The Arctic National Wildlife… Refuse?

The Trump Administration seems to be having trouble comprehending the words “wildlife refuge”:

An internal Interior Department memo has proposed lifting restrictions on exploratory seismic studies in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a possible first step toward opening the pristine wilderness area to oil and gas drilling.
The Arctic refuge, which covers more than 30,000 square miles, has been closed off to commercial drilling for decades because of concerns about the impact on polar bears, caribou and other animals in the region. Opening it up has been a top priority for Republicans.
The memo does not provide a legal justification for allowing new exploration.

Of course.  Because since January 20, 2017, it’s anything goes.

Petland Not Actually Magical Land O’ Pets

Many animal lovers know that Petland buys puppies from puppy mills and sells them in its chain stores throughout the country. Petland has recently successfully lobbied state legislatures in Ohio and Arizona to pass legislation enabling the company to do business basically as it sees fit, exempting it from any and all local ordinances designed to protect animal welfare:

When 10News reached out to Petland corporate, Mike Gonidakis, president of Citizens for Responsible Ownership, responded and said he can speak for Petland.
He said Petland works to be transparent in their practices, and only sources animals from USDA licensed breeders.

“We want our customers to have the peace of mind that we’re not coming from a puppy mill,” he said.

pants plus fire

As a reminder, the inspection records for USDA licensed breeders have been removed from public view by the Trump administration. No one can find out which USDA licensed breeders are meeting the bare bones requirements for things like cage size and veterinary care and which ones are chronic animal abusers. And to be clear, USDA licensed breeders are exactly what most Americans think of when they hear the words “puppy mill.”

rottie pups in mill usda

USDA inspector’s 2012 photo of a registered breeder’s facility.

aphis tracys jk violation-crop

Portions of a 2009 USDA federal violations report as shown on

Riding the wave of rampant deregulation nationwide, Petland has moved on to TN where the company convinced state legislators to write a bill favoring its business in the state:

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sen. Becky Massey (R-Knoxville):

“I personally wouldn’t buy a dog in a pet store. And I would not do anything I feel would be detrimental to dogs,” she said. “But let’s say a single mom, her kids wanted a purebred dog and she didn’t feel comfortable going to somebody’s home. You take them to a pet store and let them pick out a dog. I would want that single mom to have protections that they weren’t going to be sold a puppy mill puppy.”

Nice single mom story but again, Petland sells puppy mill puppies soooooooo….

One TN county is already looking into potential conflicts the bill’s passage could create:

“The House Bill HB0568 and companion Senate Bill  0519 currently in the Tennessee State Legislature may adversely impact current local government’s ability to enforce a law, regulation or ordinances addressing the sell and wellbeing of dogs in retail commerce in the State of Tennessee,” said Bud Armstrong, Knox County Law Director.

“Any and all state laws related to the health and cares of dogs could be affected,” he added, pointing to existing ordinances on Rabies vaccinations, animal care and keeping and bite investigations/quarantines.”

This sounds like the legislation could affect shelters and rescue groups.  And it would seem that ACOs would be unable to enforce cruelty laws against any Petland within its jurisdiction.  But I guess that’s part of the reason Petland requested the legislation.

If you live in TN, contact your state legislators and ask them to oppose the Petland bill (House Bill 0568 and Senate Bill 0519).

(Thanks Ona for the tip.)

Discussion: Cost of Care Laws

So-called “cost of care” legislation, pushed by get-rich-quick-via-one-eyed-shivering-puppies-commercials groups such as the ASCPA and HSUS, are sometimes referred to as “civil forfeiture” or “bonding” laws.  They are on the books in some form in most states with Georgia currently considering such a bill.  These laws basically require someone accused of animal cruelty to pay whatever amount the agency that seized their animals, usually the public shelter, tells a judge they have already and will in future spend on their care while awaiting trial.  This care is likely to include such things as housing, food and veterinary procedures.  If the accused is unable to pay, he forfeits his animals and the seizing agency/shelter is free to sell them.

Those in favor of this type of legislation frame it as “making animal abusers pay” which sounds – you know, good.  And if they can’t come up with the money, which could be $50,000 a year or more for a dozen dogs, well hey, we don’t want abusive jerkwads getting their animals back anyway so yay, right?  The ASPCA tries to justify requiring the presumed innocent owner to pay up front this way:

The imposition of a bond is not a punishment for committing a crime. It is a requirement to continue paying for the costs of caring for his or her animals when there is sufficient evidence of cruelty and the owner chooses to maintain ownership—costs which, in theory, the owner would be incurring already if he/she was taking proper care of his/her animals. We are all legally responsible for the care of our animals, and taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay the costs of such care for an owner who faces cruelty charges.

