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The Future of Dogs in an Animal Rights America

by Walt Hutchens

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The Future of Dogs in America

What if the animal rights movement wins?

What does the future hold for U.S. dogs? We'd like to think that pets will be healthier and happier, that more dogs will come from the best breeders and fewer from the others, and that laws will punish the real offenders but not discourage good ownership and breeding. Is that where we're going, or is the future darker?

We will try to predict the future, looking twenty years ahead to what dog ownership and breeding might look like in 2026 if the animal rights (AR) movement continues to win. This will not be fun but it may be useful: If what we see in the future is bad enough, maybe we can do more today to avoid going there.

We will assume that current trends will continue. If you assume that trends get worse – for example, that money is found for muscular enforcement of bad laws – you get a worse picture. If owners and breeders become concerned about the loss of their rights at a rapidly increasing rate, someone very wealthy decides to help defend our rights to keep and breed pets, or the AKC suddenly gets new and wise leadership, things will be much better.

Trying to predict the future can help us take control. I hope this will be taken in that spirit. What are the trends today?

In 2006, a few good things are happening. More animal lovers are learning that there is a serious problem and starting to work against it. We are winning a greater fraction of the lawmaking battles than was true even three years ago and some lawmakers are catching on to the goals of the animal rights movement.

If owners and breeders become concerned about the loss of their rights at a rapidly increasing rate, someone very wealthy decides to help defend our rights to keep and breed pets, or the AKC suddenly gets new and wise leadership, things will be much better.

The Center for Consumer Freedom provides very useful anti-AR public education, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), and the National Rifle Association make small but significant contributions. Several other organizations – The Sportsmen and Animal Owners Voting Alliance (SAOVA), the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA), and the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) – also play roles. The new company My Dog Votes may help in spreading the word. There are more and better blogs on our side. There are several lawsuits trying to overturn some of the worst laws: some of these may succeed. Laws against animal-related terrorism are improving and we can expect strong enforcement.

The Pet Animal Welfare Statute (PAWS, S. 1139 and H.R. 2669) would have extended federal Animal Welfare Act rules to retail-only breeders who are currently exempt, thus forcing a year-by-year defense of the six litter/25 puppy exemptions to protect home breeding. PAWS died with the 109th Congress and the sponsor, Senator Rick Santorum, was defeated in the 2006 elections.

However, there are also some very bad things going on. By far the most important trend today is the increasing overall power of the animal rights movement. As of 2006 there's no question that the AR movement is winning, steadily taking away our rights to own and breed pet animals.

The most obvious of the AR trends is the number of cities and counties that are passing anti-pet laws. Southern California is passing mandatory spay/neuter (MSN) laws with complicated and expensive breeder licensing provisions in one county after another. Albuquerque, New Mexico's 'HEART' ordinance is even worse – it includes not just MSN and breeder licenses but also close regulation of dog ownership and all forms of pet animal business. In some of these areas there have been efforts to fight back to undo the bad laws but none have been successful yet.

I believe California and New Mexico will pass MSN with some form of breeder licensing at the state level within a few years.

Pet guardianship replaces the rights (and full responsibility) that go with ownership with a government-granted privilege. The idea is just starting to edge its way into laws, most often by substituting 'owner/guardian' for 'owner' (as the state of Rhode Island has done) and accompanied by assurances that "We think this will help people be more responsible for pets."

However guardianship is a familiar concept elsewhere in law. When a nosy neighbor points out that your dog is limping, is a bit plump or isn't neutered, an owner can smile sweetly and say "Thank you." A guardian is subject to direct government supervision and because possession is a government granted privilege, the government has the power. As guardianship spreads and legal battles necessary to pin down the meaning of "guardian" for pets are fought, costs and risks of having a pet will go up.

As guardianship spreads and legal battles necessary to pin down the meaning of "guardian" for pets are fought, costs and risks of having a pet will go up.


Rhode Island also has passed mandatory spay/neuter (MSN) with no exceptions for cats, meaning that the lawful breeding of cats is over there. This will do nothing to reduce the number of cats, but will eliminate any possibility of sales of purebred cats helping to stem the tide of at-large 'outside' and feral cats breeding on their own, as America has done with dogs over the last half-century. I expect restrictions on dog breeding in Rhode Island within a few years.

Pennsylvania's Governor Rendell is in the pocket of hard core AR interests and is pushing rules and enforcement changes there that would eliminate home breeding within a few years.

Georgia has statewide breeder licensing; North Carolina and Virginia both have ambiguous state laws that are being interpreted by counties as allowing licensing.

These are only a few examples of increasingly restrictive state and local lawmaking trends; there are many others.

