It is a cruel irony when an organization that touts itself as a champion of dogs works behind closed doors to oppose a wide range of animal welfare bills, including those advanced to crack down on cruel puppy mills. But that is exactly what the American Kennel Club has been doing for years, and now AKC has done it again in New Hampshire, where it’s helped kill a bill that would have protected dogs raised, mistreated and neglected by unscrupulous breeders.
The bill in question was Senate Bill 569, introduced by Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, with the support of Gov. Chris Sununu, after a high-profile rescue of 84 Great Danes from a mansion in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, in June last year. We have extensively covered that rescue — with which the Humane Society of the United States assisted — and subsequent developments, including the trial of the defendant Christina Fay, her sentencing, her appeal, and her conviction last month of 17 counts of cruelty. Even as the trial has played out, and as Fay awaits final sentencing, the dogs have remained in legal limbo. We are committed to caring for them through the entire legal process and the costs of looking after them have reached almost $2 million and counting.
One of the facts of the Fay case that shocked us almost as much as the disgusting conditions the dogs were found in was the absolute lack of regulations in New Hampshire for commercial dog breeders. During the course of the investigation, it came to light that New Hampshire’s Department of Agriculture had been notified of the defendant’s breeding operation two years prior to the search warrant that resulted in the dogs being seized. But because of weak regulations, the Department of Agriculture could do nothing to require licensing and inspections, which would have alleviated the suffering of the dogs.
SB 569, which was supported by local animal shelters, law enforcement, prosecutors, animal control officers and municipalities, would have put some of the financial burden of caring for rescued animals on the perpetrators of the cruelty rather than on taxpayers, reformed commercial breeder regulations and strengthened penalties for egregious cruelty. The bill flew through the state senate with bipartisan support but its fate was pretty much sealed once it landed in the House Environment and Agriculture Committee. AKC has a strong hold over this committee, not least because its former chairman is also a former director of the AKC. In no time at all the bill was stripped of its commonsense upgrades to commercial breeding regulations. Instead, the AKC worked with allies to weaken existing cruelty laws by prohibiting anonymous reporting of breeders and banning public access to records kept at pet stores and commercial kennels. House committee members walked away from negotiations when Sen. Bradley and his senate colleagues refused to allow a bill intended to protect animals to turn into a bill protecting irresponsible breeders.
The AKC immediately handed out a $1,000 cash prize to the former chairman of the committee for his work to defeat the bill.
This is not the only time the AKC has interfered to hurt animal welfare in New Hampshire. In just the past four years, the organization has opposed every animal protection measure in the state, including cost of animal care, protections for outdoor dogs, penalties for animal fighting, the ability for Good Samaritans to rescue animals from hot cars and even a bill banning animal sexual abuse. And AKC continues to weaken canine protections and prevent progress in stopping puppy mill cruelty in other states as well. In the last 10 years alone, the AKC has opposed almost 250 laws in states to protect animals in puppy mills, prevent the sexual abuse of animals and make it easier to rescue dogs from hot cars.
Consumers who support the AKC through pet registrations and dog show fees often have no idea that some of their dollars are being used to lobby against the interests of dogs. Far from being a champion of dogs, the AKC, by opposing animal welfare bills, enables the bad guys – the ones responsible for animal cruelty, suffering, and neglect – to win.