Author Topic: What's Wrong with Limiting Breeding?  (Read 629 times)


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What's Wrong with Limiting Breeding?
« on: January 23, 2008, 03:44:00 PM »
[I know this is a topic that can be contradictory and confusing; we don't like "puppy mills" but at the same time, we don't want to legislate against them....  As usual, Walt Hutchens has gotten to the heart of the matter in clear, straightforward terms.]

On another list someone said (paraphrasing ...):
> > 50 dogs, 20 litters -- that's too many to take good care of, find
> > homes for ... why would hobbyists oppose a law that just stops
> > people from breeding way too much?

That's logical thinking and it's the reason that hobby breeding could be gone in Virginia within a few years, possibly even on July 1 of this year.

The problem with HB 538 (which would catch anyone with 20 females at any time during the year and set a limit of 50 dogs at any time, puppies not counted) is that under the rules in the law, both large scale USDA class 'A' (some are sold at wholesale) breeding and the next level, large  direct-sales-only breeding, are impossible. Here's the link to the proposed law again; check it out and see if you think dog farmers could make money following these rules:

(Plain text is EXISTING law, italics are NEW law, and strikethrough text is REMOVED ... THIS HAS BEEN AMENDED AND WE DON'T HAVE THE AMENDMENTS YET)

Now basic economics says that affected sellers can just raise their prices. The trouble is that the wholesale (USDA class 'A') market is regional. If a wholesaler raises his prices, the next step up the chain buys his puppies somewhere else -- say from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina ...

So our wholesale breeders are not just made more expensive, they are gone.

The direct sales people don't have such a big price problem; those that could get a bank loan to make the improvements could pass on the cost to  customers.  The trouble is that these operations typically sell from one to a few hundred puppies per year.  The limit of 50 adults at any time during the year gets them down around 35 bitches for a limit of ~25 litters or 125 puppies a year.  This would be a considerable pay cut for many of them; it puts them in a different (smaller) business.

The true 'backyard' commercial breeder -- a few dogs, a few litters a year, mom does it in her spare time -- would be fine.

So HB 538 is effectively a ban on large-scale breeding of dogs in Virginia. Using estimates of the various numbers, I calculate about a 20% shortage of puppies would result.

What would happen? (Back to basic economics again!) A shortage would make the price go up and new suppliers would enter the marketplace. Those suppliers would be:

1. Out of state and in some (an unknown fraction of) cases, out of the country: Out of state breeders can't be touched by Virginia law and foreign breeders may have no animal welfare laws at all.

Virginia's puppy lemon law could be used against pet shops in the state but not against sellers who don't do business here but sell direct to the family -- a growing fraction of sales.

2. Gypsies: "Buy a couple litters at a farm in West Virginia (or South Carolina, or ...) and sell them at a fleamarket in Virginia" -- or just over the state line in another state.  We can make a law against selling pets at fleamarkets, sure we can.  Can we enforce it?

3. New fairly small in-state breeders. Many of these people will be brand new to breeding ("Hey, you just put a couple dogs together and in 12-13 weeks you sell the puppies ...") and many of them will be looking to make a fast buck. You reckon they'll give a good guarantee?

Furthermore, they're going to know about the 19-female/year limit from the beginning and they're going to discover very quickly that you can make a lot more money with 50 or 75 females. So they'll be back in the woods in a shed with "POSTED -- NO TRESPASSING" signs on the fence, and when the nice man from animal control comes to the door of the trailer up front, they'll say "No, thank you, I don't care for a voluntary inspection today." So A/C has to find probable cause, go to a judge, and get a warrant. Yeah, it can be done, but it's very expensive and an operation this small is awfully portable. Virginia has a lot of woods big enough to hold a couple of singlewides or pole sheds.

Since these folks will be hiding from the law anyhow, do you think they're going to be careful about complying with Virginia's animal welfare laws?

SO ... the immediate (say 3-5 years) results of HB 538 passing would be:

1. Higher prices for dogs.  (No commercial breeding of cats here, so no immediate effect.)

2. Poorer quality dogs due to more ignorant no-guarantee breeding and selling.  More unhappy families, more vet expenses.

3. Increased enforcement expense.

4. A lot fewer sellers where buyers will be able to meet mom and see the breeding operation.

5. Worse animal welfare because a greater fraction of breeding will be either out of Virginia's reach or hidden.

And the only good thing?  Well ... we got rid of those 'puppy mills,' didn't we?

Virginia hobby breeders will be in tall cotton for a few years -- we'll be able to raise prices by maybe 50% -- HEY, WE'LL MAKE MONEY!

Then ... 2013. Newspaper stories about all the problems. Abuse of the animals, poor quality, sick puppies and no breeder to go back to, breeder had moved on and couldn't be found, color photos of cute three year old girl dressed in pink, crying, holding dead puppy ... HSUS RIDES TO THE RESCUE AGAIN, proposing "Jennifer's Law," so named for the little girl in pink. Anyone selling puppies in Virginia, wholesale, retail, hobby, whatever, must be licensed and inspected by animal control. HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle writes newspaper pieces, calls on lawmakers to take action ... "Our undercover team found dozens of abusive breeding operations" and (ready, everybody?) "Virginia is for

Of course our General Assembly COULD repeal HB 538, but who's going to push that?  The hobbyists are in hiding, the big breeders are all gone, and the new small breeders are making good money.  "Jennifer's Law" would be likely to pass.  And goodbye hobby breeding ...

Goodbye hobby breeding of cats too.

Things could be even worse: I expect to know in a few hours if "Jennifer's Law" (requiring inspection of every breeder from the very start) got rolled into HB 538. It was in HB 691 so it could be.

You see why many Virginia hobbyists who would never come close to 20 females in a year are fighting HB 538? Even our state federation of dog clubs (VFDC&B) is opposing it. None of us thinks commercially bred dogs are as good as hobby bred ones, but we realize that there aren't enough hobbyist puppies to go around. If we try to squash one kind of commercial breeding overnight, we are going to get another and much nastier kind, in exchange.

If we truly want to get rid of the farm breeding of pet dogs, then we have to do it from the other end: PROMOTE hobby and home bred pups and INCREASE THE SUPPLY by recruiting more people who want to breed as a hobby and/or at home. Mentoring programs, web sites, advertising, celeb endorsements, get anti-home breeding laws (zoning, pet limit laws) changed ...

AKC please copy. But we need to realize that if all the issues in the world of dogs were to go 'poof' overnight, the animal rights movement would still be out there, chugging away, trying to pass laws to get rid of pets. If facts don't work, they're perfectly happy with lies.

Walt Hutchens
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Jennifer Walker
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