Sufficient evidence of cruelty is of course, open for interpretation. Since the accused has not yet had his day in court, the evidence may consist of an ACO telling a judge about pets with long toenails and/or fleas, accusations we’ve seen numerous times in cruelty cases.

As far as $50,000 a year (or whatever amount is requested by the seizing agency/shelter) being the amount of money an “owner would be incurring already if he/she was taking proper care of his/her animals”, I can anecdotally dispute that. I’ve never made $50,000 a year, I’ve always had a group of pets and they’ve all been properly cared for. I’m not saying they get rushed to the emergency clinic every time they crinkle a whisker but they get neutered, vaccinated, receive heartworm medication, etc. Sometimes their toenails get long, sometimes they get fleas. Maybe I’m just a terrible person.

In any case, the Georgia bill at least addresses the fact that some of those accused of animal cruelty are not going to be convicted:

Under the act, if the owner is found innocent, they would be reimbursed.

Gee, was keeping the money an option?

And for those owners who couldn’t produce a platinum card to pay the seizing agency/shelter? Well your animals were long ago sold. Sucks being you.  But you can cling to your innocence and celebrate the fact that you are now free of this tremendous financial burden of having family members who love you unconditionally and who get dirt on your sheets and stuff.  You’re welcome.

What other ways could a shelter pay for care of seized animals without depriving citizens of due process?  Are cost of care laws acceptable because many, or even most, of those accused of animal cruelty will eventually be found guilty?  How much money could you come up with on short notice to pay your local shelter to cage your animals for months while you await trial?

Lost Pets in Michigan Lose State Protection

The distressingly bad and wealthy Michigan InHumane has been trying for years to get legislation changed to reduce and eliminate mandatory holding periods for lost pets in shelters.  (And when MHS hasn’t gotten its way, it just blatantly ignores the law.)  Its current proposed bill is terrible.

mi hb4915

Portion of terrible HB 4915 in Michigan.

Unfortunately, the state department of agriculture recently caved on the issue and announced it will no longer enforce the law regarding mandatory holding periods in shelters.

Meanwhile, Michigan rescue groups continue to import shelter pets from the south, citing “no pressing need” to help locally.

If you are a Michigan resident, please take action to protect lost pets from being abandoned or killed by your local shelter before their owners have a chance to find them.

(Thanks Clarice.)

Florida Dog Bite Statute May Be Ruled Unconstitutional Today Due to Mandatory Killing Aspect

Padi, as pictured on Facebook.

Padi, as pictured on Facebook.

Florida veterinarian Paul Gartenberg performed surgery on a stray dog who had a rusty chain embedded in his neck.  Although his intention was to find a home for the dog, he ended up falling in love with him so made the dog part of his family.  He named him Padi, due to the padlock on the embedded chain he was dragging when found.

Padi came to work every day with his owner and was beloved by hundreds of clients at the vet clinic.  In June, a 4 year old boy was interacting with Padi at the clinic.  At some point, Padi attempted to hide under a desk but the boy reportedly followed him into the tight space, lunged at the dog, and Padi bit off the child’s earlobe.  Padi was seized by Manatee Co Animal Services for killing:

The state’s “Damage By Dogs” statute says that a dog that bites a person without provocation is to be “immediately confiscated by an animal control authority, placed in quarantine, if necessary, for the proper length of time, or impounded and held for 10 business days after the owner is given written notification, and thereafter destroyed in an expeditious and humane manner.”

Dr. Gartenberg hired an attorney to fight in court for Padi’s right to live. After 11 weeks, Dr. Gartenberg received permission from the court to bring Padi home from the pound.  But the legal battle has continued, with Padi gaining support from many animal activists.

The legal argument being made on behalf of Padi is that the Florida statute requiring automatic killing is unconstitutional as it robs the owner of his due process – that is, a chance to offer a defense by explaining to a judge the circumstances of the bite.  There is a hearing scheduled in Manatee Co for this afternoon at 2:00 during which the judge could decide that the statute is unconstitutional.  In that case, Padi would be allowed to live.  State legislators are already working on amending the law.

