Breeders blast dog transfers for adoption as alleged biohazard
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2003:
HARTFORD, Connecticut; PORTLAND, Oregon–Rachel
With-erspoon, 40, of Litchfield, Connecticut, only wanted to help
the Kentucky Humane Society find homes for nine puppies. Her
misadventures in early March 2003, however, may have become Exhibit
A for introducing federal and state regulation governing what the
National Animal Interest Alliance decries as, “The mushrooming
practice of moving dogs around from one region to another and from
one shelter to another within regions,” also known as “humane
Founded in 1992 by Oregon dog breeder Patty Strand, the NAIA
represents many animal use industries, but most vigorously defends
the interests of dog breeders. The NAIA sees in humane relocation a
direct threat to breeders’ share of dog acquisitions.
As of 1994, three separate studies published by the American
Veterinary Medical Association and the National Pet Alliance found
that breeders and pet stores had about a third of the “new dog”
market. Shelters and rescuers had from 10% to 14%.
Shelters and rescuers have boosted their share since then to
about 21%, according to data submitted by applicants for Maddie’s
Fund grants with copies to ANIMAL PEOPLE. Most of the increase
appears to reflect the declining numbers of unintentional litters
given away by families and friends, but breeders also seem to be
feeling the competition from shelters and rescuers who are
increasingly astute about using paid ads to boost adoption demand and
using the Internet to arrange humane relocations, so that adopters
can find the dogs they want.
The use of paid advertising and humane relocation were both
pioneered by the North Shore Animal League America, and were
intensely controversial within the sheltering community as recently
as March 1993, when ANIMAL PEOPLE explained the North Shore methods
in a cover story and examined the results, finding that the outcome
was markedly reduced shelter killing.
The biggest supplier of animals to North Shore was then the
American SPCA, which at that time still held the New York City pound
contract. The late John Kullberg, president of the ASPCA 1977-1991,
was the only nationally prominent humane executive willing to defend
Quietly emulating the North Shore program, or operating
parallel programs, were about 35 other shelters including the Animal
Humane Society of Hennepin County (Minnesota), the Denver Dumb
Friends League, the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley, the
Northeast Animal Shelter, the San Francisco SPCA, and the SPCA of
Leading vocal opposition were the Humane Society of the U.S.,
Friends of Animals, and PETA.
The growth of the PETs-MART and Petco pet supply chains and
the advent of the Internet rapidly transformed attitudes.
Refusing to sell dogs and cats from breeders, the PETsMART
and Petco chains instead display rescued animals for adoption to
thousands of times more people than visit animal shelters. The Petco
in-store adoption program actually started in 1965, but remained
obscure until the coming of the Internet gave volunteer rescuers the
cheap, fast communication tool they needed to make humane relocation
a big part of arranging rescued pet adoptions.
If pounds and humane societies balked at the labor cost
involved in taking advantage of the PETsMART and Petco opportunities,
and in arranging animal transfers to keep the display cages filled,
the Internet enabled volunteer rescuers to bypass shelters to make
the necessary links themselves–and to advertise animals
Post-Internet, shelters quickly joined the trend. By 2000,
about a third of all animal adoptions were Internet-assisted.
Shelter involvement in humane relocation became the norm.
Volunteering with two local rescue/adoption organizations,
Rachel Witherspoon was allowed to use a mobile adoption vehicle
loaned out by North Shore to help other groups to place animals.
But neither rescue/adoption group Witherspoon worked with
knew that she was also rescuing and placing animals on her own,
North Shore operations director Perry Fina told ANIMAL PEOPLE, and
North Shore did not know, either. Because neither North Shore nor
the rescue/adoption groups even knew the nine puppies Witherspoon
brought from Kentucky existed, the pups did not go through the
procedures used by North Shore and the two local groups to ensure
that animals are healthy before being offered to the public.
Witherspoon on both March 1 and March 11 allegedly adopted
out sick puppies without issuing the health certificates that are
supposed to accompany any animals who are adopted or sold in
Connecticut. On March 12 she was questioned by animal control
officers. She was eventually charged with operating a pet shop
without a license plus nine counts of importing dogs without a health
Such charges are usually brought against allegedly negligent
operators in the commercial pet trade. Around the U.S. during the
first 100 days of 2003, at least 12 breeders faced similar
allegations, in cases involving 1,282 dogs and 33 cats, along with
five pet stores, in cases involving 73 dogs and 100 other animals of
numerous species. Also during the first 100 days of 2003, five
Canadian breeders were in court on similar charges, in cases
involving 521 dogs and 17 cats.
Alarmed by the Witherspoon case, Connecticut acting
agriculture commissioner Bruce Gresczyk proposed regulating animal
rescuers more-or-less in the same manner that his department already
regulates boarding and breeding kennels, animal shelters, groomers,
and pet shops.
The original draft regulation would have been unnecessarily
and unconstitutionally intrusive, Animal Advocacy Connecticut
founder Julie Lewin told ANIMAL PEOPLE. Lewin persuaded the key
people involved in implementing new state regulations to review the
issues and approaches at greater length during the coming months.
