Thursday, May 22, 2014

Breeder licensing laws tortured course

As a community Gwinnett is at the brink of solving many of our long held animal welfare issues. With a proactive approach to problem solving the issues we must discover solutions for still includes recognizing that far too many young pit bulls from still being killed in our proactive shelter.

These are senseless killing as well - we can do better.  But to do so we must get serious and address the much broader issues - breeder licensing and responsible pet ownership laws that address spay neutering our pets.

Addressing the issues of irresponsible unlicensed breeding does more than simply react to many of our current animal overpopulation issues - breeder licensing laws are consumer protection and safety issues which attacks animal issues at its core - those who add to the problem with incessant irresponsible breeding.

It is NOT the taxpayers of this county's responsibility to subsidize unlicensed businesses breeding and selling animals for pets in the community.  In fact, you establish a dual standard unheard of with any other commodity we purchase by allowing unlicensed businesses to compete with licensed establishments including the many pet stores located throughout Gwinnett that have licenses, follow all the rules and regulations required by state and federal laws and pay local sales, inventory and property tax. 

There is NO OTHER business sector that is treated this way.  We do not allow vendors to sell appliances from the side of the road just down the street from licensed, established businesses.  So why do we allow puppy vendors the same governmental courtesy?

As a consumer I am outraged that I have more consumer protection purchasing a lawn mower or a toaster from a local business than I do should my family decide to add a family pet.  When I buy that toaster not only do I know the toaster was manufactured to governmental regulations for that product and was safe but in fact also comes with a warranty where it can be returned should I as a consumer find it doesn't meet my needs. 

With puppies being sold on a governmental protected black market for puppies, consumers have no recourse returning these often times "defective" puppies which leads to consumers simply dumping the problem on our shelter and the taxpayers who fund it.

For those who argue that breeding puppies is a long established southern hobby my response is "so is playing golf or hunting" and I object to tax revenue being used to subsidize those hobbies as well.

More than a consumer safety issues buying puppies in an unregulated black market is a consumer safety issue as well.  We hear all too often horrible stories of consumers being robbed, beaten and even killed simply trying to purchase a used IPhone on craigslist yet we send families to these same shucksters to buy their puppies. 

Many of the pit bull puppies being marketed through advertising medians like craigslist are specifically bred for "customers" involved in the sale of illegal narcotics, gang members involved in felonious dog fighting and breeders who simply raise and train puppies to be aggressive which is NOT a trait conducive t family living.

What will it take before our politicians understand the implications of not protecting our consumers from these dangers?  Hopefully we will not simply react do to a senseless loss of life in situations that should have been prevented in the first place.

We must do more than simply react to current issues. Gwinnett has the solid leadership in running and managing our animal issues in Chip Moore.  We need to give Chip the tools to get the job done.

Those tools start with passing a local breeder licensing law in Gwinnett that requires those who want to breed to have a business license, pass a criminal background check - the same as we require our licensed plumbers to do, and pass yearly inspections by animal control assuring compliance with all of Gwinnett's animal welfare ordinances.  

Licensing Breeders – a community and consumer safety issue

Why breeder licensing laws?  Breeder licensing laws protect consumers from fraud and the criminal element involved in a highly profitable black market of breeding and selling puppies by closing off the loopholes that allow this "industry" to prosper.
 It is simply indefensible for the community to allow people to breed dogs that can be used as weapons.  It is indefensible that citizens can inadvertently purchase a poorly bred dog powerful enough to seriously injure or kill its owner, a family member or a neighbor. 

The risk of raising and selling aggressive dogs that could endanger other citizens in the community is indefensible.  Since pit bulls can be more dangerous to humans and other animals, and more difficult to handle then most dogs and more importantly since they attract “owners” who may want to exploit them – breeding pit bulls must be tightly regulated at a county level.

Gwinnett should lead the way on responsible oversight in the area of pet overpopulation by requiring all breeders be licensed, that licensing requirements include a criminal background check, that breeder’s maintain a city business license and have yearly inspections from animal control.