Bringing Up from the Comments

Regarding the issue of animal shelters requiring proof of ownership in order to surrender/redeem pets, a reader commented:

If they ‘found’ a dog yesterday, got it vac for rabies today, and ‘surrendered’ to a shelter Tomorrow – presenting valid Rabies Vac as proof of ownership — will that make the dog theirs? should there be a 6 month limit on Rabies Vac before being accepted as ‘proof’ of ownership?
I would appreciate any reasonable suggestions or what your county/state is using as ‘Proof of Ownership’ Thanks!

Do you know if your state, county and/or city has any language on the books defining what constitutes proof of ownership with regard to surrendering and/or redeeming pets at shelters? I checked SC state law and could not find any references to the issue at all. I failed to find any relevant county ordinance either. In checking my county pound’s website, they have no information whatsoever on the surrender or redemption process. So I am operating on the assumption that my local pound falls under the Anything Goes protocol, probably based upon the whim of the person in charge of the pet killing facility at the time a person attempts to surrender or reclaim a pet.

Does your state, county or city have any laws addressing the issue of proof of ownership for shelter surrender/redemption? Does your local shelter set its own policies on that matter and if so, are they published online? Please share your location and whatever relevant info you have on this subject.

The War on Cats: Chicago Edition

Cat ID #A125956 at the Chicago pound, kisted as lost, as shown on PetHarbor

Cat ID #A125956 at the Chicago pound, listed under “Lost Pets”, as shown on PetHarbor.

In November 2014, the Chicago city council approved an ordinance which reduced the mandatory holding period for stray animals at Chicago Animal Care and Control. Stray dogs of unknown ownership now only get three days for their owners to find them. Stray cats of unknown ownership now get zero days. Litters of puppies aged four months and younger of unknown ownership (as well as their dams) also get zero days. Here are two relevant snippets from the ordinance, which can be read in full here:

chicago ordinance1

chicago ordinance2

At that time, Brad Powers, the assistant director at CACC, used the word “perfect” in describing the ordinance to local media:

“Based on analysis of best practices, and recommendation from a variety of shelter experts we think this ordinance strikes the perfect balance between giving a pet owner enough time to look for their lost pet, and giving the stray animal a better chance to be rescued or adopted,” Powers said.

To clarify, when it comes to lost cats, he’s saying that zero days is the perfect amount of time to give owners to find their family members. Now you know where you stand, cat owners.

But assurances were reportedly given that despite the language within the ordinance, animals would not be killed before five days:

When the city initially reached out to PAWS Chicago, one of multiple humane groups it consulted, about the change, founder and chair Paula Fasseas said the rescue organization’s first concern was that this move not increase or speed the number of animals being euthanized by the city, a concern that had been echoed in earlier city hearings on the matter. Those rules—that an animal brought into CACC cannot be euthanized for at least five days—Fasseas was assured, would not be changed.

Sounds like a slippery slope to me.

And a final GFY to cat owners from Fasseas:

For pet owners concerned the shorter hold could mean their lost animals would be at risk of being adopted by another family, Fasseas says the ordinance’s passage has the added benefit of encouraging microchipping, a practice she calls “critical.”

“[I]f owners are upset because the cat’s not being held for five days, then they should microchip their cat.”

And if you don’t like being poor, you should get a job as a banking executive you slouch.

In its recent newsletter sent to rescuers, CACC states that stray cats won’t be held:

Portion of the Chicago ACC newsletter that was recently sent to rescue groups.

Portion of the Chicago ACC newsletter that was recently sent to rescue groups.

CACC makes no mention of the promise that cats of unknown ownership won’t be killed before five days.  Slope, so slippery.

Chicago is the latest city to treat cats like second class pets by refusing to grant them equal protections as are provided to dogs.  And by extension, cat owners are treated as second class citizens with so-called animal welfare experts decreeing they must not love their pets as much as dog owners love theirs.  This is an unconscionable view and all those promoting it are diminishing pet owners’ rights.

The city employees at the Chicago pound need to do their jobs and protect lost pets from being harmed while their owners look for them – including the harm caused by breaking up families.  Shame on the city of Chicago for enacting this destructive ordinance and shame on CACC for failing to advocate for the lost pets in their care.

(Thank you Susan and Mary for sending me info on this story.)

Vote Watch: Virginia

Bill 1381 in Virginia is aimed at stopping PETA from hiding its massive pet killing facility in Norfolk behind the name “shelter”:

The bill would amend section 3.2-6500 of the Code of Virginia, adding language stating a private animal shelter “means a facility operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes and facilitating other lifesaving outcomes for animals.”

