Meat biz barks for puppy mills

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2011:

 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.–Rural Missouri lawmakers backed by
agribusiness hope to overturn the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act,
approved by almost a million voters in November 2010–52% of the
electorate–as Proposition B on the state ballot.
Leading the lobbying effort against the Puppy Mill Cruelty
Prevention Act is Missourians for Animal Care, a coalition including
the Missouri Agribusiness Associ-ation, Missouri Cattlemen’s
Association, Missouri Corn Growers Association, Missouri Dairy
Association, Missouri Egg Producers, Missouri Equine Council,
Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Federation of Animal Owners,
Missouri Livestock Marketing Association, Missouri Pet Breeders
Association, Missouri Pork Associ-ation, Missouri Soybean
Association, the Poultry Federation, the Professional Pet
Association, and two financial institutions.


The debate has national import, partly because of the extent
to which Missouri dog breeders have been able to recruit support from
the major branches of animal agriculture. Bills similar to the Puppy
Mill Cruelty Prevention Act are under consideration in several other
states, including Nebraska and West Virginia. Local ordinances
meant to curb backyard breeding have recently passed in several
states without strong puppy mill legislation, with other ordinance
proposals pending. Most notably, though, Missouri breeders are
believed to produce about a third of all puppies sold in U.S. pet
stores, nationwide. More than 1,400 dog breeders are registered
with the Missouri Department of Agriculture and/or hold USDA permits
to sell dogs interstate. Perhaps as many breeders operate in
Missouri without permits.
The Missouri senate agriculture committee on January 27,
2011 ratified a bill that would erase the Puppy Mill Cruelty
Prevention Act limit of 50 dogs per breeder, and would give licensed
breeders up to six months to correct violations without being charged
with a misdemeanor offense. This in effect would allow breeders to
raise a litter in violation of the standards, sell the litter, and
then be technically in compliance with the act again until the birth
of another litter–at which point they would get another six-month
grace period.
Missouri state senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar) is pushing
complete repeal of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. Parson
contends that “The wording of the voter-passed law is so vague that
it could be extended to cows, horses, sheep and all other livestock
crucial to Missouri’s trade and economy,” summarized Columbia
Missourian reporter Audrey Moon after a January 2011 legislative
hearing. “Although Proposition B was described as a bill dealing
with dog breeders,” Moon explained, “it includes a definition of a
pet that covers any ‘domesticated animal normally maintained in or
near the household of the owner.'”
Responded Humane Society of Missouri president Kathy Warnick,
“Proposition B applies to dogs and puppies. There is no other
reference to any other species.”
“The purpose of these groups is to keep us from eating any
meat,” retorted Missouri house representative Ed Schieffer (D-Troy).
“We have to be very cognizant,” Schieffer insisted, “that there is
an agenda here beyond Proposition B.”
Missouri house representative Stanley Cox (R-Sedalia) has
proposed retitling the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, to become
the Dog Breeders Cruelty Prevention Act–to make the law easier to
amend.
Missouri house majority whip Jason Smith (R-Salem) has
contended that the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act should only be
enforced in the 11 counties, of 114, where the majority of voters
favored it. But Humane Society Legislative Fund president Mike
Markarian pointed out that the 11 counties that passed Proposition B
are home to more voters, by far, than all of the other 103 counties
combined.
“Back in December 2010, when the election was weeks old,”
Markaran recalled, “Senator Bill Stouffer told the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch, ‘If you look at the Proposition B votes, if every
legislator votes the way their district voted, it will repeal
easily.’ And Senator Mike Parson said, ‘If the legislators vote
their districts, we will be able to do that.’ But they apparently
forgot to check the votes. Proposition B was favored in 18 of the 34
Missouri senate districts, and 88 of the 163 house districts.”
Noted Markarian, “State representative Sally Faith (R-St. Charles)
cosponsored two repeal bills, even though more than 65% of the
voters in her district supported Proposition B. She changed her
mind, after hearing from her district, and said she will now oppose
the repeal efforts.”

