.
...Our inspectors conduct routine, unannounced inspections of all Animal Welfare Act licensees and registrants. Various factors determine the inspection frequency for each entity – including a facility’s history of adhering to the federal regulations and standards. Some licensees and registrants already use a third-party program to support animal welfare at their facilities. We are interested in learning more about these programs, and hearing our regulated community’s and stakeholders’ views on how we might consider the use of these programs in our administration of the Animal Welfare Act.”

So, who or what are third-party inspectors? They would seem to include inspection programs such as AKC’s inspections, programs developed or under development by Purdue and Canine Care Certified, state commercial breeder inspection programs, and other programs which are already being used to inspect breeders. That’s a key point. USDA specifically mentions that they are looking for feedback about programs that already exist. This would appear to shut out groups such as HSUS and most other animal rights groups since they do not have inspection programs like this. They respond to complaints or only act to seize animals.
So, what does this mean for dog breeders? And why is everyone upset?
First, if you are not being inspected by USDA-APHIS, this issue may not affect you at this time. However, thanks to the Retail Pet Store Rulemaking a couple of years ago, there are show dog and other hobby breeders who are inspected by USDA-APHIS now, even if they don’t breed many dogs or have many litters. If you are inspected by USDA-APHIS, any change in who inspects you or how often would certainly affect you. That’s why dog breeders are concerned. Some people fear that if USDA-APHIS makes changes to their inspection process, the inspections might be carried out by people or groups who are in league with animal rights groups. Or they are afraid that the inspections might somehow be farmed out to HSUS.
Depending on who inspects you and the regulations they follow, any changes to those regulations could also affect breeders. For instance, let’s say that USDA makes this change and allows third parties to do some of their inspection work. If you live in a state where there are state commercial breeder inspectors, your state lawmakers could vote to have laws and regulations that are stricter than federal AWA regulations. You would have to meet those laws and regulations. And your chances of being inspected would likely be much greater than if you were a small blip on the APHIS radar.
On the other hand, HSUS has started campaigning against the request for third-party inspection feedback. They have asked their followers to flood the Federal Register with negative messages. Wayne Pacelle, the former head of HSUS, took time to post a lengthy tirade about third-party inspections on his blog even while he was facing sexual harassment allegations. According to Pacelle, HSUS fears that the fox will be guarding the hen house. He thinks that AKC will end up in charge of inspections for dog breeders. To quote a friend, animal rights folks are “having a vegan cow” over this idea. They are in a panic since they believe that all dog breeders are “puppy mills.”
It should be mentioned at this point that dog breeders are not the only people who would be affected by any change in USDA-APHIS inspections. These inspections apply to all entities covered under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). That means they also include zoos, research laboratories that work with animals, cat breeders, rabbit breeders, and other breeders covered under the AWA.
Seeking some clarification, I contacted AKC Government Relations. I was hoping that AKC had a position on USDA’s request for feedback about third-party inspections. I was told that, historically, AKC has opposed the idea of third-party inspections. Some of their concerns include having organizations or inspectors with anti-breeder biases doing the inspections on behalf of the federal government. This is part of AKC’s response to a different USDA rulemaking in 2017:

We believe all USDA inspections should be conducted by individuals trained and employed by USDA. Third-party inspectors are less likely to have the animal husbandry training and hands-on pet breeding experience important for working effectively with regulated pet breeders. They are also more likely to be sourced from groups that have an anti-breeder bias or agenda.
The AKC believes that the use of inspectors that are not USDA employees could lead to a significant risk of such individuals implementing their personal cause under the color of federal government administrative enforcement. Damaging outcomes could include unreasonable inspections of licensees’ premises or inspections resulting in unfounded (non)compliance issues. This would likely diminish faith and confidence in the independence and fairness of the USDA inspections program, and may even decrease licensing compliance.
Even though such parties would be acting, in large part, pursuant to their personal beliefs prohibiting welfare-based animal uses, their “coveras third-party inspectors under the direction of a federal agency would likely result in federal governmental immunity protecting the non-governmental character of their actions. In such cases, parties whose rights were deprived may receive little to no protection under federal law (for example, such individuals would may be able to avail themselves of a 42 USC §1983 civil claim for deprivation of rights)...”