Both Perry Fina of North Shore and Betty Hicks of Connecticut
Save-A-Pup agreed that some regulation might be appropriate. Fina
further pledged that North Shore procedures for loaning the adoption
vehicle would be tightened to avoid repetition of the Witherspoon
The National Animal Interest Alliance and the vastly more
influential American Kennel Club did not immediately issue statements
on the Witherspoon case.
The AKC in particular may be aware that moving to regulate
humane relocation by individual rescuers within the U.S. might reopen
the question of regulating backyard dog breeders under the Animal
In July 2001, the Doris Day Animal League won a District of
Columbia federal court ruling that the Animal Welfare Act applies to
people who breed and sell dogs in limited numbers from private homes.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned that
verdict in January 2003.
Writing regulations to restrict rescuers but not breeders
would be difficult.
The National Animal Interest Alliance meanwhile is focusing
criticism of humane relocation on transfers from abroad, appealing
to public concern about biosecurity.
“New charities devoted to rescuing dogs from distant lands
are popping up across the U.S.,” the NAIA web site warns. “Save a
Sato,” of Puerto Rico, “has already sent 14,000 dogs to the U.S.
Dozens of shelters are involved. Some bring in 100-200 dogs each
month, placing them for $200-$250 each,” which is actually much
less than the typical full cost of facilitating a shelter adoption.
“If you examine the evidence and connect the dots,” the NAIA
web site continues, “the steady influx of foreign strays reveals an
evolving plan” to put breeders out of business. The NAIA cites a
remark by Linda Hunter of the Humane Society of Snohomish County,
“We feel it is better to bring small dogs in from another
part of the world than to have these people going to a breeder.”
For that reason, Hunter has for about four years occasionally placed
animals brought to the U.S. from Taiwan by Mina Sharpe, 21, of
Carlsbad, California. Sharpe started the Taiwan Abandoned Animal
Rescue Foundation as a 12-year-old then living in Taiwan. She has
helped hundreds of Tai-wanese street dogs to find good homes in the
U.S. (including Simon, of the ANIMAL PEOPLE family)–but still fewer
dogs, overall, than were seized in early 2003 alone from
substandard U.S. breeders.
“The Buddy Dog Humane Society in Massachusetts shares the
anti-breeder sentiment and offers a similar rationale on their
website,” the NAIA web site fumes on.
Said a recent Buddy Dog newsletter, “Many people ask why we
are taking dogs from Puerto Rico. The answer is simple. Most of the
dogs are small, usually under 30 pounds, thus enabling Buddy Dog to
find many adopters looking for a smaller dog without going to a pet
store or breeder. At the same time we are helping homeless dogs get
off the streets and into a caring home.”
The NAIA “unequivocally opposes the importation of stray dogs
(and more recently cats) into the US for adoption. Importing strays
is a dangerous and irresponsible practice,” the NAIA web site
asserts, “and should be outlawed immediately,” because while
“animal protection groups seek ever-tighter regulation of dogs from
breed enthusiasts along with commercial breeders, it is a sick and
intolerable paradox that poorly bred, often diseased, foreign-bred
dogs enter our country by the thousands.”
The NAIA position coincides with efforts by British kennel
operators, many of them veterinarians, to reinstate the six-month
quarantine requirement that was imposed on all dogs entering the
United Kingdom from abroad from 1901 to 2001–regardless of nation of
origin and proof of vaccination.
Since 2001, vaccinated dogs from nations certified to be
rabies-free have been allowed to bypass quarantine.
“Dog travel is increasing; about 90,000 dogs have entered
the U.K. in the past two years,” warned University of Bristol senior
lecturer Susan Elizabeth Shaw in a March 17 posting to the electronic
bulletin board of the International Society for Infectious diseases.
“It is now common for dogs to enter the U.K. from
leishmaniasis-endemic areas. I have dealt over the past two years
with more than 100 confirmed canine leishmaniasis cases in traveled
animals, either through our lab or through phone advice.
“Unfortunately,” Shaw continued, “the U.K. has become a
base for rehoming stray dogs from Spain, handled through welfare
groups. Many enter the country already on therapy for known
A collaborative study by British and French veterinarians
published a week earlier in the British Veterinary Association
Veterinary Record recommended stricter scrutiny of dog imports.
Testing 67 imported dogs and three cats for leishmaniasis,
babesiosis, and erlichiosis, the vets found that all of the cats
were healthy, but 17 of the 53 dogs who were imported without
quarantine had one or more of the three diseases, along with seven
of the 14 dogs who were quarantined.
In contrast to the British situation, at the ANIMAL PEOPLE
deadline there seemed to be no opposition to a proposed easing of the
Hawaiian 30-to-120-day quarantine rule, approved by the state Board
of Agriculture in mid-April and considered certain to be ratified by
Governor Linda Lingle.