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September 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Party for a Purpose

I told you recently about efforts to stop rampant puppy mill abuses in Missouri, which is home to about 30 percent of the nation’s puppy mills, far dwarfing any other state. This November, Missourians will vote on Proposition B, a measure to stop puppy mill abuses by establishing common sense standards for the proper care of dogs.

Inset_party_for_pups_larger The campaign is gaining tremendous momentum as more people learn about the inhumane treatment of dogs crammed into small and filthy cages, denied veterinary care, exposed to extremes of heat and cold, and given no exercise or human affection. The list of Missouri veterinarians and veterinary clinics, animal welfare groups, responsible dog breeders, religious leaders, businesses, and prominent Missouri citizens endorsing the YES! on Prop B campaign is growing. Last week, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley both endorsed the YES! on Prop B campaign to stop puppy mill abuses.

Because most of the dogs bred in mills are exported from Missouri to states across the nation, sold in pet stores or over the Internet, this is a national issue for all of us to be concerned about. Whether or not you live in Missouri, you can help these puppy mill dogs. What can you do? On Sunday, October 3, you can join animal lovers across the nation and throw a Party for Pups—in your home or at a local bar or restaurant—and help save thousands of puppy mill dogs on Election Day.

As a host, you can create your own party page, establish a fundraising goal, send invitations to friends and family, and collect donations through our secure website. Then during your party, you and your guests can join a live call to action broadcast from St. Louis—bringing together thousands of others across the country partying for a purpose.

Give these dogs a reason to celebrate in November. Plan a Party for Pups on October 3 and support the campaign to pass Prop B. For those of you in the St. Louis area, you can also register for the “Birdies for Puppies” golf tournament in St. Louis on Friday, October 1, with proceeds to benefit the Missourians for the Protection of Dogs / YES! on Prop B campaign. Click here for more details on the golf tournament, including how to register.

Paid for by Missourians for the Protection of Dogs/YES! on Prop B, Judy Peil, Treasurer.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Exotic Pet Problem in Ohio’s Living Room

Last month, 24-year-old Brent Kandra was fatally mauled by a captive black bear at the private residence of notorious exotic animal dealer and exhibitor Sam Mazzola in Columbia Township, Ohio. Mazzola had four tigers, one lion, eight bears and a dozen wolves according to his May bankruptcy filing, and the recent death of a young man at his property has highlighted Ohio’s lack of any restrictions on the private possession of dangerous wildlife. Most states prohibit the keeping of animals such as lions and bears as pets, but Ohio has lagged far behind in failing to address this important animal welfare and public safety issue.

Black-bear-RoyMac Gov. Ted Strickland has been working to correct this problem, and as part of an agreement reached in June with The HSUS, the Ohio Farm Bureau, and other groups, has pledged to ban the private ownership of dangerous wild animals, as well as advance other animal welfare reforms, on factory farming, puppy mills, and cockfighting. The urgency of the exotic animal component of this major animal welfare package is more clear than ever, and in recent weeks The Columbus Dispatch, The Lorain Morning Journal, and Brent Kandra’s mother, Deirdre Herbert, have called on state policymakers to swiftly implement regulations before another life is lost.

U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, who represents Ohio’s 13th district where Brent Kandra was killed, and who is a leading advocate for animal protection in Congress, has also written to Gov. Strickland and asked him “to move forward expeditiously to ban wild animals being kept as pets.” (Read Rep. Sutton’s letter here.) We are grateful to Rep. Sutton and to Gov. Strickland for working to advance critical animal welfare policies, and for calling attention to Ohio’s lack of any statewide rules prohibiting the private ownership of dangerous wild animals as pets.

