Local Animal Groups Bark at Blake For His Vote on 'Puppy Mill' Bill
Supporters of the "puppy mill" bill see it as a measure to abolish another form of animal abuse.
Opponents see it as another regulatory nightmare and argue that existing laws address the issue.
State Sen. Harris Blake was perplexed last week when his office was bombarded with calls and e-mails from animal lovers angry because he had voted against Senate Bill 460, dubbed the Commercial Dog Breeder Regulation bill.
"I grew up on a farm where we had dogs. I've always loved dogs," Blake said.
But he also grew up in a hunting atmosphere making him sensitive to the interests of foxhunters and others who raise dogs for hunting purposes.
"Foxhunting was a big deal with me," the Pinehurst Republican said.
Blake said he had heard from people representing both sides of the issue. He expressed opposition to any form of animal abuse but said there are federal, state and local laws already on the books that could be used to control such conditions. Among the groups opposing the bill is the Moore County Hounds.
The bill passed the Senate by a narrow margin on its third reading Wednesday. The vote was 23-22 with Sen. David Weinstein, one of the bill's co-sponsors, changing his vote from yes to no on the final reading. Weinstein is a Democrat from Robeson County.
State Rep. Jamie Boles agrees with Blake that existing laws are sufficient to protect commercially raised dogs from abusive treatment and conditions.
Bill's Fate Uncertain
The Senate bill passed the first reading in the House Wednesday and was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Small Business and Entrepreneurship. A committee substitute received a favorable vote and the bill was re-referred to the Finance Committee.
With the Senate already adjourned and the House expected to adjourn early next week, the bill's fate is uncertain for this session.
The Senate bill had bipartisan backing. A similar bill with Democrats as sponsors was introduced in the House in March but apparently died in the Committee on Rules, Calendars and Operations.
The bill has the enthusiastic backing of several animal welfare organizations, and members were being urged to call or e-mail their legislators and ask them to vote for the bill, written to do away with puppy mills, the term applied to dog breeding operations that raise puppies in cramped and unhealthy conditions for quick sale.
Animal Advocates of Moore County and other organizations secured 1,200 signatures on a petition supporting the bill. In an e-mail to Blake, Maureen Burke-Horansky said those 1,200 animal lovers are unhappy over his vote.
"Surely you have seen the pictures of how these poor souls who are God's creation are forced to live their entire lives in a cage -- NEVER LEAVING -- until they die or are killed," Burke said in the e-mail. "Dogs have no voice, and they cannot tell their pastor or priest about their plight. They can only let us know by their sad eyes and horrible body conditions."
Failure to pass the bill "would be inhumane, cruel and unlike a North Carolina senator who lives in Moore County," she said.
Amanda Arrington, state director of the Humane Society of the United States, identified the Farm Bureau, Pork Council, National Rifle Association, and American Kennel Club among opponents of the bill. She circulated information about the bill to local animal welfare groups through e-mails.
Blake calls the bill another level of regulation that would place an unnecessary hardship on many people and groups who do not raise dogs in inhumane surroundings.
'Couldn't Satisfy Both'
The state senator, whose district encompasses Moore and Harnett counties, said he is aware that he has constituents on both sides of this issue.
"They're fine people. I'm sorry that I couldn't vote to satisfy both sides," he said.
The original bill was amended after the N.C. Department of Agriculture, which would be charged with responsibility for administering the law, objected to provisions that would be unwieldy and expensive. The bill called for NCDA personnel to audit all registered commercial breeders. Commercial breeders would be required to register with the NCDA and pay a $50 registration fee.
Provisions of the bill include penalties for failure to provide adequate housing, exercise, feed, water, veterinary care and to meet other needs of dogs and puppies. It would apply to commercial breeding operations but would exclude kennels or establishments operated for the purpose of boarding or training hunting, sporting, herding, show or working dogs.
The bill was developed in response to a highly publicized case in which a Wayne County breeder was found with 100 breeder dogs confined in filthy, crowded and unhealthy conditions.
"There are laws on the books to deal with it. In that case, the county could have moved in and taken charge," Blake said.
Supporters of the bill argue that the dire conditions in that case could have been avoided if the state had adequate laws to control commercial dog breeders.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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