Just to be clear, these were AKC’s comments about third-party inspections in relation to a different issue but they seem to apply in this case, too.
Government Relations also pointed out that some jurisdictions do allow for licensees to select which third party inspectors will conduct their inspections. This could allay some of AKC’s concerns but not all of them. Another issue Government Relations brought up was the matter of FOIA, or Freedom of Information Act requests of government documents, such as the documents kept by USDA and the groups doing the inspections. FOIA requests could mean that breeders inspected by third parties might have their personal and business information exposed when animal rights groups submitted requests. This has been a highly contentious issue in the last several years between animal rights groups and government regulatory agencies. Because of lawsuits, government agencies have recently removed much personal information relating to the people they inspect from public view. HSUS and other groups have sued the government to have data returned to web sites but they have lost these suits. However, they are still able to access a great deal of information through FOIA requests – it just takes more time and they have to be specific about the information they are seeking.
The sense that I got from AKC Government Relations – and this was only my impression – was that Government Relations didn’t seem very encouraging about third-party inspections at this time but they were still examining the issue.
Pacelle, whatever you may think of him, also made some good points in his rant about third-party inspections. One point he raised which should be considered is USDA’s less than happy history with third-party inspections in enforcing the Horse Protection Act (HPA). This is the other inspection program that USDA operates. USDA came up with a plan to certify Horse Inspection Organizations (HIO) with designated qualified persons (DQP) to inspect horses, primarily for soring. The program has pretty much been a disaster, attacked on all sides, with lawsuits from those inspected and pressure from HSUS on Congress to tighten laws.
With this kind of history of using third-party inspectors, why would USDA-APHIS want to try using them with the Animal Welfare Act? We can only guess. One thing that was abundantly clear following the Retail Pet Store Rulemaking in 2013 was the fact that lots more dog, cat, rabbit, and other pet breeders would potentially be included among the people who could be inspected by USDA-APHIS if they strictly interpreted the regulations. So far, USDA has not done that. There has been no USDA crackdown on small breeders with web sites. To my knowledge, they have not questioned the exemptions people have claimed for breeding dogs (preservation of bloodlines, working dogs, etc.). The number of female dogs small breeders keep for breeding has not been seriously questioned by USDA. They certainly haven’t done anything to stop the enormous flow of “rescue” dogs flooding into the country from all over the world, brought here by retail rescues and Humane Society International (HSI) – whose leader, Kitty Block, just became the new CEO of HSUS.
Now consider if USDA does approve the use of third-party inspectors, whether they are state Ag agency inspectors, state commercial dog breeder inspectors, or even AKC inspectors (this is a hypothetical). More inspectors will be able to visit small breeders. They will be able to check your exemptions and count how many female dogs you have. They can ask you how many puppies you ship or sell “sight unseen” and ask for documentation.
I could be wrong, but that’s my guess about why USDA-APHIS is asking for feedback about third-party inspections. They vastly expanded the number of breeders and other groups that could be inspected in recent years but they don’t have the manpower or budget to inspect everyone – something that many people told them in comments during the Retail Pet Store Rulemaking in 2013. If they certify third-party inspection groups that already exist and accept their findings, they would be inspecting many more people than they currently inspect.
Of course, there are other theories. This topic certainly needs more discussion.
USDA-APHIS will be having several more in-person “listening” sessions over the next few months, along with one session online. You can make comments or give feedback about third-party inspections on the Federal Register. For more information about this issue, check the USDA web site.

Friday, March 3, 2017

APHIS Changes Bode Well

Carlotta Cooper

On Friday, February 3, 2017, USDA-APHIS released a flurry of announcements about their web site that set animal rights activists twittering. Here’s part of one announcement:

APHIS, during the past year, has conducted a comprehensive review of the information it posts on its website for the general public to view. As a result of the comprehensive review, APHIS has implemented actions to remove certain personal information from documents it posts on APHIS’ website involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act. Going forward, APHIS will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication. APHIS will also review and redact, as necessary, the lists of licensees and registrants under the Animal Welfare Act, as well as lists of designated qualified persons (DQPs) licensed by USDA-certified horse industry organizations.
We can still publicly post a list of our licensees/registrants that we regulate under the Animal Welfare Act…
Those seeking information from APHIS regarding inspection reports, research facility annual reports, regulatory correspondence, lists of regulated entities, and enforcement related matters may submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for that information….”

Other announcements explained that the Animal Care Search Tool on the site has been deactivated – the tool so beloved by animal rights groups and individual activists (i.e., trolls) to look up breeders and target them for harassment. Yet another announcement explained that APHIS was taking these actions in response to litigation concerning information and the privacy of those regulated. The agency said it is trying to balance the need for transparency with rules protecting individual privacy.

What does all of this mean for dog breeders regulated by USDA-APHIS? Despite suggestions from animal rightists claiming that the removal of this information is a nefarious plot against animals by the Trump administration, all indications suggest that the USDA is reacting to several lawsuits filed against them and other agencies by stakeholder groups that had been harmed by the release of personal information to activists. Not only did APHIS state this in several announcements, but federal agencies have not fared well recently in court when it comes to how they have handled the personal information of licensees.

 On September 9, 2016, in the case of American Farm Bureau Federation et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency et al., Case No. 13-cv-1751, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the federal appellate court revived a bid by two farm groups to stop the United States Environmental Protection Agency from releasing addresses and other information about large scale animal farms under the Freedom of Information Act. The ruling found that, excluding what is required in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), providing this kind of personal information to environmental groups was a serious privacy violation. The lawsuit dates back to 2013 when the EPA released the names, addresses, and GPS locations (as well as other personal information in some cases) of roughly 100,000 agricultural operations to environmental groups. This ruling over the EPA should have ramifications for many federal agencies. In addition, Tennessee Walking Horse groups have sued USDA – and won – and they continue to raise funds for an industry-wide effort to sue the agency again over privacy concerns and disagreements with the agency. Finally, PETA did not come out well in a lawsuit against the department of Health and Human Services when they tried to argue that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had withheld information sought by the group in FOIA requests concerning importers of nonhuman primates – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, No. 15-cv-309, slip op. (D.D.C. January 5, 2017).
When USDA states that it has been monitoring legal developments and taking advice from counsel, I think we should believe them. People regulated by government agencies have the same civil rights as anyone else. We should all have a reasonable expectation that government agencies will handle our personal information with some discretion instead of making it openly available online.

