Monday, March 09, 2009

Breeding Contempt

It is time for me to cover the last animal control proposal: Breeder permits. This proposal has a host of problems.

The original language requires a $100 breeders permit for anyone that "sells, trades, or gives away" the offspring of their unaltered dog or cat. This is problematic for a number of reasons. First, it penalizes a person whose pet gets pregnant before they can get it neutered. I have seen where many veterinarian organizations are recommending adolescent neutering but not many people do this. Many times neutering a pet is an economic decision. Save up to get the pet neutered or wait until the animal shelter is offering vouchers again and gamble that princess doesn't get pregnant. If they lose the bet, the pet owner has to keep the offspring until they can get their pet neutered. That could be a problem.

This problem affects rescuers as well. They rescue a dog or cat that was mistreated and had pups or kittens. It may take a long time to nurse that animal to where it is healthy enough to be neutered. Until the rescued animal is either sterilized, transferred to another owner or euthanized, the rescuer is stuck with the offspring or forced to buy a breeders permit for an animal he won't be keeping. No exception. No appeal.

The original language also makes it more difficult to convict a puppy mill operator. Even if they advertise in the paper they have pets for sale, unless you can prove they actually sold, traded or gave away an animal, you only have intent to be a breeder. It is likely the city will add the words "offers for" to the sells, trades, or gives away which will effectively close that loophole but you still have a problematic breeders ordinance. There is another loophole because a breeder is defined as someone that owns an unaltered animal and sells, trades or gives away the offspring. If the breeder gives away the unaltered animal to a friend first, then they can sell the offspring with no problem. The friend can then give the unaltered animal back once all the offspring are sold. Irresponsible breeders will game the system and they can be very good at finding loopholes. Which brings me to my next point.

There is an overlooked group of pet owners I will call the hobby breeders. These include people that participate in dog and cat shows. These shows require that the animals are unaltered. In addition, many owners of hunting and working dogs don't want to neuter their dogs because they feel it affects their natural hunting and herding instincts. We have vasectomies in our ordinances as an acceptable method of sterilization because of just this issue. These hobby breeders are not in it to make money. This is not their business. It is frequently their passion. They do breed and sell some animals. The breeding is frequently in an attempt to produce a better animal whether for show or for work. Some hobbyists I know spend more money on their animals and shows then they will ever make selling animals. These hobbyists don't breed for money, they breed for the love of their animals and hobby. They take pride in their animals and care for them properly. With few exceptions, they are good neighbors.

Hobby breeders as a rule try to work with the government and other groups to solve animal control problems. They will reluctantly accept a small permit fee and reasonable inspections as long as they can see some value to the city and to themselves. I don't think that the proposed ordinance changes as they stand today will be seen that way. They will be seen as inflexible, arbitrary, punitive, and invasive, and not really addressing the problem. The problem is not with what a puppy mill or hoarder has but what they do with what they have. Most of the suggested ordinance changes do not address the bad behaviors.

In my next article I will give you my thoughts on the changes I think the code of ordinances needs to address these animal control problems.

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