If you’ve lived in Texas any length of time, you’ve probably come to see that passing bills when the Legislature is in session doesn’t resemble the old Schoolhouse Rock classic “I’m Just a Bill” so much as a brutal contact sport. The current session is just about over and has had no shortage of controversial bills, some of which have even made national news like House Bill 1451, better known as the Puppy Mill Bill. You can read the text of the bill and all amendments, and see more, at the Texas Legislature Online. The bill would require licensing and inspection for any facility having more than 11 breeding female dogs or cats, mandating humane conditions such as proper ventilation, food, water, and enough space.
Passions have run high on both sides. Supporting the bill is Texas Humane Legislation Network. Opposing it is the Responsible Pet Owners Alliance. Our aim here is to present both sides as fairly as possible.
It is undeniable that something needs to be done to curb the problem of puppy mills in Texas. We here at DogBoy’s have seen the tragic health and temperament consequences of puppy mill dogs, as well as the heroic efforts of customers who have helped rescue these dogs to give them the best and most dignified life possible. It is a wonderful thing to rescue a dog in need of a home from a good shelter or rescue group, but responsible breeders produce good pets as well. Unfortunately, not enough people investigate where they are buying their puppies from, or simply may not know what separates a good breeder from a disreputable one. We covered this in part in a previous blog entry, “Getting A New Dog.”
Opponents of HB 1451, led by the Responsible Pet Owners Alliance, say that the aim of the bill is to eliminate commercial pet breeding altogether, in service of a radical agenda that seeks to eliminate meat eating and pet ownership. Additionally, RPOA says that the bill would be the first step down a a path which would prohibit livestock farming; hunting, trapping and fishing; zoos, rodeos and circuses. There have also been claims that the bill would dictate training methods, especially for hunting dogs. In light of that, it is worth noting that State Rep. David Simpson of Longview, a leading opponent of the bill in the legislature, received approximately $500 from the NRA and another $300 from the Texas Deer Association in the period covering the 2010 campaign (view Rep. Simpson’s filings online at the Texas Ethics Commission’s website). Furthermore, opponents of HB 1451 say that existing state and federal standards and anti-cruelty laws are more than adequate to police puppy mills.
On the other side, supporters of HB 1451—led by the Texas Humane Legislation Network argue that criticism of the bill is overblown or outright false. In their FAQ section covering HB 1451, THLN asserts the following: that only commercial breeders with 11 or more intact female animals which ALSO sell the offspring of those females will be subject to the bill’s licensing requirements and standards, and subject to inspection. Boarding facilities like DogBoy’s would not be affected; trainers would not be affected; so-called “hobby breeders” who may only have one or two litters in a year would not be affected. THLN also argues that the inspection and standards give the state the leverage to seize animals before they die from neglect, instead of charging the people responsible for animal cruelty after it’s too late.
As with many bills the Legislature considers, the good intentions behind the puppy mill bill have been lost in a system that seems to value controversy over sober analysis. Hopefully we were able to shed some light on this subject, and we’ll be sure to follow up on HB 1451 if anything new develops.