Whatever may have motivated USDA-APHIS, the removal of personal information for easy public viewing should be welcomed by most dog breeders. At least one large group of USDA-licensed breeders viewed the news favorably. Many of them have been harassed by animal rights activists online or in person – people who had dredged up their personal information and inspection reports on the USDA-APHIS web site, sometimes making false reports about the breeders. Doing away with the harassment breeders have experienced from animal rights groups and from individuals simply trolling the APHIS site for personal information about breeders seems to far outweigh any potential problems according to people who have been the victims of animal rights groups.

Dog breeders are not the only ones who have suffered from the release of too much personal information by federal agencies. At least one cattle operation – Harris Farms in California, also the birthplace of racehorse California Chrome – was the target of arson totaling over $2 million in damages by the animal rights terrorist organization ALF in 2012 due to information released by the EPA. Scientists and researchers who work with animals have also been victimized by animal rights activists. Their laboratories are inspected by USDA-APHIS under the Animal Welfare Act. In fact, the Animal Welfare Act was initially created by Congress in the 1960s specifically to oversee laboratory animals. Activists have increasingly targeted individual researchers according to a 2014 report by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. In 2004 ALF (the Animal Liberation Front) broke into psychology labs at the University of Iowa. They removed hundreds of animals, smashed equipment, and spray-painted walls, resulting in more than $400,000 in damages. By 2009, after APHIS began posting more detailed information on their web site, activists were making the attacks more personal. They set fire to the car of a UCLA neuro-scientist who worked with rats and monkeys in the driveway of his residence. Other researchers have reported that activists have shown up at their homes in the middle of the night where they have made threats against their families.
Some animal welfare advocates have expressed concerns about the changes because they may lead to problems for breeders that sell puppies to pet stores and are required to provide inspection reports, or the pet store has to have access to the breeder’s most recent inspection report. According to the Washington Post, only seven states currently have laws that require pet stores to show USDA inspection reports from breeders, though there may be some states considering similar laws. Laws in those seven states may need to be changed in response to USDA-APHIS’s new policy. If individual puppy buyers insist on an inspection report from a USDA-licensed breeder, they can either make a Freedom of Information Act request which is, admittedly, slow. Or they can directly ask a breeder for a copy of a recent final inspection report.

APHIS notes that final inspection reports will still be posted on their site, minus the kind of personal data to which those regulated by USDA and other agencies have objected. What won’t be as easy to obtain are incomplete or initial reports from inspectors. For example, if an inspector comes to your kennel and notes that you have some rust on a crate and a cobweb in the corner, telling you to fix the problems before they return, that report will not be posted. You will, presumably, fix the rust on the crate and get rid of the cobweb. When the inspector returns and makes a final report, that report will be posted on the APHIS site, noting that the problems have been addressed. This can make a big difference when it comes to being called out by animal rights groups. Such groups will no longer be able to cherry pick an incomplete report claiming that a breeder has violations that are not being addressed. (Naturally, if you do NOT address violations noted, that will also be noted and you will still be subject to USDA fines and penalties.)

Some information regarding inspection reports, research facility annual reports, regulatory correspondence, and enforcement records will be made available through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Some enforcement records (such as initial decision and orders, default decisions, and consent decisions) will be available on the USDA’s Office of Administrative Law Judge’s website. APHIS has noted that they are still making decisions and adjustments about what they will be posting.

As you might expect, animal rights groups such as the Humane Society of the United States are livid about the changes announced by USDA-APHIS. HSUS is honking mad and already vowing to file a notice of “violation” over what they contend to be their agreement with the USDA about public access to information. We’ll see how USDA-APHIS responds to the threats from HSUS. While this change at APHIS has been in the works for several months – pre-dating the Trump administration – it’s worth noting that President Trump and various cabinet members have not been friendly to HSUS and animal rights groups in the past. The agricultural advisory group put together by Mr. Trump before his election was noticeably anti-animal rights in philosophy. HSUS was virulently opposed to Mr. Trump’s election as well. HSUS may continue to have some support at USDA-APHIS, but they probably won’t have much support in the new administration.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Defeat of Controversal Proposed Breeder Registration Laws

Many thanks to the American Kennel Club, the Nashville Kennel Club, and the Tennessee Federation of Dog Clubs for all of their hard work in defeating the outrageous breeder bills that were proposed in Tennessee this year. The bills would have affected anyone who owned 10 bitches. Even people who did not breed dogs would have been affected! They were unbelievably intrusive and controlling. You can read a copy of the 18-page bill here.

You can also watch the hearings where the bills were discussed in committee. On the 24th, and on the 31st.

Most of all, thank you to every single person in Tennessee who called and e-mailed the committee members. They said they were absolutely flooded with calls about these bills, most of them OPPOSED! Thank you. YOU defeated these bills.


Tennessee Federation of Dog Clubs - All Members

       This has probably been the toughest legislative year ever in the
history of the Tennessee Federation of Dog Clubs (TFDC).  The animal
rightist. Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA, PETA and a number of other
national and state groups had worked secretly for months trying to craft
legislation they could slip in at the eleventh hour.  We nor the AKC
were ever apprised of the expected legislation. We saw no advance copy
and were never invited to have any input prior to the legislation being
introduced which was just last week.

