Why do dog lovers oppose House Bill 1451?

May 19, 2011 at 12:19 a.m.

When average sporting dog owners or hobby breeders hear of abuses that can occur in a substandard commercial breeding operation, they react with outrage. They want to know what can be done to put a stop to abuses. They are ready to sign on to the effort to help.

That is, until they find out that the supposed cure, House Bill 1451, may also treat them the same as the alleged target of the legislation, so called "puppy mills."

They can't believe that their own elected officials would want to pass a law that would drive many of them out of existence and open their houses up to searches without probable cause or even a search warrant. They know they cannot afford costly and unnecessary upgrades to their kennels. They are astounded that their fees will be more than $1,300 each.

But most of all, they cannot believe that legislators haven't written the bill in a fashion that excludes those who do not raise dogs primarily for the purpose of selling.

"Our members are very caring people dedicated to preserving our working Jack Russell terriers," said Catherine Romaine Brown, Chairperson of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America. "Texas House Bill 1451 is unfair to these caring dog owners and could force many of them to give up raising and caring for these wonderful dogs."

"None of us condone dog cruelty, and the United Kennel Club supports sensible legislation that protects dogs," said Sara Chisnell-Voigt, UKC legal counsel. "However, UKC cannot support laws that negatively affect responsible breeders and don't serve to meet the objective of protecting dogs. HB 1451 is precisely that."

"House Bill 1451 establishes unreasonable thresholds, will negatively impact responsible dog owners who are in compliance with current federal and state laws and will not improve animal welfare in Texas," said American Kennel Club Government Relations Director Sheila Goffe.

"Our members would be devastated if this bill were enacted into law," said Mary Jo Trimble, executive secretary of the American Brittany Club. "Our members breed high-quality championship Brittany's not only for competition but for the sportsman as his hunting companion. Yet HB 1451 will treat them with the same iron fist as a large substandard breeder kennel."

These groups are just the tip of the iceberg as more than 50 national, state and local organizations have lined up to oppose House Bill 1451. You can view the entire list of opponents at www.ussportsmen.org/texas.

That's an awfully big list isn't it? You'd think that if the Legislature was doing something so good for dogs that groups like these would be leading the charge to pass it, not trying to slow it down. Well here's why that's not the case:

HB 1451 treats a dog owner as a commercial kennel if the owner has 11 un-spayed females and sells just two dogs.

Commercial kennels must then pay a fee that is expected to cost more than $1,300 per kennel. They will be subject to many new regulations and requirements including kennel construction requirements created by an unelected commission which also has the authority to raise fees.

This commission is also given the invasive authority to search these dog owners' residences if they keep as little as a single dog indoors or keep their dogs' records on their home computer or in a file cabinet in their den. Under HB 1451, they must open their residences to government inspections without notice, cause, or even a warrant.

Because these people don't sell many dogs, they are convinced that the increases in costs and red tape will make it impossible for them to keep their kennels open.

And yet, their pleas fell on deaf ears in the Texas House of Representatives, which passed the bill overwhelmingly and sent it to the Senate.

With little time left in the legislative session, sporting dog owners are worried that their objections will once again be ignored in the haste to simply pass something.

All they are asking is that their elected officials don't throw the puppy out with the bathwater.

Senators, please don't hurt law abiding kennel owners in the zeal to crack down on those few who do not share our passion for dogs.

Rob Sexton is U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance vice president for Government Affairs. He can be reached at rsexton@ussportsmen.org



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