Tuesday, April 8, 2008

ASDA on Oprah's 101 Rescues

Ms. X's comments: this is very long, but starting about the middle is a great layout detailing how conditions in puppymills violate existing laws. Mr. Yates points out the the "kennels" from the Oprah show were no different. They were operating in violation of existing Pennsylvania law. Mr. Yates and the ASDA are quite correct in instigating an investigation. I hope they succeed.

Now, without further ado...


American Sporting Dog Alliance Seeks Investigation Of Kennels In Oprah Report

Asks U.S. And PA Attorney Generals To Find Out Why, Prosecute

American Sporting Dog Alliance

An April 4 report on the Oprah Winfrey Show was a scathing indictment of abuses in Pennsylvania puppy mills, but it failed to ask or answer the most basic and important question.

How can this horrible situation happen in light of tough existing state and federal kennel and animal cruelty laws?

The American Sporting Dog Alliance is asking U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett to find out the answer to that question, and to prosecute anyone who is responsible for not requiring the kennels portrayed on Winfrey's show to follow the law.

Every kennel in Pennsylvania must follow stringent state kennels regulations, and also comply with more than 60 pages of federal kennel regulations if puppies are sold to pet stores or dealers. In addition, every dog in Pennsylvania is protected by a comprehensive animal cruelty law, and everyone who buys a puppy from any source is protected by a "lemon law."

The report on the Winfrey show by special reporter Lisa Ling showed video footage of several puppy mills in Pennsylvania. All of those kennels were operating in clear violation of existing laws. None of the terrible and heart-breaking things shown in the report would be happening if current laws were being enforced.

The video footage makes it crystal clear that the kennels were operating in open and flagrant defiance of existing laws.

Why aren't those laws being enforced? Is someone protecting these kennels from the law? Are these kennels licensed and inspected? If so, have dog wardens and animal cruelty police officers been ordered to ignore these kennels? Why haven't rescue groups that obtain surplus dogs from these kennels on a regular basis reported them to authorities? Has there been a cover-up?

We are quite surprised that Winfrey and Ling didn't ask or answer those basic questions.

The American Sporting Dog Alliance (ASDA) can't answer those questions, either. We don't have a crystal ball, but we do know the laws. We have spent hundreds of hours studying existing kennel and cruelty laws, and have worked with our committee of attorneys to be able to interpret them correctly. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, existing laws could have shut down every commercial kennel shown on the Winfrey show, protected the dogs and resulted in prosecution of their owners.

ASDA also believes that everyone in America who loves dogs and is concerned about their welfare has a right to demand answers to those basic questions.

Thus, we are asking the U.S. and Pennsylvania attorney generals to intervene.

We believe that an independent investigation is required because the agencies that should have enforced the laws cannot investigate themselves objectively, and because the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement answers directly to Gov. Rendell, who has close personal, political and financial ties to the Main Line Rescue Group in Chester County, PA.

Main Line Treasurer William Smith was the primary source on the Winfrey/Ling report and escorted Ling on a guided tour through every step of making the report. Main Line Vice President Marsha Perelman has social ties to Rendell and contributed a reported $7,500 to his election campaign. Thus, any investigation by the Rendell Administration would be clouded by the potential for conflicts of interest.

The Winfrey/Ling report was enough to break anyone's heart. This reporter has seen some terrible things in 20 years of hard news and investigative reporting, but I couldn't hold back tears several times during the Oprah Show.

Non-stop video images showed dogs in cramped and crowded quarters, turning exercise wheels like caged gerbils, wallowing in mud, suffering from untreated illnesses and injuries, being unable to walk on solid ground after a lifetime on wire floors, showing fear of people, and victimized by having pipes rammed down their throats to destroy their vocal chords to stop barking.

All of these situations are in clear violation of existing laws, yet Ling apparently never asked Main Line's Bill Smith to explain the contradiction between kennel conditions and the law as he led her from kennel to kennel to film the report.