PETA kills almost all of the animals it gets its hands on and in 2014, had just a 1% adoption rate.  So while PETA’s pet killing facility clearly doesn’t qualify as a shelter by any stretch of the imagination, it continues to operate as one legally in VA.  Bill 1381 will change that.  The bill has already passed in the State Senate and the House is scheduled to vote on it today.

Why it matters:  If PETA can no longer dupe the public with claims that their surrendered animals are being taken to a “shelter” and will be rehomed when in fact the animals will most likely be killed, that’s a win for animals and a win for public awareness.  If the bill becomes law, it seems highly unlikely PETA would apply for a license to operate a slaughterhouse, which is basically the business they have been running there for homeless dogs and cats.  So unless PETA wants to begin actually doing the hard work of sheltering animals by finding them new homes, the group will presumably be forced out of the pet killing business.  Again:  a win for animals.

If you are a Virginia resident, contact your delegate in the House to voice your support for Bill 1381.

As soon as anyone sees news about the vote, please leave a comment.

Discussion: NH Bill Backed by HSUS

In New Hampshire, HSUS is promoting House Bill 624 which would require owners charged with cruelty to pay for their seized animals’ care while waiting for their day in court.  If the accused can’t afford to pay, they lose all rights to their animals, regardless of the outcome at trial. HB 624 would change the current law from requiring those convicted of cruelty to pay court costs to those accused. So much for presumed innocent, I guess.

The bill reportedly has support from the state’s animal shelters, which often house the seized animals and determine the fees associated with their care.  The officers citing the owners for cruelty are typically closely affiliated with the shelters.  The cruelty citations, seizure, cost determination and forfeiture would potentially all be handled by a very small, tightly knit group of individuals.  All without the accused ever receiving the benefit of a trial.

HB 624 is scheduled to come before the House Environment and Agriculture Committee on Friday.

Anyone see any possible up side to this bill?  Nothing jumps out at me.

Charleston City Council Considers Bill Allowing the City to Steal Owned Cats

In West Virginia, Charleston city council’s ordinance and rules committee passed a draconian cat bill this week and sent it to the full city council for consideration.  How extreme is it, you ask?

Assistant city attorney Mandi Carter said the ordinance is different from the city’s already-on-the-books animal nuisance ordinances in that it gives the city the power to pick up and impound cats on private property without permission.

The bill includes fines for cat owners but fails to define how ownership is to be determined.  It also fails to address community cats – free living cats not socialized to people whose home is the outdoors – the group that is presumably the source of most of the complaints the city receives about cats.

The sole nay vote on the committee came from at-large Councilman Chris Dodrill:

“I totally understand that the perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good. But I also don’t think we should pass bad laws just to do something,”

Councilman Joe Deneault told the local paper, in essence, the council should pass bad laws just to do something:

“We’ve been looking for a perfect solution forever, and we haven’t even come close to finding it. This is a measure toward some solution. It may not be perfect, but it is certainly better than doing nothing,” he said.

And when he says forever, he means not forever.  Councilman Dodrill:

“We talk about this once a year for an hour. … I think we can work harder and figure something else out that’s going to work.”

On top of all this, the shelter and police department responsible for enforcing the proposed ordinance say they do not have the cage space or humane officers to do so. And even if they did, enforcing such a law would be a waste of time anyway:

“If time is spent on cat calls, there are animal control concerns, safety concerns, that go unattended in the community. So, vicious dogs; dog fighting; children being bit by animals. And when so much time is spent on cat issues, true animal control public safety issues go unanswered,” [Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association Director Chelsea] Staley said.

Ms. Staley told the committee that residents can use things like citrus and coffee grounds on their property to discourage cats from entering. Some guy who spoke in support of the ordinance wanted to know if irresponsible cat owners were going to foot the bill for the orange peels and the stuff left in the coffee filter that otherwise goes in the trash. Sounds like there was legitimate debate anyway.

The Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association has put up an online petition calling for the bill to be tabled and replaced by something that makes a tiny bit of sense and doesn’t include stealing people’s cats.

If the Charleston city council would scrap this bill and be willing to consider a TNR program for its community cats, I would personally pledge to send my used citrus fruits and coffee grounds to that one guy worried about the cost.  Win-win?

(Thanks Clarice and Anne for the links.)