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My Take: Don’t Be Fooled

On Friday, August 3, 2012, Brunswick County, N.C., sheriff’s deputies, accompanied by “animal rights advocates,” seized 160 dogs from a double-wide mobile home in Leland, N.C. Twenty-six birds and one cat were also removed from the trailer, which had no electricity at the time of the seizure. This was the ninth puppy mill bust in the state over the past year.

The owners of the animals, a couple that appeared to be in their 60s or older, were arrested on charges of animal neglect and animal cruelty, and as of August 6, remained in the Brunswick County jail on $1.5 million bonds.

You’re familiar with the scene: cage after cage, stacked from floor to ceiling, of filthy, matted dogs, either cringing in fear or whimpering for attention. There are three or four dogs to a cage, and they’re standing on wire, covered in excrement. You don’t have to be there to imagine the smell inside a double-wide mobile home that housed 160 dogs.

In the host of news stories following the most recent bust, representatives of the Humane Society of the United States strongly advocated for “establishing laws” to regulate commercial breeders in North Carolina, reportedly the site of more puppy mill busts than any other state in the country. The newscaster on local TV station WRAL said in her report about the couple’s arrest that, “Advocates have been trying for years to get lawmakers to regulate puppy mills. There are no state standards for breeders. Federal laws don’t cover most of them either.”

Further into the news story, Melanie Kahn, named on the broadcast as the “national director of the HSUS campaign to stop puppy mills,” claimed that “Almost every product sold in this country is subject to some sort of regulation, but somehow dog breeding is not.”

Seeing the news footage of dozens of little Shih Tzu, Yorkies, Chihuahuas and other small dogs, skinny, shaved down and yipping for attention, tugs at the heartstrings of anyone who loves dogs. The pictures of baby puppies, their eyes just opened, accompanied by the pleas from the HSUS representatives. no doubt convinces most viewers that something must be done to protect these innocent animals from abuse and neglect. That is exactly what I thought when I saw the broadcast and read accounts of all of the dogs seized from what can only be called a commercial breeding operation.

One state representative, Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), was prompted by this seizure to promise to introduce legislation next year that will help “prevent instances like that happening.”

The problem is that laws are already in place designed to protect animals from inhumane treatment. The couple in this story is being held for breaking existing laws, with higher bond amounts than are often required for suspected murderers. The HSUS representatives are effectively spreading untrue information to the public.

Peter Lunding, president of the North Carolina Federation of Dog Clubs, responded to the WRAL report with this observation: “‘Breeder licensing proposals’ do not solve the problem of abusers and hoarders of dogs. Abusers of dogs obviously ignore the law. They should be prosecuted for abuse under the current laws under the North Carolina Animal Welfare Act.”

Yes, in spite of the fact that news reports repeated over and over that there are no regulations in place in North Carolina for the care of animals, the truth is that in 1977 the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the Animal Welfare Act “to ensure that animals, as items of commerce, are provided humane care and treatment by regulating the transportation, sale, purchase, housing, care, handling and treatment of animals by persons or organizations engaged in transporting, buying or selling them.”

The website of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture posts the Administrative Code for the Animal Welfare Act, which includes requirements for feeding, watering, daily waste disposal, heating and cooling, ventilation and other aspects of the care and housing of dogs and cats kept for commercial sale.

The problem is not that laws aren’t in place. The problem, really, is that there is never enough manpower to monitor every household or “business” in any state, in order to prevent this kind of situation from happening.

Of course, HSUS and other animal rights extremist groups don’t tell the truth. They continually claim that there are no laws, no regulations in place to protect these animals. They want to put more laws with more stringent requirements in place because their goal is to eliminate the breeding of dogs.

“’Puppy mills’ are bad, obviously, and bad publicity for dog breeders in general. There are more busts in North Carolina not because there are more ‘mills,’ but because HSUS is trying to get the public behind legislation that it wants,” says Lunding. “The animals rights extremist groups play on people’s sympathies, and it works.” It worked on me, and I am far more educated about the situation than the average American who is swayed by press coverage of puppy mill busts.

That’s the frustration, you see. I want to protect those dogs that are abused by puppy millers. But I want the laws that are in place to be upheld. I want the general public to understand that it isn’t all dog breeders who are the problem.

“We need to change the language of the argument,” says Lunding. “I’ve always thought ‘abuse’ is the issue, and we ought to prosecute the abusers under existing laws, not write more legislation that burdens small breeders and dog lovers.”

How do we, as dog owners and hobby breeders, contribute to this conversation?

