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.


  1. I read this and am so saddened by the cold heartedness of this man's comments. I am by no means an animal activist but it is obvious to me that he and those who agree with him are more concerned about the almighty buck then how a living being, especially man's best friend, is used and abused for the sake of making money. Not all breeders are cruel and greedy but there are so many dogs that are bred and mistreated he is not speaking for them. They are not even mentioned in this article. I hope someday he and people like him are able to open their hearts and see that our society needs to stop puppy mills and back yard breeding. I hope they open their eyes and see how mistreated these animals are while they are defenseless to cold hearted people who could care less about their well being. It is hard for me to understand how there are people out their who can close a blind eye to such mistreatment. So sad.

  2. I wrote these comments and I am a woman. This was a legislative analysis. Tennessee has fewer than 25 large commercial breeders, as we discovered when the state had a commercial breeder law for several years. That is also backed up by the number of large facilities that have been USDA-licensed and inspected in the past. Most people in the state who have puppies either have a one-time litter and then spay their dog or they are very small breeders (show or performance breeders) who are probably already subject to some local laws. These people love their dogs and they love the puppies they produce. Those puppies usually have homes waiting for them before they are even born. You don't find dogs and puppies produced by these breeders in shelters. The latest research shows that only an estimated 5 percent of dogs in shelters are purebreds. In fact, some of the larger shelters in Tennessee, such as in Nashville, actually import dogs and puppies from California and other states to fill the demand for dogs to adopt. So, please don't come here and talk about cold-hearted, greedy breeders or dogs being mistreated. The facts don't support those statements.