This reporter was deeply impressed by the depth and intensity of caring about these animals shown by both Winfrey and Ling, and commends them for bringing animal welfare issues before a national audience of millions of people. This reporter also has great respect for Winfrey's sincerity and love of animals.

However, it also seems that the intensity of their emotions may have gotten in the way of asking tough and objective questions to get to the bottom of this issue. It also was apparent that they were being manipulated and used by animal rights groups to advance a hidden agenda that is not what it appears to be on the surface.

A review of existing laws shows why tough questions should have been asked of the sources for this report. Strangely, the Oprah team never went to the key source for accurate information: The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.

"Neither the Department of Agriculture nor Dog Law Officials were contacted at any point to participate in the show or provide information or comments about what is being featured," Bureau Deputy Director Jessie Smith wrote to ASDA on Sunday. "We do not know at this point all of the kennels featured and whether or not they are state licensed."

In Pennsylvania, the law says animal cruelty means someone who "wantonly or cruelly ill(-)treats, overloads, beats, otherwise abuses any animal, or neglects any animal as to which he has a duty of care, whether belonging to himself or otherwise, or abandons any
animal, or deprives any animal of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter or veterinary care, or access to clean and sanitary shelter which will protect the animal against inclement weather and preserve the animal's body heat and keep it dry."

Almost all of the abuses shown in the Winfrey/Ling report would fall under this definition, and the alleged practice of tearing out dog's vocal chords is covered by another section on mutilation and disfiguring. Legal precedent clearly has been set for all of these problems, and literally dozens of cases are successfully prosecuted each year under this law in Pennsylvania. The law also provides for forfeiture of any animals that are in danger, and fines and possible imprisonment for someone who is found guilty of violating this law.

Main Line's website has a page devoted to what people can do to stop animal cruelty. After describing cruelty in much the same way as it was shown on the Oprah Show, the Main Line website says: "Don't sit by, day after day, and watch your neighbor's pet suffer, call the proper authorities and report the abuse. Again, the police WILL act on anonymous tips."

We must wonder why Bill Smith doesn't follow his own advice. On the Oprah show, he told of building long-term relationships with these puppy mills, so that they would allow him to rescue any dogs that are no longer wanted by the kennel owner. While those relationships allow Smith to rescue some dogs, shutting them down under animal cruelty laws would allow all of the dogs to be rescued, and eliminate the problem once and for all. There are six registered animal cruelty police officers for Chester County, and all of them are only a phone call away.

Smith also brought one of his own dogs onstage. The dog, named Shrimp, was happy and healthy, but a photo showed him near death when Smith took him from a mill. Did Smith report Shrimp's mill for cruelty to animals? The dog clearly had been treated in an inhumane manner.

Is Smith protecting these kennels? If so, why? Are revenues from adoption fees for these rescued dogs, plus invaluable publicity for fund-raising to cover a reported $2.3 million construction project and political lobbying for the animal rights agenda, factors in Smith's silence on this issue? We don't know the answer to any of these questions, but we are urging Attorney Generals Mukasey and Corbett to find out.

Animal cruelty laws are only one part of the picture. State kennel laws apply to every kennel that keeps 26 or more dogs over the course of a year, and all of the kennels in the Winfrey/Ling report clearly would require state licensure and, at a minimum, at least two inspections a year.

If these kennels are licensed, we must ask why the regulations are not being enforced. If they are not licensed, we must ask why Smith and other people at Main Line haven't turned them in to the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement. An unlicensed kennel is breaking the law. It can be shut down immediately and a fine of up to $500 for each day of noncompliance can be ordered. Any dog that is deemed to be in danger can be seized and protected under the law.

State kennel regulations set strong standards for health care, food and water, cleanliness, and pen sizes, and numerous violations were observed at the kennels filmed by Ling and her associates.

The report clearly showed numerous situations where several dogs were crammed into tiny cages with wire bottoms. Wire bottoms are legal, but they must be coated with vinyl, the holes in the wire must not allow dogs' feet to pass through them, and resting boards must be provided. From the films taken by Ling, none of these requirements appeared to be met.