       The complicated 18 page document was most definitely aimed at us
but under the guise of trying to eliminate puppy mills. Tuesday a
lengthy 14 page amendment to the bill was added to the docket of the
House and Senate committees handling the bill.  (Tuesday was the last
day the committees were to meet this legislative session.  It was a do
or die for the animal rightist organizations.

       This past Tuesday was one of the most drama filled days I have
ever witnessed at the state capitol in my life time.  Here is a sequence
of events that unfolded:

1) The animal rightist brought in folks from all over the state and the
big guns from Washington, DC.

2) The House Business & Utilities Committee met at 1:30.PM.  There was a
packed house with standing   room only. The sponsor introduced the
breeder registration bill.  He also gave notice of his new amendments
which only made the bill worse for us.  The chairman of the committee
then allowed a few speakers from the audience.

3) The lobbyist for the animal rights groups spoke and told lie after
lie.  She said the AKC and our group had worked with them on the bill
and then turned against it at the last moment. Not true.  To hear her
tell it anyone who bred a litter of puppies was the enemy.  She also
implied that the sheriff's and police chief's organizations supported
the bill.  Not true.

4) A lobbyist for the Humane Society of the United States also spoke and told the
same lies.  He also added that we had generated many calls from out of
state with attempts to tell Tennessee law makers how to vote.  Not true.
  He also stated that Tennessee was the only state in the nation that
previously had a breeder bill as state law and then lost it last
session.  That was true and we did it.

5) I spoke on behalf of the TFDC and hope that I did well and corrected
the lies that were told.  One of the legislators on the committee
commented that he had received more calls against this bill than any
other this session.  Two others agreed with him.

6) A vote was then taken on the amendments that were offered up by the
sponsor of the bill.  A couple of legislators immediately walked out for
"parts unknown.  The vote was four to four and died for lack of a
majority.  At that point the sponsor asked to withdraw his bill and roll
it over to the 2016 session.

7) We walked out relieved and the animal rightist were extremely mad,
unhappy.and wanting to know what went wrong.

8) Melissa Bast, our state lobbyist is preparing a report and she will
provide the names of the legislators that voted for the bad legislation
and those that supported us and were against the bill.

9) For the next several hours heavy lobbying went on all over the
legislative plaza until the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee met at
3:30 PM.  Again the even larger committee room was full with the walls
lined with people and even more outside.  Our bill was one of the last
to come up about 5:45 PM.  The sponsor of the bill got up and quickly
asked that the committee vote to defer or roll the legislation over to
2016.  We quickly departed while the animal rightist seemed to be
totally absent.  I think they had received word that there was no way
that the senate committee was going to pass the bill.

10) Now we really go to work and organize every county in our state.  We
are going to need your help.


       Dr. S.M. Dick Dickerson, President, Tennessee Federation of Dog

Monday, December 1, 2014

Here We Go Again: Elections, Bills, and Politicians

Now that the midterm elections have passed and the Republican “wave” has washed over the country, it's time to think about the next legislative session and what it holds in store for dog owners and breeders.

The Humane Society of the United States is an equal opportunity abuser of the political system. They donate to legislators in both major political parties. However, right after the election, Wayne Pacelle seemed unusually candid on his blog:

Staying the Course, No Matter the Obstacles
Wayne Pacelle

National, state, and local elections are obvious pivot points in the
task of governing, with changes that voters usher in signaling small or
large course corrections. With the Republicans’ second wave election in
four years – interrupted by the reelection of a Democratic president two
years ago – we are likely to see more suspicion about attempts to place
limits on the mistreatment of animals. The HSUS and its political
affiliate, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, enjoy broad bipartisan
support for our values with the broad swath of American voters. But we
generally meet with more skepticism from Republican lawmakers, who are
critical of some forms of regulatory oversight and in a number of cases
are closely allied with our political adversaries at the NRA, the Farm
Bureau, and other animal-use industries. Indeed, in the last few years,
we’ve seen vigorous efforts to pass so-called “ag-gag” bills and even
measures to limit citizen initiative rights, among other forms of

Wayne doesn't sound very happy about the outcome of the midterm elections or very optimistic about working with Republican lawmakers.

Me? I don't care about parties or that other stuff they try to ask you in exit polls. I am one of those terrible single issue people. My vote depends on animals. Okay. I suppose I might be swayed if I learned that a candidate was a cannibal. And I absolutely, positively will not vote for anyone from that clan who lived next to my mother's clan in Scotland and started a feud in 603 AD. That's for sure. But otherwise, it's all about opposing animal rights.

Fortunately, I don't think I know any cannibalistic politicians (as far as I am aware) and I try not to inquire about people's clan affiliations.

We were modestly successful in Tennessee in the recent election in saying buh-bye to a couple of pro-AR representatives on the House Ag committee. They had been endorsed by the AR group Tennessee Voters for Animal Protection – a group with ties to the ultra animal rights group the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). The local group has also been petitioning to have pet bills moved from the agriculture committees – which are usual first stops for these bills – to more AR-friendly committees. We suspect they would like to send their anti-tethering, anti-breeder, and other AR-inspired bills to the judiciary committees. On the House side, the Criminal Justice committee includes Rep. William Lamberth – a man who has his own page of praise on the ALDF web site.

