Rendell Cries Wolf Over PA Dog Laws

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PA Dog Law Bureau Shuts Down
21 Kennels, Citations Up By 600%

‘Toothless Tiger’ Myth Conceals Radical Animal Rights Legislation

by JOHN YATES
American Sporting Dog Alliance
http://www.americansportingdogalliance.org

(This analysis is part of a series of reports on newly introduced Pennsylvania legislation that will affect every dog and kennel owner in the state.)

HARRISBURG, PA – Deputy Director Jessie Smith claims that the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement is powerless to halt abusive practices at “puppy mills” that were shown on a recent edition of the Oprah Winfrey show. Smith is a strong advocate of tougher new kennel laws, and has been a cheerleader for H.B. 2525, introduced last week by Rep. James Casorio (D-Westmoreland County).

Despite those claims of being a toothless tiger, Smith and the Bureau logged a dramatic increase in enforcement statistics in 2007. According to the Bureau’s annual report to the Legislature, the agency:

· Revoked 21 kennel licenses for unsatisfactory conditions, including four for animal cruelty law violations.

· Accepted the voluntarily terminations of another 284 kennel licenses, with several of these occurring because of pending enforcement actions.

· Issued 386 citations for poor kennel conditions, which is a 600-percent increase. The increase was 500-percent in Lancaster County, which is home to many of the state’s alleged “puppy mills.”

· Filed 64 misdemeanor charges for the most serious violations.

· Issued 4,349 citations for other kinds of violations.

· For the first time ever, the Bureau went to court and secured an injunction to shut down an unlicensed kennel.

· Also for the first time, the Bureau confiscated endangered dogs from an unlicensed kennel because of poor conditions, and dogs from seven licensed kennels and “several” unlicensed kennels were seized by or surrendered to Humane Society police officers in Chester, Franklin, Lancaster, Union, Perry and Washington Counties, and from an unlicensed pet store in Northumberland County.

· Issued 54 citations to 50 unlicensed kennels that were required to be licensed, an increase from six the previous year.

· And seized 19 dogs from a Lancaster County kennel that was operating after its license had been revoked; it had exceeded the 25-dog threshold for licensing.

Perhaps the tiger is not so toothless after all.

The American Sporting Dog Alliance maintains that existing laws could solve the vast majority of problems at large commercial kennels, or “puppy mills,” that were shown on the Oprah Winfrey show.

In fact, we analyzed actual kennel inspection reports that showed citations and convictions for every problem that was portrayed on the Winfrey show, except for one kennel’s use of treadmills. However, treadmills are specifically prohibited under federal kennel regulations, and the kennel that was shown would have been required to have a federal license.

We agree that regulatory changes are needed to assure a better environment in large commercial kennels. We support a major increase in minimum size requirements for primary enclosures, and also the elimination of wire flooring and treadmills. These three improvements alone, combined with continued aggressive enforcement of existing laws, would eliminate all of the horrifying conditions portrayed on the Winfrey show.

Then why does the tiger claim to need more teeth?

The cynical myth of the Casorio legislation (which is really the product of Gov. Ed Rendell) is that it is meant to improve conditions in “puppy mills.” While it does make several positive changes in this regard, the real but hidden heart of this legislation is vastly increased enforcement powers that trample on basic constitutional rights. Supporters of the legislation fail to mention these changes in their rush to leap on the Oprah bandwagon. A reading of current regulations shows clearly that the kennels shown on the Winfrey report are being protected for their public relations value in pressuring the Legislature to enact new laws. All of the kennels shown on the Winfrey program could be shut down immediately under existing laws.

A previous report by the American Sporting Dog Alliance detailed the way this legislation violates constitutional protections about searches, seizures, and due process under the law. The report also examined unfair and unworkable provisions requiring kennel owners to be present at the Bureau’s convenience (most kennel owners have outside jobs), giving the Bureau virtually unlimited power to write new regulations while canceling out provisions for public review and participation, and imposing devastating multi-tiered layers of fines, penalties and confiscations of dogs on every kennel for even minor technical violations. Copies of this report are available by writing asda@csonline.net.

Power is the reason the tiger wants more teeth. This legislation gives the Bureau the kinds of police powers that are associated with totalitarian states. We see the full context of this legislation as a clear and deliberate attempt by Gov. Ed Rendell to impose a radical animal rights agenda on Pennsylvania that will lead to the elimination of almost all kennels.

Statements by Rendell, Casorio, Smith and others that this legislation is about “puppy mills” is deceiving to the point of being blatant and calculated dishonesty.

It is about power: the power to enforce a radical animal rights agenda on Pennsylvania dog owners.

The 2007 report to the legislature also creates an invaluable statistical profile of the Bureau’s enforcement activities and the kennels in Pennsylvania. Other highlights include:

· Channels have been opened to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to share information about kennels that are both state and federally regulated, or should be.

· An increased focus on out-of-state dealers, including rescue groups that bring dogs into Pennsylvania, confirming reports by ASDA.

· The Bureau conducted Dog Law prosecution seminars for all of the magistrates in Pennsylvania

· The Bureau employs 59 dog wardens, including four compliance specialists who focus on large commercial and problem kennels. For large commercial kennels, two dog wardens conduct inspections together.

· It regulates 2,700-plus licensed kennels, which housed about 918,000 dogs and generated $493,480 in license fees.

· It sold 918,004 individual dog licenses, bringing in revenues of $5.6 million.

· Shows that fully one-third of the dogs transferred in Pennsylvania are adopted from 269 licensed shelters and rescue groups. These adoptions totaled 42,234 dogs, compared to 127,675 sold by licensed private kennels. Rescue and sheltering have become big business, as this data illustrates. Another 720,152 dogs were kept by licensed kennels but were not sold or transferred.

· Shows that large commercial kennels (251 or more dogs) sold the lion’s share of dogs from private kennels, at 87,878. Kennels with 151-to-250 dogs sold 12,498, kennels with 101-to-150 dogs sold 8,511, kennels with 51-to-100 dogs sold 9,275, and kennels with fewer than 51 dogs sold 6,143.

· Picked up18,525 stray dogs, and reimbursed shelters $370,500 for their care.

The Bureau’s 2007 report to the Legislature clearly shows that current laws are working, and that only a few regulatory changes are needed to fully protect dogs in large commercial kennels.

We urge Pennsylvania dog owners to phone or write to their legislators and senators and ask them to vote against the Casorio legislation. Here is a list of each legislator’s contact information: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/...list.cfm?body=H. Here is a list of each senator’s contact information: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/...list.cfm?body=S.

It is urgent to write now to members of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, which is in the process of reviewing the legislation. Here are links to their contact information: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/cteeIn...de=2&body=H.

The American Sporting Dog Alliance is the unified voice of sporting dog owners and professionals in America. We work at the grassroots level to defeat unfair legislation and policies that are harmful to dogs and the people who own and work with them. Our work to protect your rights is supported solely by the donations of our members. Your participation and membership are vital to our success. Please visit us on the web at http://www.americansportingdogalliance.org.

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