Kennel size requirements also weren't met. The minimum legal enclosure size is based on a complicated formula, but in general requires four square feet for each small dog, eight square feet for each medium-sized dog, and 12 square feet for each large dog. None of the cages shown in the Oprah report would even come close to meeting this legal requirement.

The law also mandates special size requirements for females with puppies: "Each bitch with nursing puppies shall be provided with an additional amount of floor space, based on her breed and behavioral characteristics, and in accordance with generally accepted husbandry practices as determined by the attending veterinarian. If the additional amount of floor space for each nursing puppy is less than 5% of the minimum requirement for the bitch, the housing shall be approved by the attending veterinarian.approved by the attending vet showed several clear violations of this provision.

Why are these violations being allowed to continue? Are dog wardens failing to enforce the law? Or, are they being told to back off from certain kennels?

Again, we don't know the answers, but are asking for an investigation to find out. We do know that a dog warden has been assigned to Chester County, and is being backed up by a special team of wardens and attorneys created specifically to investigate and prosecute puppy mills in that part of the state. We also know that Gov. Rendell has mandated a crackdown on non-compliant kennels, and the number of citations for unsatisfactory conditions issued increased by 10-percent statewide last year alone. In other parts of the state, dog wardens are being specifically instructed to issue citations for every violation.

We commend the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement for doing an overall fine job to protect dogs in Pennsylvania kennels, and also commend the Bureau and Gov. Rendell for stepping up enforcement of the laws.

This reporter has personally known six Pennsylvania dog wardens and two regional supervisors. None of these dedicated and honest professionals would have ignored the situations shown in the Oprah report.

Then why are the kennels shown in the Oprah report falling through the cracks? We are asking Attorney General Corbett to find out.

State kennel regulations are only a part of the regulatory picture. All commercial kennels that sell wholesale to pet stores or dealers also must have a federal kennel license and comply with 60 pages of U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations. These kennels are inspected at least once a year by a team of USDA officials that includes a veterinarian.

The federal regulations cover many of the same protections as their counterparts in Pennsylvania. They set stringent requirements for food, water, sanitation, cleanliness, construction and kennel sizes. The kennels depicted on the Oprah Show also completely fail to meet the test of these federal regulations.

In the report, Smith emphasized that many of the dogs never get out of their kennels, and some can't even walk on solid ground after a lifetime on wire. The film footage verified his claim.

However, there is no explanation about why this situation is allowed to continue, as it clearly violates federal regulations.

The federal rules require that all dogs over 12 weeks of age must be given the chance for exercise, and a plan for doing this must be approved by the kennel's veterinarian. There are several ways that the requirements for exercise can be met, including by larger cage

For a single dog, a cage twice as large as the minimum requirement would suffice. For a cage that houses several dogs, the total space would have to be the combined total of the space required for each of those dogs individually. None of the cages shown on the Winfrey/Ling report would meet those requirements. None would even come close.

In the report, Smith said the worst kennel he has seen uses wheel-shaped treadmills to exercise dogs. Graphic film footage was shown to prove his point.

However, Smith failed to mention that such devices are a specific violation of existing federal regulations, which say: "Forced exercise methods or devices such as swimming, treadmills, or
carousel-type devices are unacceptable…ca

The federal regulations also encourage – and for many dogs require – human interaction and contact with the dogs.

At one point in the broadcast, Ling asked Smith if a lot of dogs die from the cold in the winter. Smith said that they do.

Smith did not say that both state and federal regulations, as well as the animal cruelty law, offer very specific and stringent requirements to protect dogs from extremes of weather. Dogs that are housed in indoor facilities must be in a climate-controlled environment, and outdoor kenneling is banned for dogs that are not used to the weather, or which are elderly, infirm or of vulnerable breeds.

Smith also alleged that mill owners routinely shoot dogs that are no longer useful. This is a violation of the federal regulations, which require euthanasia to be done only by a veterinarian.