Awareness is the first step. We must educate ourselves and our acquaintances about the dangers of being swayed by the animal rights groups. Fighting legislation that threatens us as breeders and the future of purebred dogs is a very expensive task. One way that we can all contribute is by joining our local and state coalitions and alliances. If you want to help protect and promote the world of purebred dogs, join your local organization, which you can find by visiting the AKC list of Federations of Dog Clubs and Other Allied Groups. Every dollar counts.

If you haven’t already, please join the more than 70,000 people who have signed AKC’s petition expressing concern about the USDA’s proposed changes to the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Written by

Christi McDonald is a second-generation dog person, raised with a kennel full of Cairn Terriers. After more than a decade as a professional handler’s apprentice and handling professionally on her own, primarily Poodles and Cairns, she landed a fortuitous position in advertising sales with the monthly all-breed magazine ShowSight. This led to an 11-year run at Dogs in Review, where she wore several hats, including advertising sales rep, ad sales manager and, finally, editor for five years. Christi is proud to be part of the editorial team for the cutting-edge Best In Show Daily. She lives in Apex, N.C., with two homebred black Toy Poodles, the last of her Foxfire line, and a Norwich Terrier.
  • Suzanne Macre August 10, 2012 at 8:47 AM

    Here Here, Christy!!!! You have hit the proverbial nail squarely between its eyes! I think what it needed above the enforcement of existing laws (which all states and most municipalities therein already have) is an FCC statute prohibiting false information from hitting the airwaves. That way, when BS statements such as HSUS just LOVES to promotes, that “there are no laws, so we need new ones”, the municipality or the State can sue for false statement.

    Of course, this plan would ALSO require enforcement…and who really has the time or desire to do so?

  • Linda Ouellette August 10, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    Well Done! Glad to see that Christi McDonald and Best In Show Daily supports the fact that there is no need for more legislation and regulation of breeders. The laws already exist. Keep it up. Everyone should sign the AKC petition.

  • Janie Withers August 12, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    KC has known for many years exactly where each puppy mill is located as they get money for each puppy. why in the world would they ever want to give up that steady supply of money. As for existing laws, if they exist to the degree needed, why are abusers only charged with misdemeanor charges. if you are running a clean breeding kennel, why would you worry about inspections. If your kennel is clean, it is not what inspectors are looking for. Best in Show does not truly care about the thousands of abused dogs. They care about the BEST. There is more to this story than you mention in this article

    • kayla
      kayla August 14, 2012 at 11:16 AM

      Hi Janie,
      thank you for taking the time to write Best In Show Daily. We agree, puppy mills are a bad thing. We, too, are outraged by abuse of any kind. However, we disagree on what laws are available for prosecuting attorneys to use, what charges are brought forward in different cases, and the amount of available enforcement tools (read people) to enforce existing, good laws on the books. It takes an engaged public to identify the problem, report it, and the political will to budget for enforcement and prosecution. It’s our experience from working with local governments for years, that they lack the budget to aggressively enforce the laws on the books. It is very difficult without enough staff to tease out all the bad actors in puppy mills. With the notable exception of someone such as Michael Vick, the Judge and the prosecuting attorneys often plea down animal abuse cases because our courts and jails are flooded with more, to them, consequential cases. As for your last comment about what we do and don’t care about at Best In Show Daily or in the dog fancy at large, I encourage you to actually talk with us rather than generalize. Most of our staff has purebreds, mixed breeds, other animals to numerous to detail, are actively enaged in rescue and public outreach, work to get good legislation on the books to fight abuse, and we help fund local shelters and health research. best, Kayla Kurucz Founder

  • Collin August 13, 2012 at 7:33 PM

    Janie, that’s a very judgmental and uninformed comment. Obviously people who show and breed dogs as a HOBBY love dogs. There would be no other reason to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars over our lifetimes on them. Everyone I know about who writes for BISD is a dog owner and dog lover… ALL dogs, not just the ones that win at the dog show. Any dog’s show career only lasts a short time. They are companions for a lifetime, whether they’re what you call the “best” ones, or the “rest” of them.

    Although we may own purebred dogs, we care very much about abused dogs, and we also care about the rights of individuals to continue to breed a litter of purebred dogs now and then. The author stated very clearly that while there are already laws in existence, the problem is that there isn’t enough manpower to enforce them. The people mentioned in this article were held on a $1.5 million bond, not fined for a misdemeanor. We agree that something needs to be done, but more laws that will be impossible to enforce? That’s not the answer.

    I will say this: every time I read a post like yours, Janie, I realize anew that the “animal rights” activists are getting exactly what they want. They are manipulating people who do love animals to fight among themselves so we won’t notice while they continue to chip away at our right to even own a dog as a pet.

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