Lamberth was responsible for passing security bond legislation in Tennessee that requires people to put up a bond to cover the cost of care for animals from the time they are seized until after the trial. Obviously, this is an enormous amount of money in most cases and most people can't afford it – meaning that they forfeit their animals before a case even goes to trial. In many situations, the case never goes to trial at all. Charges are dropped or reduced, yet the owner has surrendered all of their animals. There is no possibility of getting your animals back once you have surrendered them. They have already been sold/adopted to pay for their “care,” even though they might only be in the hands of rescue for a few days. Serious breeders can lose animals worth many thousands of dollars. In the case of a woman who bred parrots in Tennessee, she was forced to surrender parrots worth $40,000 because of Lamberth and his work. The tame parrots and those which had been taught to talk were sold and the others went to a “rescue” in Maryland where they died from neglect. What kind of justice is that? This AR darling is on the House Criminal Justice committee and we think that's why AR groups in the state have been trying to get pet bills moved from the Ag committees – where their bills have been dying – to a committee like this one. Yet Lamberth ran unopposed and was re-elected in the recent election. Most people are unaware of how these laws can affect them.

We do expect to see a renewed attempt to pass a commercial breeder law in Tennessee in 2015. As I never get tired of telling people, we got rid of our commercial breeder law this year. And how did that happen? Because a) the original law was passed with a sunset provision; and b) the program was losing $300,000 per year. There were only 21 breeders signed up with the program. Even all the smoke and mirrors that HSUS specializes in couldn't blind legislators to the fact that this program was a loser and it deserved to die. No amount of snake oil could cure that dead horse.

It came as no surprise, then, when HSUS and the Animal Rescue Corps (ARC), led by the notorious Scotlund Haisley, led a raid on a breeder in Gibson County recently and seized 97 dogs. Not because the breeder had done anything wrong but because Gibson County is represented by the Chairman of the House Ag committee. What better way for HSUS to try to make a point about a commercial breeder law and apply pressure to the chairman of the committee that will take up the bill than bringing as much media and civic attention as possible to dog breeding in his district? You really have to admire their devious methods. They know every trick.

HSUS and ARC can pick off as many small breeders in the state as they like but the truth is that Tennessee simply doesn't have many large breeders breeding commercially. Any effort to create another commercial breeder law is likely to encounter the same problems as the last one – it will be hard to make it pay for itself. A commercial breeder law in Tennessee would have to have such a low threshold number to be self-sustaining that it would likely make every show and hobby breeder in the state howl, not to mention all the hunters. Tennessee is a deeply red Republican state and it takes fiscal responsibility seriously. A commercial breeder law that loses money for the state, like the last one, is probably not going to pass.

At the national level, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, Senator Mitch McConnell's new position as Senate Majority Leader in 2015 will likely be beneficial for dog breeders, or at least not harmful. McConnell has been opposed to horse slaughter – something which earned him positive marks from HSUS – but otherwise, he has been almost entirely opposed to bills backed by HSUS. Coming from Kentucky, his position on horse slaughter is probably easy to understand. McConnell did not support PUPS legislation. He has sponsored a bill with Senators Rand Paul and Lamar Alexander on Tennessee Walking Horses which differs from the bill supported by HSUS and gives the Walking Horse industry more control over itself instead of putting more control into the hands of the USDA. I think it's safe to say that Sen. McConnell is not very AR-friendly. No wonder Wayne sounded so gloomy on his blog.

Of course, the voting record is only a small part of what you get with McConnell in his new position and the change in the party in power in the Senate. We still have to contend with government agencies and regulations as they affect dog breeders. I don't know if we will ever be able to throttle back the power that government agencies have over our lives now or the mass of regulations that govern us daily. I don't think the founders of this country ever envisioned a permanent bureaucratic ruling class, but that's what we have – four branches of government: the legislative, the executive, the judiciary, and the bureaucracy to run all of it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

She Said What?

This article originally appeared in Dog News and is published here by permission of the author.

She Said What?

Carlotta Cooper

There is a popular belief among the uneducated that electronic dog collars, or e-collars (sometimes called “shock” collars) are cruel and inhumane. Some people seem to think that if an owner has trouble training a dog he or she is inclined to run out and purchase an electronic collar so he can zap the heck out of his dog when he misbehaves. Not only is this view insulting to dog owners, but it seriously misunderstands how e-collars are used.

Any tool – and that is what an e-collar is – can be misused. A hammer is intended to strike a nail but you could accidentally hit your thumb with it. Used properly, e-collars are very good training aids for many kinds of dog training. They are not simply used for obedience training. They are used for advanced field training, for agility and other sports. E-collars are also used for training dogs at a distance when you are not close enough to give a correction. And they are used for behavior modification for dogs with behavior problems. This can be especially important when no amount of positive reinforcement will work.

You should also know that e-collars aren't used to teach dogs basic commands. They are best used to reinforce commands that a dog already knows.

E-collars today are extremely advanced. They can literally have a couple of dozen settings and the handler can choose a very precise degree of stimulation for the dog. “Stimulation” is the correct term because the handler can choose from a tone, a vibration, or a slight shock to reinforce a command. Sophisticated collars can have many other features.

It's also important to remember that people who use invisible fencing for their dogs are using the same principle. The dog wears a collar that picks up a signal. If the dog gets too close to the fence and ignores the warning tone, the dog will receive a slight shock. Most dogs quickly learn the boundaries and stay inside, but the fence works because of the e-collar approach.