There is not even a shadow of a doubt that all of the kennels shown on the Winfrey/Ling report could have been – and should have been – shut down under existing animal cruelty laws, and both state and federal kennel regulations.

But they were not shut down. Was justice obstructed? Or was it simply an accident? We want Attorney Generals Mukasey and Corbett to find out why.

If these laws are not being enforced, or if they are being enforced selectively, new laws are not the answer. The answer is to commit the money, resources and supervision necessary to enforce the current laws. New laws will not fix a system that is broken. They simply will add to its list of failures.

Within the next few days, The American Sporting Dog Alliance will release our proposal for making the current system do its job better. This proposal will include amendments to regulations that will triple minimum cage sizes, clarify that the sizes must be increased if more than one dogs is put in a cage, ban the use of wire flooring of any kind, restructure the enforcement of Pennsylvania kennels laws to require dog wardens to be law enforcement professionals, and to use a $15 million Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement budget surplus to make sure the job gets done right.

While the Oprah report was about puppy mills, it gives a black eye to all kennels in Pennsylvania, the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, Gov. Rendell, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The American Sporting Dog Alliance believes that black eye was intentional, even though that was not the intention of Winfrey and Ling. It was the intention of the animal rights groups that used Winfrey and Ling to accomplish their camouflaged true agenda.

Another guest on the Oprah show was Wayne Pacelle, who heads the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS is not like a local humane society, which is set up to help animals. HSUS is a political group that is organized to push for an animal rights agenda.

On the Oprah show, Pacelle showed his public relations skills of trying to appear moderate and caring. Before he entered the public spotlight, however, he showed his true colors in several interviews with groups that share the same agenda.

Here is one example from Animal People Magazine: "We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding ...One generation and out. We have no problems with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding."

Thus speaks this so-called friend of animals. Perhaps he forgot to inform Oprah about his real beliefs.

Here is another quote from Pacelle that might surprise Oprah: "I don't have a hands-on fondness for animals…To this day I don't feel bonded to any non-human animal. I like them and I pet them and I'm kind to them, but there's no special bond between me and other animals… In fact, I don't want to see another dog or cat born."

Dog lovers have been led to believe that new and tougher laws are needed to protect animals. As we demonstrated above, current laws are more than adequate to protect dogs, if they are enforced. If the problem is enforcement, then fix the enforcement problem. Creating new laws will simply create more enforcement problems.

Those new laws are not aimed at puppy mills. They are aimed directly at everyone who breeds, owns or works with dogs. The laws are deliberately written to confuse and burden all kennel owners, and impose irrational, meaningless, time-consuming and often impossible demands on them. The penalty provisions are meant to impose frightening liabilities that can destroy good people's lives for even minor infractions.

I wish I had the opportunity to sit down with Winfrey and Ling over a pot of coffee and go over both existing and proposed laws line by line with them. I believe I could convince them that they are being misled and used to accomplish an animal rights agenda that they would find horrifying and in direct opposition to their own love for animals.

The clear goal of animal rights groups is to completely eliminate the ownership of animals in America. That goal has been stated clearly by their spokespersons thousands of times on the public record. There is no doubt about this agenda whatsoever.

The problem is that people who love animals are not being told the truth by the animal rights groups. They are being told that the proposed new laws will help animals.

What they aren't being told is that the true intention of the proposed laws is to drastically reduce the number of animals in America, eliminate breeding of dogs by anyone for any purpose, and then to spay or neuter all of the survivors.

As Pacelle put it, "one generation and out."

If we were talking about human beings, it would be called genocide.

The American Sporting Dog Alliance works to protect the rights of people who own and work with dogs of the breeds commonly used for hunting. Our grassroots approach is based on informing hundreds of thousands of people about the issues, and then empowering them to take direct action as citizens. Please visit us on the web at
(http://www.americansportingdogalliance.org./) Your participation and membership are vital. We maintain strict independence and are funded only by the donations of our members.


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