Feb 272009


For three hours we heard testimony on this bill, and there were some interesting points raised on both sides.  I thought it might be useful if I posted a summary of what I observed.  This is not an objective report-it is my biased perception… If you want objectivity, go to this link and listen to the whole session yourself:


Representative Hovey opened the session with some insightful remarks about how everyone present shared a common goal of ensuring that all the animals in Oregon were “treated correctly.” He also immediately clarified that he and the other legislators recognize that this bill is flawed, and that their intention is to use this bill as a starting point and refine it over the next few months…  This is a very important point-I think he listened politely to what everyone said, but in essence he knew going in that he was going to assemble a team to revise the bill and resubmit an amended version later in the session, so all of the objections were not perceived as opposition so much as suggestions… He also explained that the bill was his idea, but that he sought advice from the “humane society” when drafting it.  (We really need to get people to understand that HSUS does NOT speak for animals or informed animal lovers!)

Scott Beckstead of HSUS sounded fairly reasonable. He asserted that HSUS does not oppose captive animals and in fact they support good breeders.  It almost sounded like he believes this.  He also asserted that HSUS does donate some money to shelters and does in fact now own several shelters and that anyone who claimed the HSUS did not help animals was uninformed.  Never mind that they only did these things in what seems an obvious ploy to allow people like Scott to say things like that…

Sharon Harmon of OHS asserted two primary points:

  1. All this bill would do is ensure that every dog in Oregon can “stand up, turn around, and lie down…” Somehow she missed the rest of the bill, and thought that it was absurd that anyone would object to a bill that did nothing more than ensure that every dog can, “stand up, turn around, and lie down!” My question is this-since the CURRENT Oregon laws requires that every dog have “continuous access to an area with adequate space for exercise necessary for the health of the animal,” how would a law requiring LESS improve anything?
  2. We in the dog community have failed to police our own for many years and are obviously unable to take care of the puppy-mill problem. Of course, OHS is the largest humane society in the state, with a large annual budget and a large staff and numerous volunteers, so if “we” have failed in the last ten years to eradicate puppy mills, I think OHS has to accept a significant portion of the culpability.

 The most interesting thing to observe was the unmistakable distinction between the people opposing the bill and the people supporting the bill: experience. 

 The people supporting the bill were mostly enthusiastic animal lovers with relatively minimal hands-on personal animal experience.  The gist of their argument seemed to be that horrific neglect is in fact horrific (they showed lots of pictures). In general they presented moving testimony concerning some of the atrocities committed by unscrupulous or insane animal owners.  Most of their examples seemed to make the opposite point of what they intended: story after story about how well our current laws work and how horrid animal abusers are routinely stopped and their animals seized every bit as surely before HB2470 as they would be after.  There were a few particularly puzzling comments:

  1. A lady who had owned a single dog that she bought in a pet store was very unhappy that her dog died from immune mediated hemolytic anemia at age six and somehow attributed that to the breeder whence she came. Here is a person who has owned one dog, never bred a litter, and is so uninformed about basic dog care that she likely contributed to her dog’s death by overvaccinating, but she is pleading tearfully with the legislators to listen to her advice on what laws should be passed to regulate dog breeding.
  2. A lady asserted that many heartless breeders debark their puppies without sedation… (obviously this is simply untrue)
  3. One vet explained how much his dog enjoys his 30 minute walk each day, and I had to laugh thinking about the hours upon hours of exercise, training, socializing, grooming, and care that most of us provide to our dogs, often 20 hours per day every day…
  4. Several supporters basically argued that nobody can adequately care for more than a few dogs. I suspect they do not realize that some people do this full time and have considerable help. I think they are imagining a single person trying to care for her animals after her day job.
  5. Oprah says we need laws against puppy mills…

The people opposing the bill were the most experienced and educated experts in the animal community: dog trainers, judges, and breeders. It was almost comical how much expertise was arrayed against the bill, and I wish there were some way to get the legislators to understand that many of these people were authentic legends who have done immeasurable good for dogs in the last century. Most of them were not personally impacted by this bill, but believe it is wrong and would be counterproductive-it attacks breeders based on irrelevant criteria such as number and enclosure size while completely ignoring the true issues of care and condition of the animals. Consequently it would harm precisely those breeders who are providing the best care available, who serve as the most dependable source of healthy pets in our state, who provide training and support for less experienced animal owners, but would add virtually no value in remedying neglect cases. It in no way improves upon existing laws which apply to every dog, it merely imposes number limits.

The disparity in experience cannot be overemphasized, and I really believe it created such a differing perspective that we were simply not communicating.  On the one had you have someone with a single dog whose love is very passionate, but rather anthropomorphic and uniformed.  They would never put that dog in a crate, or in a cold room, they feed it Hagen Dazs and walk it on a diamond leash.   On the other hand you have someone who has raised many dogs and is caring for them as dogs.  They sometimes put them in crates for safety or training, they provide a variety of enriching experiences that are fun for a dog even if they may get dirty or cold or tired, they feed organic raw meat as part of a diet that they have spent years analyzing with nutritionists, and they exercise them daily according to a program carefully designed to maximize health. They have read every book and taken every class and are extremely informed about what is best for their animals. Each group believes they are doing the best thing for their dogs… Most of us started in the first group-we had a single dog upon whom we doted, often doing the wrong thing because we did not know better and because our love was not tempered by reason or experience.  Over time, if we were serious, we acquired enough experience to grow beyond this position.  Some people never do-they either stop owning animals, or they keep repeating the same experience, but they never expand their perceptions, and they become fanatical about believing that their view is the right view because they cannot stand to imagine that they might not actually have been doing what is best for their animals. So we get bills like this…

