Letter in opposition to LD 335, HP 229, the bill that would ban pet stores

 

Patti Strand, NAIA President, 111 SW 5th Avenue, Portland OR 97204 www.naiaonline.org naia@naiaonline.org 503-761-8962 

 

March 9, 2015

Letter in opposition to LD 335, HP 229, the bill that would ban pet stores

Dear

I am writing on behalf of the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA), a broad-based animal welfare organization founded in 1991 that is dedicated to securing high standards of animal care and treatment, and to preserving the human-animal bond. Our members are dog and cat enthusiasts, hobby breeders, rescuers and pet owners, animal professionals, scientists and veterinarians. We have hundreds of members in Maine.

no puppy for youWe are writing to express our strong opposition to the Maine pet store legislation and to urge you to reject it. Although we support the specific goals of the legislation – prohibiting the sale of dogs and cats bred in substandard conditions – our firsthand experience with similar legislations all over the United States tells us that the approach being promoted in Maine will not achieve the goals you seek. Instead we believe that its passage would do little more than encourage the growth of an underground economy operating without oversight or taxation, and exacerbate rather than solve animal welfare problems. With that in mind, we offer our assistance and expertise.

We urge you to learn more about the larger pet marketplace in which pet stores operate before taking this extreme and in our view, un-American legislative step. Please talk to lawmakers in other cities and states where these bills have been adopted and find out if they in any way lived up to expectations. Ask about unintended consequences. Find out why some municipalities have repealed their recently passed pet store bans, and ask about lawsuits. When you do this, you’ll find that the issue is much more complicated than it appears on the surface and that the action you are considering will lead to unintended consequences with far-reaching repercussions that you may not have taken into account.

Do some research on the national groups that are backing these bills. You should be aware that two of the most active national groups promoting pet store bans, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recently paid $9.3 million and $15.75 million respectively to the company that owns Ringling Bros. circus to settle, among other things, a Racketeering Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) lawsuit in which they were defendants because they improperly paid someone to be a witness against the company with testimony that was found not to be credible. In other words, we ask that you double check the veracity of the claims brought forward by these groups

There are black sheep in every business and activity, but it’s rare for legislative bodies to ban whole business categories. Typically lawmakers pass laws requiring standards to be adopted and then close down the businesses that refuse to comply with those regulations. Our group supports imposing sourcing requirements on pet stores and would support shutting down the ones that did not change their practices appropriately following passage of such a law. But taking this broad brush approach on a categorical Patti Strand, NAIA President, 111 SW 5th Avenue, Portland OR 97204 www.naiaonline.org naia@naiaonline.org 503-761-8962 

 

basis rather than on the basis of actual practice simply codifies a prejudice and gives unregulated businesses (shelters and rescues) an unimpeded marketplace advantage over regulated ones. This approach might be okay if rescues and shelters didn’t have their own black sheep operating in deplorable ways, but they are not immune from animal welfare problems either, just immune from regulation. 

The problem with banning anything that the public wants is that doing so doesn’t solve problems; it simply drives the market underground. Prohibition proved that. But even more significant than not solving the targeted problem, it proved that banning something the public wants creates new problems. Please review the news report from San Diego veterinarians who report being inundated by sick dogs sold on Craigslist brought up from Mexico now that pet stores are banned in San Diego.

A ban such as the one contemplated in Maine will cause more animal welfare problems than it solves.

Significantly, the rescues and shelters this legislation supports as an alternative to pet stores are rarely regulated in any significant way and increasingly operate in ways that are inhumane and that threaten public health and safety. As the number of dogs in many regions of the US has plummeted, rescue has become big business and Maine has become a destination state for rescue dogs that are imported from other states and offshore territories. Please watch this news story about the rabid rescue dog that was transferred from Georgia to Vermont for placement a little over a year ago. http://www.wcax.com/story/23772297/15-treated-after-vt-puppy-tests-positive-for-rabies. Unfortunately this is not an isolated case. Indeed rabies, a disease that is nearly always fatal and kills 55,000 people worldwide each year, has been discovered in several rescue dogs in just the last few years and in a cat adopted from Craigslist two weeks ago. No such incidents have occurred in pet stores for more than 20 years, and then it was from a rescued cat. The entire supply chain of pet store puppies is regulated, something that is not true for rescue and shelter dogs. Please note the admonition in the press release issued by Public Health Veterinarian for the state of Vermont encouraging citizens to make sure their adopted pet is healthy.