The problem of exotic pet ownership has been getting national attention, not just in Ohio, and a new documentary film, The Elephant in the Living Room, shines a spotlight on the controversial American subculture of raising the most dangerous animals in the world as common household pets. The film by Michael Webber was the 2008 winner of The HSUS’s Animal Content in Entertainment grant, and recently was awarded the “Founder’s Choice Award—Best Documentary” by Academy Award winning director Michael Moore, who called it “one of the most scary, entertaining and technically perfect films.” While the movie is not due to be in wide release until early next year, Ohioans will get a sneak preview this October. If you live in Ohio, I hope you will check out this important film in one of the following cities:

October 1–7
The Neon Movies

Yellow Springs
October 8–14
Little Art Theatre

October 15–21
Cedar Lee Theatre

October 22–28 
Drexel Theatre

(Dates and locations TBA)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Another Power Grab in Arizona

Arizona, like 23 other states, allows citizens to circulate petitions and pass statewide laws directly through ballot initiatives. It’s a check on the politicians when they fail to represent their constituents’ views, and on the well-heeled special interests when they block policy reforms. It’s through the initiative process that we’ve helped adopt the major animal welfare policy advances in the state—banning the use of steel-jawed leghold traps on public lands in 1994, outlawing cockfighting in 1998, and in 2006 phasing out the extreme confinement of breeding sows and veal calves on factory farms.

Voting booths Of course, the special interests in Arizona didn’t like these outcomes. They had everything wired in the state legislature, and they knew the only way for us to achieve these reforms was to take these questions to the people. Now, they’ve cooked up yet another scheme to cling fast to the levers of power.

In past years, the special interests and their allies in the legislature have tried numerous times in Arizona to chip away at voting rights, and they’ve been soundly rejected at every turn. In 2000, a constitutional amendment that would have required a two-thirds “supermajority” on wildlife-related ballot measures, rather than the simple majority needed for all other subjects, went down to defeat—with 62% of voters opposing the measure. And in 2008, an amendment that would have required any ballot measure to get a nearly impossible majority of all registered voters, including those who have died or moved but are still on the voter rolls, rather than a majority of those who actually vote, was soundly defeated, too—with 66% opposing.

Not taking “no” for an answer, Arizona lawmakers and special interests are at it again, by placing Proposition 109 on the November statewide ballot. It’s another power grab by politicians who want to take away the rights of Arizona voters. Prop 109 would take away Arizonans’ voting rights by giving the legislature exclusive authority over wildlife issues. The state wildlife agency would no longer be able to make management decisions without the legislature’s approval—opening up every big issue to the whimsy of lawmakers, who are often captive to the NRA and other extreme organizations that defend animal abuse. 

The state constitution should not be used to score political points for extreme groups that use inhumane and unsportsmanlike trophy hunting practices. Prop 109 could even nullify wildlife measures that have been previously approved by Arizona voters—such as the 1994 law to prohibit steel-jawed and body-gripping traps on public lands. These traps are cruel and indiscriminate, and voters made the right call to outlaw these landmines for wildlife more than 15 years ago.

Prop 109 could even cost taxpayers millions of dollars and subject the state to frivolous and expensive lawsuits from individuals who want to argue that bag limits or season dates for a particular species are “unreasonable.” A poacher caught spotlighting animals from the road or shooting animals out of season could argue in court that such restrictions are “unreasonable.” It’s a bad law that solves nothing and only creates problems.

The Arizona Republic, the largest newspaper in the state, called the similar proposition in 2000 “dumb,” saying it was “an ill-founded fear that undercuts majority rule,” and “a bad tonic for a problem that doesn’t exist.” The same principles hold true a decade later, and a dumb idea hasn’t gotten any better with age. If we let the politicians take away our right to vote on wildlife issues, what other issues will be next?
Animal protection groups and others concerned about protecting voting rights are going to form a coalition to fight this power grab. You’ll be hearing more from us on the issue, as we urge Arizonans to say “no” to the special interests and vote “no” on Prop 109.

Paid for by Humane Society Legislative Fund, Michael Markarian, President, 519 C St. NE, Washington, DC 20002. 

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