Monday, December 17, 2007

Ohio Bill Strips Away Dog Ownership Rights

Ohio Bill Strips Away Dog Ownership Rights

A bill before the Ohio legislature takes aim at the concept of dogs as private property, stripping away the right of private ownership of dogs. The legislation redefines owners of kennels as having “custody of or control” over dogs, but does not grant them the right of actual ownership. The bill is designed to regulate kennels having nine or more breeding dogs. It requires additional regulation of kennels that sell more than 25 dogs and puppies a year, which are called “intermediary” kennels.

House Bill 225 gives dogs the same legal status and rights as human children or wards of the state, and incorporates many of the basic principles advocated by extreme animal rights groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. HSUS and PETA believe that all animals should be granted rights equal to those guaranteed to humans, and the Ohio legislation reflects this position.

The American Sporting Dog Alliance (ASDA) has identified the Ohio legislation as one of its highest priorities for 2008, and is assembling a strong leadership team and legal representation to fight back against this blatant attempt to take away our right of dog ownership and infringe on the vital concept of private property.

“It’s not going to be an easy fight,” ASDA Director John Yates said. “The Ohio legislation (H.B. 225) already has the endorsement of 38 members of the 99-member Ohio General Assembly. That is close to 40-percent support, and the bill still is in committee.” The 38 Ohio legislators who endorse the bill will be listed at the bottom of this article.

“I ‘smell a rat’ with this legislation,” Yates said. “First of all, it was not introduced into the House Agriculture Committee, even though it would be administered and controlled by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Instead, the bill was introduced in the State Government and Elections Committee. This is a tactic use to minimize the influence of pro-farm legislators, who would recognize the fundamental danger to farmers when animals are granted equal rights with humans, and when the concept of private ownership of animals is destroyed.”

Yates said it also seems fishy that numerous sensationalistic and inflammatory news articles, television news stories and National Public Radio broadcasts have appeared in Ohio over the past month. National Public Radio is funded with tax dollars, and ASDA plans to demand equal airtime to counter these biased news stories.

Yates urges all Ohioans who have sporting dogs, own dogs of other breeds, who farm or who simply care about basic human rights to take an active role in this fight by joining ASDA and volunteering their time and talent to strike down this legislation and put real heat on the 38 legislators who support it. ASDA also has assembled a list of Ohio organizations that support this legislation, and businesses that support these groups, and will urge sporting dog owners to boycott them.

ASDA’s website can be accessed at Frequent updates about the Ohio situation will appear on the organization’s journal blog, which can be accessed through this site.

A full political and legal analysis of this legislation will be published on the ASDA website this week, but here are some of the most significant aspects of H.B. 225:

· All litters of puppies born by regulated kennels must be registered with the state agency.

· Each kennel operator will be required to post surety bonds and carry insurance to pay for the cost of any enforcement action against him or her.

· The state will be given the power to confiscate dogs, both for alleged mistreatment and for technical violations of the kennel law.

· Although violation of any part of this law would be considered a First Class Misdemeanor, subject to the criminal code and possible prison sentences and stiff fines, accused kennel owners are granted only the right to an administrative appeal through the Department of Agriculture.

· It allows the Department of Agriculture to pass judgment on an applicant’s competence to operate a kennel, without defining what standards will be used to make this determination, and gives the power to deny licensure to anyone deemed lacking “the expertise or capacity” to meet the requirements of the law. Photos of an applicant’s kennel and various affidavits must be filed with each application.

· The bill requires initial and annual criminal and personal background checks of kennel operators, and of all of their employees and family members who have contact with dogs, and also requires fingerprinting of each person involved. Kennel owners thus will have to meet the same background requirements as people who work with children or adults in schools, institutions, group homes and social service agencies. A kennel license would be denied if the operator, a kennel employee or a family member have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to animal abuse or domestic violence allegations at any time in their lives.

· Grants complete power to the Department of Agriculture to create and enforce specific regulations about the care of dogs, kennel management, paperwork and facility design. The bill does not require either legislative oversight or public participation, and the specifics of the regulations are not contained in the text of the legislation. Specific information is being withheld from the legislature and citizens.

· Annual kennel license fees ranging from $150 to $750 are imposed by the bill. Intermediaries (anyone who sells more than 25 dogs or puppies a year) are required to pay an additional $500 license fee. In addition, any citizen can request an inspection of any intermediary facility at any time and for any reason, and the request will be mandatory.

· The bill also sets up contracts with animal shelters and rescue groups to house and care for any animals that are confiscated by the state.

· Creates a 10-member oversight commission consisting of two members of the general assembly and eight members “representing various entities with an interest in dog kennels.” There is no requirement for any of these representatives to be stakeholders in the issue, and the door is open for representation by animal rights groups. These eight seats will be held by political appointees who are not accountable to the Legislature or the voters.

Here is a list of the 38 co-sponsors of the bill: Ohio Reps. Hughes (the prime sponsor), R. Hagan, D. Stewart, Flowers, Skindell, Combs, B. Williams, Seitz, Okey, Fende, Setzer, Bacon, Beatty, Brady, Otterman, Peterson, Brown, Yuko, J. Stewart, Luckie, Wolpert, J. McGregor, Webster, Evans, Ujvagi, Blessing, J. Hagan, Distel, Heard, Dyer, Celeste, Foley, Chandler, Hottinger, Strahorn, Schneider, Bolon, and Miller.
Yates urges Ohioans and others to contact these legislators both in person and with strongly worded letters of protest aimed both at defeating this legislation, and having the co-sponsors formally withdraw their support from it.
ASDA also is working to save Ohio field trial grounds at the Kildeer Plains and Indian Creek Wildlife Management Areas, which are being closed to trialing this coming April by state and federal wildlife agencies.

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