You may know that the Missouri legislature is currently working to overturn the recent improvements for dogs in commercial breeding kennels voted for by a slim majority of their State’s voters. You probably don’t know that Pennsylvania’s 2008 Puppy Mill Bill, passed 49-1 in the Senate and 183-7 in the House, is about to be gutted by our legislature. Across the nation we are discovering a new democracy. The power of a moneyed lobby coupled with a radical minority of legislators to steal protections and rights supported by a majority of voters doesn’t just happen in Washington, D.C. anymore. It’s happening this week in Harrisburg.
Six Republican House legislators (Gordon Denlinger of Lancaster Co., Jim Cox of Berks Co. Jerry Stern of Blair Co, Mark Keller of Perry Co. Brad Roae of Crawford Co. and Bryan Cutler of Lancaster Co.), supported by the American Kennel Club (which profits from every dog bred and registered through them), have introduced House Resolution 89. It is a laundry list of unsubstantiated claims about the so-called negative impact of the Puppy Mill bill- lost jobs, lost revenue, lost taxes, lost veterinary income. And the cherry on top is a call to “study” the impact of the bill. In government, “study” means one of two things. Avoid doing something you don’t want to do or kill something you don’t like. That “study” begins with hearings tomorrow.
I will leave the absurdity of the claims made in the Resolution to others who have addressed them in detail here and here. I’d like to focus for a moment on the underlying goal, regardless of those claims. That goal is to reverse a painstakingly crafted law with unprecedented citizen support that went through extensive committee oversight before being affirmed by 96.6% of the legislature, Republican and Democrat. This was not a bill that squeaked by on a vote or two or passed in a referendum by a percent or two. This was a bill passed into law in final form by affirmation.
Now, a small handful of dogmatic legislators are seeking to wield their new majority power to return us to the dark ages of Pennsylvania, when we were the Puppy Mill Capital of the East. Worse, they are using the current economic situation as an excuse. They claim that things are just too hard now to require the final implementation of the new kennel regulations. They think that Pennsylvania, which became the focus of nationwide derision for our lax commercial breeder regulations, can’t afford to fully implement this nearly universally supported law. They say these poor commercial breeders can’t afford to make a profit on breeding dogs under the new, more humane requirements. They say that despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of our State’s residents and legislators decided that the prior state of commercial breeding was bad for dogs, bad for our communities, and bad for our Commonwealth, we need to excuse the breeders from complying because of the economic impact on a tiny handful of them.
Excuse a few breeders to continue torturing dogs- and a lifetime spent in a dark, wire-floored kennel is torture- because it would be cheaper and better for the bottom line. They think bottom line in a tough economy is the new arbiter of what is humane, just and moral? Then why stop there? Let’s excuse others who face a negative financial impact because of decisions of mere morality and justice.
Let’s excuse Wall Street from any financial oversight. Audits just take away money from their bonuses. It was only the collapse of the world economy.
Excuse the operators of the Sago Mine. All those safety protocols cost them time and money from the bottom line. It was only 12 dead coal miners.
Excuse Hosni Mubarak. He kept down oil prices and it was only dictatorship.
Excuse the Taliban. After all, we are seriously limiting our textile manufacturer’s opportunity to export burqas and it was only the subjugation of women.
Excuse the Confederate South. The Civil War was hell on cotton producers and it was only slavery.
And excuse me while I get sick.
And before commercial breeder apologists whine about the unfairness of these comparisons, allow me to grant that I agree these are unfair comparisons. But many of the people who claim that we can’t afford the protections we have nearly unanimously agreed to extend to dogs in breeding kennels are the first to tell us of all the bigger, more important issues we face. I ask them: if you can’t stand by our decision to protect mere dogs from mere cruelty, why should we expect you to have the courage to protect our families, our state and our nation from those “bigger” worries?
A change in political power in Harrisburg doesn’t mean that every little fringe group of legislators has to get their time at a committee microphone. I believe the vast majority of those in both parties view this effort as a cruel farce. True, some may have “courageously” voted for the puppy mill bill, only to now be opportunistically in the group which is seeking to gut it. But I think most see House Resolution 89 for what it is- a big business sham. It’s up to us to put everyone in Harrisburg on the record about it.
If you don’t want to see a return to Pennsylvania’s puppy mill glory days, call and email your Representative and Senator, as well as House and Senate leadership now, especially if you are a Republican. The Republican leadership has the power to kill this House Resolution and stop these hearings. Tell them that this is not the kind of leadership you expect and that you will remember their decisions in the next primary and general election.
Their actions on this House Resolution don’t just tell us how they feel about dogs. It tells us how they feel about democracy itself.
How you can help:
Call and email your Representative and Legislator now and strongly urge them to oppose HR 89. Find your legislator here.
Contact House Majority Leader, Mike Turzai (R), here and strongly urge him to kill these hearings and HR 89.
Contact House Minority Leader, Frank Dermody (D), here and strongly urge him to fight these hearings and HR 89.
Contact Senate Majority Leader, Dominic Pileggi (R), here and strongly urge him to refuse to take up this issue.
Contact Senate Minority Leader, Jay Costa (D), here and strongly urge him to fight against these efforts.
Contact Governor Corbett and strongly urge him to refuse to sign any law which weakens animal welfare protections.
Attend the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and express your strong opposition for HR 89.
House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee
Date: Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Location:Room G50, Irvis Office
Pennsylvania State Capitol
Still have a couple emails left in you? Review the list of AKC event sponsors below. If you use their products, consider letting them know that you don’t appreciate their sponsorship of a company lobbying to weaken animal welfare laws in your home state. They may not be aware of what the AKC is doing with thier sponsorship dollars. Click on the name for contact links.
*Thanks to Gil Scott Heron for the sampled structure of this piece.