These requirements should be across the board for breeding and selling of companion animals and not breed specific.

Without laws and programs that severely reduce the number of pit bulls entering the shelter; especially those bred by an irresponsible backyard breeder market, adopting out enough pit bulls to dramatically reduce the number being killed only risk placing pits with social and behavioral issues or lowering the standards of pet owners who can and would care for their pits as pets.

Public policy of breeder licensing should NOT be set by breeders and fanciers, and certainly not by dog fighters who pose as breeders and even pretend to be rescuers. When so-called pit bull lovers and rescuers use language like “it is the right of every American to buy or breed whatever kind of dog they want” then they are obviously not animal advocates.

Breeding, buying, and/or selling pit bulls are all inconsistent with ending pit bull exploitation. .

An effective response to pit bull overpopulation is to target irresponsible unlicensed pit bull breeders and this must be done mandated legislatively by our county government, since the high profitability of the pit bull market has proved that pit bull breeders are resistant or opposed to any and all forms of gentle persuasion.

Only if these standards are achieved is there hope of achieving a no-kill sheltering model for all dogs regardless of breed. Unfortunately, behavioral issues cannot be ignored – whether the focus is the behavioral traits of pit bulls or the attitudes and behavior of the people who tend to keep pit bulls.

The community can no longer ignore or condone irresponsible breeding or ownership of pit bulls. Thus forming a coalition of responsible pit bull rescue partners to overlook placement and adoption criteria for all pit bulls is crucial in protecting not only the community but the breed as well.

Breed Specific Legislation is not the answer

Opponents of breed specific legislation (BSL) often argue that disproportional high rates of fatal and disfiguring pit bull attacks on humans and other animals are the fault of the pet owners of those particular pit bulls, and not representative of typical pit bulls.

This shortsighted thinking overlooks that pit bulls, like other breed is produced for a specific purposes and have been often times bred with a mindset and inclination to tear other animals to pieces. This has in turn made pit bulls attractive to the sort of people who have made them the dogs most likely to be violent abused and/or neglected: sadists, people with drugs and alcohol addiction, those involved in criminal activity, and people seeking to toughen their image to compensate for their own perceived negative self image issues.

The central behavioral issue involving pit bulls is not a matter of natural genetics per se but rather a product of inherently problematic dogs being acquired by inherently problematic people, who keep, train and often times neglect and abandon in a manner which multiplies the community’s risk factors.

It is the actions of the dog that makes a dog vicious, not the breed line. BSL does not work and will not work because the target of the laws – those irresponsible pit bull owners are often times the criminals, the drug dealers, the gangbanger’s, and those inclined to fight their dogs – these type of dog exploiters definitely would not be registering their dogs with any police agency that might stumble on their criminal activity or previous outstanding warrants.

Criminals will continue to own pit bulls irresponsibly and responsible pit bull owners who were role models in the community but feared registering would be outlaws as well. The cost of enforcing breed specific legislation and sorting out the new criminal element would be enormous.

Breed Specific Legislation, is not the answer, it does not solve the human issues involved and actually does more harm than good in accomplishing the cultural shift needed to encourage responsible ownership of pit bulls.

Investing in spay/neuter solutions

A unique opportunity for the county presents itself to selectively invest in programs that will continually lower our intake numbers moving us closer to ending all the needless killing of dogs and cats in our shelter.

We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett encourages our elected officials into seeking programs that would mandate spay neutering on all pets - especially the widely abused pit bulls. The natural follow up to the crisis of “pit bull” pet over population would be the passage of a responsible pit bull owner resolution encouraging all pit bull pet owners to spay/neuter their pet.

Reducing the pit bull populations to a level kept safely in stable homes would require a responsible sterilization rate of 90%. Making those spay/neuter services available through low cost clinics or even free to income qualified pet owners has been successful in increasing the numbers of pit bulls who can not reproduce further adding to our already overpopulation issues on pit bulls throughout the Atlanta area.