It's nearly certain that a new PAWS bill will be introduced next year. With Congress having been taken over by Democrats we will lose some valuable allies in stopping the new bill. The so-named Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has a political action committee, The Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), that is channeling large amounts of money to animal-rights oriented lawmakers and they're doing well at electing their favorites and taking out some of our supporters.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the only large well-known organization supporting the keeping of dogs. Unfortunately the AKC is almost completely unaware of the AR threat to purebred dogs and the AKC's existence – they were one of the main backers of PAWS. Chances of the needed 'extreme makeover' in AKC leadership are small to none.

Most of the current AR mischief comes from just a few very-well funded organizations – HSUS, PeTA, and others that are less well known – but the 'Best Friends Animal Shelter' is now turning to promoting breed specific dangerous dog laws that could eliminate some breeds and we can expect growing trouble on that front.

While farmers generally can defend themselves, home breeders of dogs, cannot.

A combination of ignorance, laziness, and animal rights orientationon the part of animal control and other public officials is putting limits of three or four pets into even tiny and far out rural places, one after another.

An additional factor is suburban sprawl: city dwellers and close-in suburbanites follow the interstate highways to newly developed farmland, but are offended by all those animals. So they pressure county councils to enact limits: While farmers generally can defend themselves, home breeders of dogs, cannot.

Because you must keep animals from each generation for possible future breeding, good pet breeding is a multi-year project: You cannot have a sound program within a four-pet limit. When a kennel license allowing more is offered, a single opposing neighbor may be able to keep you from getting it, it generally comes with 'any reasonable time' inspections of your home, and you may be required to get a business license that will bring another group of laws into play.

For most people, if an in-home hobby of perhaps twenty years can be inspected by a high school graduate with no felony convictions, a clipboard, a day or less of training in animal husbandry and perhaps an AR chip on his shoulder who may bring disease from another kennel he visited that morning, it isn't a hobby anymore.

Other requirements – one current bill would require a written record every time every animal is fed – will complete the conversion of a hobby (something you do for satisfaction and fun) to a money-losing business. How many home breeders will continue?

Except for the large animal vets, most veterinarians and most vet organizations remain clueless about animal rights. The Virginia Veterinary Medical Association's position on our state's worst bill last year (requiring rabies vaccinations to be reported for dog licensing purposes) was "We can't oppose a law that just enforces another law." That bill passed by a hair. At the national level, the AVMA stopped short of a decision to form an alliance with HSUS but continues to support the first steps toward national mandatory microchipping of all pets.

Five years from now, many new lawyers will have specialized in animal law and all of them will have come from AR-oriented programs. By 2026 many of those lawyers will be judges and some will be lawmakers.


As I write this, the Coalition To Reunite Pets and Families made up of HSUS, the National Animal Control Association, and several other organizations that would like to see close regulation of pets or expect to profit from mandatory microchipping are pushing hard for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make a rule requiring Animal Welfare Act dealers (commercial breeders) to use European microchips instead of U.S. ones. The USDA too would like such a rule. The story is too long to tell here but this rule will put us firmly on the road to a law requiring all pets to be microchipped and registered in a government-accessible data base. A federal bill for that purpose is likely to be introduced around 2009.

The court interpretation of laws is likely to turn more strongly against us. The ARs effectively "own" about three dozen law schools and retired game show host Bob Barker is buying them a new one every few months. Five years from now, many new lawyers will have specialized in animal law and all of them will have come from AR-oriented programs. By 2026 many of those lawyers will be judges and some will be lawmakers.

The media prints anti-AR letters to the editor, just as they do stories of alien abductions, rants about taxes, and – you know – that CIA conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. Mainstream magazines such as Time and Dog Fancy are AR-leaning and articles on AR-related topics in other publications take the AR side: Other than an article in The Atlantic Monthly in the 1990's I cannot think of an exception.
There are three books exposing the AR movement but all are seriously out of date; we are promised a revised edition of one of them for 2007.

Significant awareness of the AR agenda among the general public is still well in the future. Even home breeders of dogs are only starting to understand.

With so few (and small) useful organizations on our side, much of the anti-AR work is being done with irregular forces – Internet email groups and other loose organizations – and the handful of larger kennel clubs and state federations of clubs that really do 'get it.'

Significant awareness of the AR agenda among the general public is still well in the future. Even home breeders of dogs are only starting to understand.

Creating awareness and the rest of what must be done to keep home breeding legal and pet ownership free of impossible restrictions are very slow going without a strong organization.

Where will these trends and forces take us in twenty years? Let's ...

Fast forward our time machine to 2026

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