The bottom line is this. If you pass this legislation you will be swapping a heavily regulated business for one that is not only unregulated, but brimming with problems. Articles appear nearly every week showing storefront rescue-shelters operations so deplorable they’d be closed down immediately if they were traditional pet stores and were therefore regulated. http://www.kmbc.com/news/kansas-city/dozens-of-animals-seized-from-kc-pet-store/-/11664182/22745728/-/hvdq0yz/-/index.html#.UnMjjym2LqM.facebook 

In addition, please recognize that the horrific images and claims that the anti-pet store activists often present are well-orchestrated propaganda tactics designed to emotionalize and blur the issues, which just coincidentally give themselves a competitive market advantage. Ask the activists for documentation on the kennels they are showing you. In California hearings that led to the San Diego pet store ban, images were shown of kennels that were shut down more than a decade ago. Don’t let the emotion of the well-choreographed presentations keep you from asking the important questions. Where, for instance, do rescue dogs come from? Are the rescuers who import dogs from out of state and from outside the continental United States, for instance, capable of assuring consumers that their dogs are not from substandard breeders, dog auctions, foreign countries, or the result of pet theft? Do they have health records sufficient to assure an adopter that their dog isn’t harboring an infectious disease or parasite, or something worse? How does the import of rescue and shelter dogs from outside the county impact the adoption and health of local dogs, and what is the evidence? Public health and safety issues should carry the most weight. Patti Strand, NAIA President, 111 SW 5th Avenue, Portland OR 97204 www.naiaonline.org naia@naiaonline.org 503-761-8962 

 

Please take the time to talk to true animal welfare experts, not just to fundraising groups and activists who, no matter how sincere they may be, are so biased that they cannot provide you with the balanced information you need to make sound public policy decisions.

There are bad commercial breeders and there are bad pet stores, but there are also commercial breeders with outstanding breeding facilities and top notch animal welfare standards, as well as responsible stores. The difficulty lies in creating a system that enables enforcement authorities and the public to separate the good from the bad. One of the best regulatory approaches to actually improving animal care and wellbeing in dog breeding facilities, therefore, would be to pass a law that enables acceptable breeders to distinguish themselves from the ones everyone opposes and then demand that pet stores buy only from them. Because USDA started publishing the inspection reports of all their licensees online about 4 years ago it is now possible for the first time to require this, and to require that such records be made available to enforcement agencies and the public. Many jurisdictions are taking this approach rather than imposing bans.

The proposed legislation offers nothing to make shelters and rescues comply with any meaningful sourcing requirements, which is a root cause problem. Under normal circumstances, rescues and shelters deal with stray dogs and cats, and ones that are dropped off anonymously. The currently proposed legislation does nothing to address this problem; rather, it increases problems by removing the regulated segment of commerce and funnels citizens to the least accountable sellers in the marketplace. When you read the new AVMA guidelines for transport rescues, ones that carry dogs and cats into your city, you’ll recognize that rescues and shelters are the least regulated pet seller in the marketplace. https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/AnimalWelfare/Documents/AVMA_BestPracticesAdoption_Brochure.pdf

This is not an indictment of rescue. It’s just a fact. Many of our members rescue dogs and do a wonderful job. Their standards of care and conduct are exemplary. But due to the lack of any meaningful regulation, it’s also true that many rescues operate in ways that are totally unacceptable. Don’t swap a pet store that buys from an inspected and regulated breeder, for rescue and shelter organizations whose supply chain is totally unregulated and often includes fly-by-night operators.

Our group is active and well-informed on many animal welfare issues and can provide solid evidence to challenge many of the claims of the activists pushing this legislation. Many of our board members have participated in rescue for many years, even decades; and one of our board members was once the executive director of NYC Animal Care and Control. We are concerned, qualified, and familiar with practices and changes in sheltering and rescuing, of which many in the general public are unaware.

If you are interested in learning more, we can also put you in touch with people in different jurisdictions that have adopted and then overturned similar laws, and with people who are now spending their county’s money fighting lawsuits as a result of passing such legislation. If you have any questions at all, please call or email me so that our group can provide you with facts critical to your analysis and decision making process.

Sincerely,

Patti Strand, NAIA President

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