I'm explaining this information about e-collars and invisible fences because a representative for the AKC – Gina DiNardo – appeared on Fox and Friends a few days ago and inexplicably gave the impression that the AKC opposes them.

Here is the AKC's policy on e-collars, as stated in the Board Policy Manual online:

Training Collars (July 2001 Board meeting)
Special training devices that are used to control and train dogs, including but not limited to, collars with prongs, electronic collars used with transmitters, muzzles and head collars may not be used on dogs at AKC events, except as allowed in the AKC Rules, Regulations, and policies.

The American Kennel Club recognizes that special training collars may be an effective and useful management device, when properly used, for controlling dogs that might be extremely active, difficult to control on a neck collar, or dog aggressive. These collars are also recognized as possibly useful for gaining control at the start of basic obedience training, essential education that dogs deserve and need.

There is a point at which owners should have sufficient control of their dogs to manage them on regular neck collars, without the use of special training collars. This is the point at which dogs are acceptable on the grounds of AKC competitive events and will have the opportunity to participate in those events.

That policy seems to be reasonable and easy to understand. It's been in place for some 13 years. It appears that Gina DiNardo's statements were out of line, perhaps prompted by a new study out of the UK that suggests e-collars might distress dogs.
As far as anyone knows, there has not been any kind of change in AKC's policy regarding the use of training collars. AKC's Social Media person, Chris Walker, said that the comments were intended for an audience of pet owners. Unfortunately, when a spokesperson for the AKC goes on national television and disparages a training tool, people do not make that distinction. I think we can expect to see a bumper crop of animal rights legislation trying to ban e-collars at the state level soon – all of it quoting Gina DiNardo and claiming that the AKC opposes e-collars.

I think we all understand that AKC would like to be popular with pet owners. It's nice to sound politically correct. But there are many subtle nuances involved with dogs, dog ownership, training, and breeding. AKC has a core constitutency that expects AKC to know and protect their interests in dogs instead of brushing them aside to gain some media approval.

The Fairness To Pet Owners Act

This article originally appeared in Dog News and is published here by permission of the author.

The Fairness To Pet Owners Act

Carlotta Cooper

Let me start by stating that, according to, an online legislative tracking tool maintained by the government-transparency company Civic Impulse, LLC, this bill has zero percent chance of passage this year, so it's not something that either veterinarians or pet owners need to stress about at this time. However, it was originally introduced in 2011, and again this year. If it doesn't pass this year, it will likely be introduced again at some point in the future. This means that you should know about it.

The Fairness to Pet Owners Act in the U.S. House (HR 4023) was introduced by Rep. Jim Matheson, (D-Utah). The bill would require veterinarians to provide clients with written prescriptions for pet medications regardless of whether such a prescription is requested by the client. It would also prohibit veterinarians from charging a prescription-writing fee or asking clients to sign a liability waiver related to writing the prescription. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) have introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

House version of the bill here:

Even though the bill may not pass at this time, Rep. Matheson thinks the Fairness to Pet Owners Act may raise public awareness about their veterinary-drug purchasing options.

“I think it’s important to have the issue out there and have people talk about it,” Matheson told the VIN News Service in an interview. (“Lawmaker behind proposed Fairness to Pet Owners Act aims to inform consumers,” March 14, 2014, Edie Lau.) “Even if the legislation were never to pass, I think consumers should be aware that they should at least ask for a prescription.”

Matheson originally introduced the legislation in 2011. That bill died in the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee when the legislative session ended in early 2013. Matheson reintroduced the legislation early this year. The bill is now with the Energy and Commerce Committee.

According to press releases from the American Veterinary Medical Association and an article in DVM360 Magazine (“Fairness to Pet Owners Act now brewing in U.S. Senate,” July 23, 2014, by Julie Scheidegger), the AVMA staunchly opposes the bills. The AVMA calls the act “burdensome and unnecessary.”

As dog owners, most of us have had experiences buying prescription medications from veterinarians. Opinions among owners and breeders seem to be sharply divided in the fancy over these bills.

Here are some of the pros and cons:

  • Veterinarians often mark up prescriptions 100 percent or more to help pay for some of their other services. Getting a prescription from your vet would allow you to buy the same medications cheaper elsewhere.

  • Some people are reluctant to ask for a prescription. If veterinarians are required to provide a prescription, you won't have to ask.

  • Some pet owners may not know that they can ask for a prescription or buy medication for their pets somewhere else. Automatically giving every client a prescription makes sure they know.

  • Vets would be prohibited from charging a fee for writing a prescription.

  • There may be less chance of a vet prescribing medication your dog doesn't really need.

The act would also:

  • Prevent vets from specifying from where clients must buy medications as a condition for receiving a prescription; and

  • Prevent vets from requiring clients to sign a waiver relieving the doctor of liability in the case of any problems with a prescription filled elsewhere

  • The AVMA says that clients are already free to purchase prescriptions from other sources. Some states already require vets to provide a prescription (two states). And vets are ethically obligated to write a prescription if you ask for one.

  • The AVMA says they have no data to show that this law would lower the overall cost of pet care.

  • According to the AVMA, there would be an “administrative cost” if vets had to automatically provide prescriptions to their clients.

  • According to the AVMA, it would be a burden on vets if they had to write a prescription every time they prescribed medicine for a client's pet.

  • Pharmacists are not well-versed in requirements for animal dosing.