Setting aside behavioral issues that should be minimized through responsible breeder licensing requirements, just looking at the numbers, a 90% sterilization rate is necessary if no kill sheltering for pit bulls is to become a theoretical possibility.

Spay/Neuter Policy Recommendations

Responsible citizens can all agree that pet owners need to be responsible to the community by spay/neutering their pets as a quality of life issue. Our community is a village of responsible pet owners; studies suggest that 90% of responsible pet owners are altered to prevent them from adding to the community’s pet overpopulation issues.

The focus on spay/neuter funding should be on the two largest contributors to shelter intake numbers – pit bulls and feral/domesticated cats. The community should adopt a policy of providing low cost or free spay/neuter for pit bull owners seeking to alter their pets.

Promoting investments in low cost spay neuter and release of feral cats in partnership with the feral cat rescue community will work towards long-term reductions and control of feral cat populations as well.  Partnering with non-profits spay/neuter organizations that provide and promote affordable low cost spay/neuter services for all responsible pet owners is a quality of life solution.

Promoting with community outreach programs that educate our citizens on the critical importance of spay/neuter as a solution to reducing our shelter intake numbers is the mechanism for long-term success.  However, focused attention on the irresponsible ten percent of pet owners who fail to alter their pets is also critical to a community’s long-term success as well.

In order to target irresponsible pet owners who not only fail to alter their pets but also fail to comply with the county’s animal ordinances as well is to “mandate” that all pets that enter the publicly funded animal shelter must be altered prior to being reclaimed by their owners.

This type of selective enforcement of a “mandatory spay/neuter” law would exempt all responsible pet owners who maintain control of their pets and comply with all the ordinances as they pertain to being responsible.

Excessive costs of trying to enforce a spay/neuter mandate through door-to-door enforcement that in itself raises constitutional and moral arguments to the issue.  The issue is simple – those pet owners who can’t or won’t maintain control of their pets add to our community’s animal welfare problems. They need not be rewarded or ignored for those contributions to our shelter issues.

Task Force transformation in ideology takes root

We have compelling reasons for following in the footsteps of other progressive communities that have successfully implemented progressive sheltering parameters. We have seen the depths of frustration that our old sheltering model delivers. Yet, there are reasons to be optimistic about the immensely productive changes that lie ahead.

With the recent findings of Gwinnett’s “Animal Task Force”, the mechanism has been created for dramatically reducing the number of adoptable pets being killed in our shelter while developing a long term strategic plan to reduce governments role in that process.

The Gwinnett Animal Task Force builds the foundation for developing a compassionate but effective animal welfare policy that will serve the entire communities needs. It removes all obstacles that prevent responsible citizens from having oversight and participating in this process.

More importantly, it gives a huge voice to all of our community’s animals whose entire future rests in the balance. Simply talking about change, the future and emerging dreams does not ensure results. Everyone agrees that change is constant, that today’s choices create tomorrow’s future, and that we have many options in developing solutions to fulfill that dream.

There could not be a better time for this county to reach out to it’s citizens for help in attaining our shared goals. Our county commissioners bold decision to tackle these issues with our newly formed “Animal Task Force” is a stepping-stone to that success. It is certainly is a better approach then to continue squandering the community’s trust instead.

"We the Pet Owners in Gwinnett" seek leadership with a vision to think outside the normal realm of solutions and take our county into a new frontier of best sheltering services provided to our compassionate community of pet lovers.  We are served by some of the hardest working volunteers and civil servants.  We are proud of their tireless efforts.

Armed with information and wisdom we can make this world a better place for our companion friends. We truly remain hopeful on the exciting future that lies ahead. 

Building a model for truly responsible pet ownership in our community is a lofty goal worthy of our elected officials attention.  I thank the commissioners in advance having the political courage to protect us all in considering these critical issues - BREEDER LICENSING and RESPONSIBLE PET OWNERS SPAY NEUTER LAWS.

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