Author Topic: VA - HB 538 Passes Virginia House of Delegates  (Read 618 times)

Newcastle

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VA - HB 538 Passes Virginia House of Delegates
« on: February 09, 2008, 01:19:53 PM »
(NOTE: I think Bob has the vote wrong -- our correspondent says there were three 'NAYs' on the HB 538 vote.  W.H.)

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A VHDOA message to dog owning sportsmen about protecting their traditions, avocations and livelihoods from anti-hunting, anti-breeding, animal guardianship advocates. Forwarding and cross posting, with attribution, encouraged.

Dear Virginia Dog Owners,

The Humane Society of the United State (HSUS) is about to gain in Virginia what it couldn't in years of Washington, DC lobbying, a hobby dog breeder licensing and inspection regulation. HB538 was reported this morning by a 7-1 vote from House Appropriations Economic Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources* *Subcommittee of Cox (Chairman), Morgan, Hogan, Abbitt, O'Bannon, Phillips, Dance, Shannon. *Only Delegate Abbitt voted against HB538*. The subcommittee incredibly didn't review HB538's fiscal impacts, its raison d'être (reason for being). Instead it permitted a replay of the emotional puppy mill stories from the Agriculture Committee hearings and totally ignored the bill's significant unfunded new regulatory requirements on Virginia counties and cities. See attached analysis. Also ignored were expressions of concern and requests not to report filed this week by at least one city and multiple counties.

A few cosmetic, non-substantive changes were made in today's subcommittee. The commercial dog breeder definition was raised from 20 females to 30, and the adult dog 50 limit now specifies one year, rather than four months. The amended bill still deserved to die. HB538 duplicates the federal licensing system that registers and inspects most dog breeders with four (4) or more females about whom a legitimate complaint has been received or those businesses that voluntarily self-register. USDA-APHIS has 5700+ Class A breeders that it monitors and inspects at least once per year, including 14 in Virginia. The feds did 10,000 inspections last year, checking compliance with 60 pages of detailed dog care standards.

Junior Horton in Carroll County, the HSUS puppy mill cause célèbre, was well known to authorities and the ACO there for years. He had a business license, a 500 dog kennel permit, five employees, bought dog food by the ton and advertised puppies in newspapers and on the Internet. He should have been federally licensed and inspection by law, but wasn't. Of that there's no dispute. That situation was a local political problem, not a federal enforcement shortfall. At any time, someone could have brought him to the USDA's attention. Three months after the HSUS November 1st "raid," there still hasn't been a formal complaint lodged, nor has the local ACO returned to that facility, which is still selling puppies. The fourteen USDA licensed and inspected VA dog breeders are listed on the USDA-APHIS website. This isn't some mysterious, unknown or unaccountable animal welfare service, just one the State Veterinarian's Office and ACOs need to learn about, rather than being asked to supplant, or duplicate the federal program at great cost to local taxpayers

They'll be time for more thorough and studied postmortems later, but my personal gripes just now involve the only identified dog owner group to support HB538, the Virginia Foxhound Club, and the Virginia Association of Counties http://www.vaco.org/. VACO committed to oppose HB538 this week and reneged today. The Middleburg based Virginia
Foxhound Club and its Masters of Foxhounds Association affiliated members should be dragged behind their horses for advancing HSUS's anti-dog owner agenda.

Thank you for your individual efforts over these last trying weeks. We were up against HSUS's five paid Richmond professional lobbyists, its DC personnel and numerous very well coordinated local semi-pro activists.

Forward and cross post freely.

Sincerely,
Bob Kane, President
Virginia Hunting Dog Owners' Association
Chairman Emeritus, Sportsmen and Animal Owners' Voting Alliance
http://vhdoa.uplandbirddog.com http://saova.org
Jennifer Walker
Newcastle Boxers, Reg'd
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Newcastle

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VA - HB 538 Passes Virginia House of Delegates
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2008, 03:33:41 PM »
The subject line about says it all. Following hearings in House Agriculture and House Appropriations Committees where the average reaction was "We have to hear objections, but let's get it over with quickly," both committees passed the bill. HB 538, 'PAWS PLUS for Virginia' was passed today by the House of Delegates, 91Y-6N.

It will now go to the Senate where we expect it to be heard on Monday the 18th in the Senate Agriculture Committee.  THIS DATE WON'T BE KNOWN FOR SURE UNTIL SOMETIME THIS FRIDAY.

The bill was slightly amended during its trip through the House of Delegates.  The bill itself may be read at:

http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?081+ful+HB538H2

As usual, italics are added language, strikethrough is deleted, and plain text is existing law -- no point in griping about that!

In current form, HB 538:

1. Defines as a 'commercial breeder' anyone "who, during any 12-month period, maintains 30 or more adult female dogs for the primary purpose of the sale of their offspring as companion animals."

2. Limits commercial breeders as defined to "maintain no more than 50 dogs over the age of one year at any time."  There's the 'PLUS' part -- PAWS had no maximum limit; HB 538 says that even a licensed commercial breeder cannot exceed 50 dogs at any one time.