Ashley Morgan, DVM, Governmental Relations Division assistant director for the American Veterinary Medical Association, says the bill is being presented “under the guise of saving consumers money on their pets’ medications.” Honestly, it's hard to see how pet owners would not save money if they bought their pets' medication outside the vet clinic. There are countless stories of pet owners who are able to save lots of money by having prescriptions filled at Wal-Mart or their local pharmacy. Just ask around and you can find owners who have paid a vet $30 for a tube of eye cream that is $4 at Costco. Or find someone whose vet made them pay to get a prescription – even if they were ordering something online and the prescription only had to be faxed. Lots of people use heartworm preventive that isn't carried by their vet but the vet will still charge for a prescription or refuse to write the script. In short, some veterinarians are not nearly as cooperative as the AVMA suggests and pet owners could save money.

Dr. Morgan admits that there may be instances of veterinarians declining to provide prescriptions, but not enough to justify a law.

“Our understanding and belief is that it’s not a pervasive problem,” Morgan said. “The AVMA's Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics states that a veterinarian should honor a client's request. If there are veterinarians not providing prescriptions, hopefully they have a medical or ethical reason for doing it and are communicating that to the client.”

As far as it being a burden for veterinarians to have to write prescriptions or requiring an “administrative cost,” how are M.D.s able to write prescriptions for people without suffering these problems? When you go to see your doctor you don't have to buy your prescriptions from him or her. You expect to get a prescription so you can go out and have it filled. You are free to shop around for the best price if you like. Perhaps at one time you bought your medicine from your doctor when he made housecalls and carried a doctor's bag to your house but those days are gone. It seems silly for pet owners to have to go on purchasing over-priced prescriptions from veterinarians while the cost of pet care rises dramatically every year. Pet owners have access to cutting edge treatments that are similar to the same treatment given to humans these days – and we pay similar costs for it. Shouldn't we be able to save money where we can on the cost of prescriptions?

Rep. Matheson also sees the similarity between physicians and vets. “In the case of human doctors, they can’t dispense medication,” he said. “We’ve made a decision that that is a conflict of interest. I’m not raising that issue right now (for veterinary medicine), but I could.”

Will there be a backlash from veterinarians? Possibly. If this bill passes at some time in the future, we could see other pet care costs rise as vets try to make up the loss of income from prescriptions. Ethical? Not really. But it could happen. Many vets already charge for an “office visit.” What's that about? What does that cover? I suppose it allows you and your dog to sit in the lobby for a few minutes.

The one con for the bill that seems like a realistic concern is that pharmacists are not well-versed in dosing for animals. If you take your vet's prescription to your local pharmacy to be filled, your pharmacist might not know about possible substitutions or how they would affect a dog. He or she might not know if it's okay to sell you a different size pill and tell you to cut it in half, and so on. Will your vet be cooperative if the pharmacist has to call to get information?

Other people believe that this bill is a bad idea because they think that the marketplace should sort things out. More laws, even to protect pet owners, would only interfere with the rights of veterinarians to practice and charge what they want.

I was curious about who was supporting this bill and eventually found a group called APAW – Advocacy for Pets and Affordable Wellness. APAW describes itself as “a national coalition of pet owners and advocates dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of America’s pets and empowering pet owners everywhere to demand affordable, quality health care and medicine for their animals.”
On its website, which focuses on the proposed legislation, APAW has a page titled “Where to buy meds” that displays the logos of 45 retail supermarkets and pharmacies. The stores are, or are owned by, Wal-Mart, Costco, K-Mart, Target, Albertson’s, Kroger, Bashas’ and Brookshire Brothers. Also in the listing is one online pharmacy, PetCare Rx. Founded by a petsitter and dogwalker in Huntington Beach, CA, the coalition is made up of politicians, veterinarians, retailers, product companies and shelter groups.

Obviously, these retailers have something to gain by supporting the legislation, but it's good to know who is backing the bill. According to APAW, on average, pet owners can save up to 80 percent on their pets' medications by buying from non-vet sources.

Rep. Matheson also co-sponsored the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act of 2003. This act, which passed, requires eye doctors to provide patients with prescriptions that allows them to buy their lenses somewhere else. There are a lot of similarities between this law and the Fairness to Pet Owners Act.

I don't usually like more laws and regulations but this time I think pet owners are over a barrel when it comes to prescriptions. If you need medication for your dog, you don't have options. You have to use a vet. After much thought and consideration of the pros and cons, I think the Fairness to Pet Owners Act is a good idea for pet owners. I think that vets should provide us with a prescription so we can buy medication for our pets anywhere we like. While veterinarians have a near monopoly on selling pet medication, the prices remain high. Giving pet owners more information and options about where they can purchase medication for their pets should help lower costs.

Rep. Matheson is not running for re-election and it is doubtful that this bill will pass during what remains of this Congressional session. However, we can expect to see the Fairness to Pet Owners Act again in the future so remember the pros and cons. As costs for pet care rise, this bill to save pet owners money on prescriptions will probably look better and better.

Sentience Is Not Enough

This article originally appeared in Dog News and is published here by permission of the author.

Sentience Is Not Enough

Carlotta Cooper

Animal rights activists have become fond of pointing out that dogs and other animals are “sentient beings,” as though this is a new discovery. In actuality, philosophers and scientists have been discussing the sentience of animals since at least the 18th century. Researchers today seem to amuse themselves by conducting experiments to prove that animals are sentient, but this is not news to most people, especially those of us who have dogs.