Poll favors regulation

A law similar to the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act is
soon to take effect in Oklahoma, requiring dog and cat breeders with
more than 10 breeding females to be licensed and inspected by a
fee-funded state Board of Commercial Pet Breeders. Opponents of
puppy mill legislation have hoped to gain momentum from the
anti-regulatory fervor generated by the Tea Party movement, but a
SoonerPoll.com telephone survey of 520 likely Oklahoma voters
conducted for the Tulsa World during the first week of January 2011
found that more than 70% agree that large pet breeding operations
should be regulated, while fewer than 15% oppose regulating them,
reported World staff writer Randy Krehbiel.
“Support for the [Oklahoma] bill was fairly uniform across
the political spectrum. City dwellers were only slightly more in
favor of it than those in rural areas,” Krehbiel found. People who
keep dogs, 57% of the respondents, “were somewhat more supportive
of regulation,” Krehbiel added.
Among the most commonly voiced reasons to oppose puppy mill
regulation is the purported cost to taxpayers, but Indiana has
discovered that enforcing tax evasion laws against puppy mill
operators is in itself effective on behalf of the dogs, Maureen
Hayden recently reported for the Anderson Herald Bulletin. “Andrew
Swain, now head of the Indiana Attorney General’s Revenue Division,
[several years ago] came up with the idea of using the tax evasion
laws to shut down unlicensed commercial dog-breeding operations that
put profits before animal welfare,” Hayden wrote. “He had
discovered that the suspected puppy mill operators dealt in
cash-and-carry transactions on which they they failed to pay income
and sales taxes.”
“They’re scam artists,” agreed Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
Three Indiana tax evasion cases filed in 2009 and 2010
brought the impoundment of more than 420 dogs.

Out of business

As debate over the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act
reignited, dog breeder Jeff Fortin of Beaver Creek Kennels in
Oberlin, Kansas surrendered his USDA breeding permit. Fortin in
December 2010 killed 1,200 dogs due to a distemper outbreak. “At one
point, Fortin had three pet stores in Colorado. Only one remains
open. Fortin-linked stores in Greeley and Longmont were closed in
2008,” recalled Jessica Fender of the Denver Post. Fortin was
charged with 34 counts of suspected cruelty for conditions found at
the Longmont store. “He denies responsibility for any mistreatment,”
Fender wrote, noting that “He was fined $8,795 in February 2006 for
facility violations and was issued a warning letter last March for
facility violations and denying access to inspectors.”
Fortin may have briefly surpassed David Yoder, 45, of the
former Black Diamond Acres kennel in Seneca County, New York, as
the breeder most reviled by online activists. Yoder in September
2010 surrendered his USDA permit after pleading guilty to gassing 74
dogs with car exhaust. He was fined $505 for the gassings in Romulus
Town Court, reported Ernst Lamothe Jr. of the Rochester Democrat &
Chronicle.
“The USDA report indicates the Yoder kennel was riddled with
canine brucellosis for over a year and in July the situation
deteriorated to the point where Mr. Yoder made the decision to
depopulate the kennel of all dogs as he was advised to do by the USDA
and his veterinarian,” Seneca County Sheriff Jack S. Stenberg told
Lamothe.

Biden’s breeder

But both Fortin and Yoder were upstaged when Philadelphia
Inquirer staff writers Amy Worden and Kathleen Brady Shea disclosed
on January 12, 2011 that the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law
Enforcement had on November 19, 2010 revoked the license of Linda
Brown, of Jolindy’s Shepherds in Spring City.
“A hearing on the revocation is set for May 24,” wrote
Worden and Brady. “Until then, Brown can sell her remaining dogs,
but may not breed or acquire new ones. She had 70 when her kennel
was last inspected. If the revocation is finalized, she may keep no
more than 25.”
Brown, 65, became briefly the most famous dog breeder in
the U.S., after selling a dog to then newly elected U.S. vice
president Joe Biden on December 6, 2008. Brown has blamed her
subsequent legal issues on the scrutiny that the Biden sale
attracted. Only four days after Biden took the dog, the Maryland
Department of Agriculture cited Brown for allegedly failing to keep
records and provide adequate proof of vaccinations. Brown was
subsequently acquitted of alleged dog law violations in January and
March 209, and in June 2010.
Brown had been in trouble before. “According to minutes from
the American Kennel Club’s April 2006 meeting,” Shea of the
Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “the AKC’s management disciplinary
committee suspended Brown from all AKC privileges for one year and
imposed a $1,000 fine for submitting or caused to be submitted three
litter registration applications that she knew, should have known,
or had a duty to know contained false certifications as to the sire
and/or dam.”
On February 10, 2011 acting Pennsylvania attorney general
Bill Ryan charged former Nacoma Kennel owner Costanzo “Gus” Cerino
with not only allegedly misrepresenting AKC pedigrees, but also
allegedly falsely advertising that Nacoma Kennel is “PA Preferred,
Registered Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Dog Law
Enforcement,” the Bureau of Consumer Protection lawsuit stated. The
case charges that Cerino sold malnourished dogs who suffered from
mange, pneumonia, parasites, and respiratory infections,
summarized Tim Darragh of the Allentown Morning Call.

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