3. Requires commercial breeders to "be subject to inspection by animal control at least twice annually and additionally upon receipt of a complaint or their own motion to ensure compliance with state and federal animal care laws and  regulations."

4. Makes a number of other expensive requirements such as pre-breeding exams for all bitches done by a veterinarian, vets must do euthanasia when required, no breeding before age 18 months or after 8 years, and more.

Earlier versions of the bill included very expensive requirements for approved fire suppression systems and evacuation plans.  It's possible that this provision will be amended back in, in the Senate.

I'm sure that most hobby breeders think that requiring commercial breeders to operate at a much smaller scale would be good for the dogs.  The problem is that much smaller is much less profitable.  In fact, a 30-40 bitch operation would be a large part-time extra income one, not a full time, full income family farm.  So what's going to happen when we wipe out the 50-100 (my estimate) family dog farming operations in Virginia?

1. There'll be something like a 20% shortage of puppies.

2. Importing will partly fill the gap,

3. Slightly increased breeding by home breeders with fewer than 29 females will take another piece, and,

4. Illegal but hidden 'puppy moonshiners' will take care of the rest.

My guess is that in three years you'll find exactly three kinds of breeder in Virginia:

1. Today's hobbyists, who will be breeding about 10% more than they are today and making WONDERFUL money.  Most hobbyists are probably where we (Timbreblue) are: We'd like to breed more, but IT'S A HOBBY and what with one thing and another, that second litter we'd like to have most years just about never happens.  Bitches kept together tend to cycle together and we're only set up for one litter at a time.  And we're stressed for time, anyway.

Of course we do have a few hobbyists who breed enough to be hit. I can think of one, but there are probably a dozen or more others, especially in small breeds.

2. Mostly large home breeding operations who will report 25-29 bitches per year -- that is, almost but not quite large enough to require licensing. They might actually have 50, but proving that will be tough: A/C would have to have probable cause, get a warrant, and either count more than 29 or use the breeder's own records to prove a higher cumulative total.

3. Illegal 'moonshine' operations with 100-200 bitches, hidden in singlewides and pole sheds back in the woods and hollows, selling from pickup trucks at fleamarkets and under the counter at the feed store if you know who to ask.

In effect, for-profit breeding will be squeezed from both ends, both toward the 29-bitch unlicensed limit and down toward the 100-200 bitch scale. There aren't going to be any legal 30 bitch-to-50 dog breeders, because the regulatory requirements will be too expensive for them to be competitive and once you're too big to be legal, you might as well be A LOT too big and make serious money.

Animal control is going to be maxed out just trying to cope with the moonshiners. The average commercial breeder in Virginia will get only a fraction of the enforcement attention that he gets now. We have counties where the #2 sheriff's deputy is A/C, we have others with one ACO for the whole county. These places are NOT going to add several officers just to look for and prosecute dog breeding violations -- at least not until they win the 'war on drugs' and real moonshine.

The importing won't be great, either.  The Hunte-type suppliers dealing with better pet stores will be just as good as they are now; the others (who may well undercut Hunte's prices) will be from other states (not subject to Virginia law) and increasingly from foreign countries.

In other words, pretty much a complete loss for Virginia dogs.  BUT a very nice win for HSUS -- if it happens.

Then in a couple of years, the new problems will be making headlines and they'll come after the next level.  Will it be 'everyone breeding over one litter a year needs a license' or will they go straight for 'all dog sellers in Virginia need a license'?  Your guess is as good as mine, but this war is moving a lot faster than I've predicted.

Although HB 538 will probably either pass or fail within the next couple of weeks, the story isn't going to end there. While several Virginia groups have been about as effective as expected (from 'ineffective' to excellent), two have been unpleasant surprises.

AFAIK our commercial breeders themselves have been completely absent from the fight. It's interesting to see people who make their living breeding dogs do exactly what we hobby breeders have criticized ourselves for doing: hiding, in hope that the bad guys won't find us. I don't know if they'll pull it together enough to fight this before it would go into effect, or not.

And the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association has been the most unhappy surprise of all. First their lobbyist sent a letter to one of the House Committees SUPPORTING the bill (it's not clear if he did so in his official capacity or not; my guess is not), then the VVMA simply went silent. My guess is that the combination of the dislike of most small animal vets for commercial breeding, the political incorrectness of appearing to support 'puppy mills,' and the promise of some extra business (from the mandated vet performance of procedures) were enough to overcome whatever  understanding they had of the issues.

California managed to get the CVMA to move off of its AB 1634 (statewide MSN) support by writing to all the vets in the state and explaining the situation. We may have to do the same thing here.

"May you live in interesting times.  May you attract the attention of the authorities."  Does anyone remember the third part of that Chinese curse?  Seems like we must have annoyed somebody in China and I'd like to know what other bad stuff to expect.

Walt Hutchens
Timbreblue Whippets
Jennifer Walker
Newcastle Boxers, Reg'd
Mind ~ Body ~ Spirit ~ Naturally

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