Representative Jim Moran (D-Virginia), long a thorn in the side when it comes to animal legislation because of his joined-at-the-hip status with HSUS, recently regaled readers of the political web site TheHill with his thoughts on animals as property and their status as sentient beings.

"I recoil at the mindset, still espoused by some in Congress, that animals are mere property rather than sentient beings. It is that perverse worldview that led to mass exterminations of whole species throughout history,” Moran wrote.

Fortunately Moran, who has received 100 percent ratings from HSUS and been named Humane Legislator of the Year by the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, is retiring from Congress. However, there are plenty of other members of Congress with this same mindset who shill for HSUS.

Apparently people don't understand what the word “sentient” means. Perhaps the confusion for animal rights people – and that would seem to include Rep. Moran – comes from their own philosophers. Sentience is simply being able to feel or sense; having consciousness. There are some who would argue that trees and plants have sentience. Afterall, there are studies that show plants respond better when you play music for them or talk to them. Vegans could be committing murder when they eat a plate of kale.

When it comes to animals, animal rights activists usually cite the 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham as an early founder of animal rights thought. He put forward the idea that if you can feel, then you can suffer; and the ability to suffer conveys certain rights. Even to animals. In Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation Bentham wrote:

What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or, perhaps, the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

Animal rights activists argue that sentient beings of all kinds can experience feelings of pleasure and pain. Most of us would probably agree with this belief but ARs take it farther and would give animals rights because they can feel.

In the 20th century animal rights philosophers have taken this concept even farther. They have rejected some human rights – among them property rights – in favor of animal rights, calling efforts to keep human rights more important than animal rights “speciesism.” Peter Singer, one of the modern founders of the animal rights movement, wrote the following in his book Animal Liberation:

Assume that, as sometimes happens, an infant has been born with massive and irreparable brain damage. The damage is so severe that the infant can never be any more than a "human vegetable," unable to talk, recognize people, act independently of others, or develop a sense of self-awareness. The parents of the infant, realizing that they cannot hope for any improvement in their child's condition and being in any case unwilling to spend, or ask the state to spend, the thousands of dollars that would be needed annually for proper care of the infant, ask the doctor to kill the infant painlessly.
Legally, the doctor should not [kill the infant], and in this respect the law reflects the sanctity of life view. Yet people who would say this about the infant do not object to the killing of nonhuman animals. How can they justify their different judgments? Adult chimpanzees, dogs, pigs, and members of many other species far surpass the brain-damaged infant in their ability to relate to others, act independently, be self-aware, and any other capacity that could reasonably be said to give value to life. The only thing that distinguishes the infant from the animal, in the eyes of those who claim it has a "right to life," is that it is, biologically, a member of the species Homo sapiens...But to use this difference as the basis for granting a right to life to the infant and not to the other animals is, of course, pure speciesism. It is exactly the kind of arbitrary difference that the most crude and overt kind of racist uses in attempting to justify racial discrimination.

Singer takes Bentham's argument farther. Is an infant's life, even one with brain damage, more important than the life of an animal? Is it discrimination to value the life of a human more than that of an animal? These are the arguments Singer raises, with the obvious belief that an animal life is just as important as a human life.

Gary Francione, another leading animal rights philosopher, has a somewhat different view than Singer. He is an abolitionist."All sentient beings, humans or nonhuman, have one right: the basic right not to be treated as the property of others." (From his blog.) For Francione and some other animal rights philosophers, groups such as HSUS are not appreciated because they work incrementally, through legislation, instead of calling for the out and out abolition of pets and animal agriculture. These groups are too slow for some AR philosophers who would like to see an end to animal “enslavement” right away.

There is no reason why sentient beings can't be property. We're talking about dogs, cats, horses, farm animals, and all of the other animals that populate our domesticated world. We're not discussing human beings as slaves, even though ARs like to use the terminology of slavery. Sentience – the ability to sense and feel – doesn't convey some quasi-mystical status that gives animals human rights. Sure they think and feel. I don't think many people are surprised by that news. But they can't be held morally responsible for their actions. They don't know right from wrong as humans do.

I think most of us who have animals support animal welfare rather than animal rights. This is the belief that we are responsible for taking good care of our animals and preventing them from experiencing any unnecessary pain or suffering. We are stewards of the animals in our care and it's up to us to look after each generation so we can pass it along to the people who follow us. That doesn't mean surrendering our human rights or our property rights. It doesn't mean giving animals rights either.

Besides, people don't have to own animals as property to exterminate whole species. Native Americans didn't own the horses that were in the Americas before the continent was colonized by Europeans but they hunted them to extinction. According to biological diversity experts, we are losing dozens of species (including amphibians, birds, fish, insects and other creatures) per day simply because of changes to the environment.

So, Rep. Moran's discussion of the sentience of animals seems a little behind the times. Of course animals are sentient. Of course they feel and sense things. That's not the point. Your dog still can't tell right from wrong beyond knowing he's not supposed to poop in the house – which you have taught him. Your dog doesn't have the moral sense required to make or obey laws in a human society. Your dog needs you to make these decisions for him and take care of him as a domesticated animal. That's why we don't need animal rights. That's why sentience is not enough.