There was one point agreed upon by almost every person, and I have to say I think it is wrong.  “Puppy mills are bad and we must stop them.”    On the face of it, that sounds reasonable, but I think it is very misleading. Animal Rights zealots are brilliant at many things.  Altering language is certainly one of those things.  “Ethical, humane, guardian, rescue, sea-kitten, etc,” are all words that they have twisted to their agenda.  In their desire to vilify all breeders, they have been particularly effective-first they attacked the “backyard breeder”-anyone producing only a few puppies or litters per year was obviously not serious and should be stopped.  Then they created the term “puppy mill,” and for years they have been classically conditioning us that puppy mills are evil-every time we hear the phrase we are shown horrifying images of unspeakable suffering.  Now that we all recognize puppy mills as evil, they are attempting to define them solely in terms of number of dogs.  Never mind that they may be beautiful situations doing everything perfectly, they label anyone breeding more than 3 litters as a puppy mill. If you breed more than three litters you are a puppy mill, if you breed fewer than three litter you are a backyard breeder, and either way you must be stopped.

I reject the term “puppy mill.”  Every breeder, and indeed any owner, regardless of number, who keeps his dogs inhumanely should be stopped. Everyone who breeds dogs is a breeder, and we should evaluate their performance based on how the animals are treated and the results of that treatment. We must stop ALL inhumane practices, and if we do that there will be no more bad breeders, neither large nor small. We MUST maintain focus on the correct issue-HOW are the animals treated. I do not care if a breeder has 2 or 200, I do not care if they make money or lose money, I do not care what breed they produce, I do not care if their dogs are sometimes crated or sleep on the bed or have indoor/outdoor runs. If they can do it well and the animals are happy and healthy and puppies are successfully placed in lifetime homes, then great. If they cannot meet those conditions (which very few large scale operations will ever meet), then their behavior is unacceptable. Period. Oregon laws already accomplish this, if we chose to enforce them. And pet stores and shelters should not be exempted so that they can continue neglecting animals and setting an atrocious example. What we must stop is not “puppy mills,” it is abuse or neglect wherever they are found… 

The second portion of the bill was less discussed–the lemon law piece.  Most everyone who talked about this portion agreed that the bill was absurdly unreasonable.  It somehow expects breeders to be able to ensure the health of living animals far beyond what is possible, and to bear the burden for veterinary expenses over which they have no control.  It also does something else that is profoundly worrisome–it reinforces the notion that breeders bear all the responsibility for the health and welfare of animals.  Unfortunately, this is a huge portion of the problem in animals today–blame the breeder for everything.  In truth, the shelters are full because of owners who fail to live up to their responsibilities.  Almost all of the problems in dogs today are caused by this one simple truth, yet legislators and naive animal owners want to keep pointing the finger at someone else because it is less painful.  Very few of the dogs in shelters come from breeders or serious dog people who own multiple dogs.  They are almost all there because casual owners get dogs and later decide they are too much work so they take them to the shelter.  If we want to improve the lives of dogs in this country, this is the problem we need to address…

So, HB2470 is going to be discussed and refined and amended.  You need to write to Representative Hovey, and your legislators, and the other members of the committee and voice your opinion, and you also need to stay attentive-there will be another hearing and it will again be critically important that people call, write, and show up to offer their opinions of whatever the next revision says. Representative Hovey is ostensibly assembling a team of experts to work with him to rewrite the bill, and hopefully they will include some of the real experts on that team.  I suspect the final bill will remain deeply flawed, but perhaps not… As soon as I hear more, I will certainly post here…

 February 27, 2009  Posted by at 8:14 pm Tagged with: ,

  7 Responses to “Oregon HB2470 First Legislative Session Summary”

  1. […] Oregon ~ HB 2470 ~ An excellent summary of the 2/23/09 hearing Talented Animals Blog ? Oregon HB2470 First Legislative Session Summary I thought this was pretty informative on what goes on at the hearings. You know me, I HATE big […]

  2. I was at the hearing, and you have done an absolutely brilliant job at capturing what went on there.

    You have also put into words some of my own thoughts, that I had been trying to formulize, but you have done it so much better than I ever could. Can I pass along some of those words to others?

    Thanks for this blog, and the NW Dog Activities list. DJB

  3. […] Oregon ~ HB 2470 ~ An excellent summary of the 2/23/09 hearing Talented Animals Blog » Oregon HB2470 First Legislative Session Summary I thought this was pretty informative on what goes on at the hearings. You know me, I HATE big […]

  4. Please – today – send the above piece to Chairman (of the Consumer Protection Committee) Holvey at rep.paulholvey@state.or.us! Today is the last day they will accept late testimony. I just sent my own that is along much opf the same lines as yours.
    You present thoughtful reasoned comments, especially about hobbyists’ expereince, that they need to hear. You can ask him to circulate your blog to the other committe members.

  5. Please – today – send this blog as it is to Chairman Holvey at rep.paulholvey@state.or.us. Ask him to circulate it to other committee members.
    Today is the last day we can send comments, and yours are reasonable, well thought out observations that need to be considered. I sent my own in a few minutes ago. He stated they were going to re-write, so send him data that will help get us a decent bill- or maybe will convince them we don’t need it! NC

  6. Sorry Im getting to this late. But what does this proposed bill say?

  7. Debra,

    Sure, feel free to share… 🙂

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