Breeder Group That Totally Swears It's Not a Breeder Group Is Fighting Law That Regulates Breeders

Is that a ferret on a St. Bernard?
Is that a ferret on a St. Bernard?

A San Antonio-based commercial animal breeders' interest group is once again seeking to neuter a 2011 statute licensing and regulating people who own 11 or more female animals for breeding purposes.

The nonprofit group, which calls itself Responsible Pet Owners Alliance and whose website largely eschews any mention of the B-word, wants the statute's oversight moved from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to the Department of Agriculture. The Secretary of Agriculture, Sid Miller, voted against the 2011 statute when he was a state rep.

(Miller in 2007 introduced a bill to legalize the export of horse meat for food and now as Secretary of Agriculture is probably bummed that the new USDA guidelines don't recommend a daily serving of tender, juicy horse-burger).

The RPOA, which fought the law's passage in 2011, as well as an earlier proposed version in 2009, also wants to eliminate the statute's oversight committee, which it says is stacked with members sympathetic to animal rights extremists. The group has hired former Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis as a lobbyist. (The law says the nine-member advisory committee contain two licensed breeders, two veterinarians, two members of animal welfare organizations, two members who represent the public, and one animal control officer).

In an email to the Press, RPOA Executive Director Mary Beth Duerler framed the fight thusly: "It's not a 'breeder' issue; it's a pet issue."

Unfortunately, Duerler didn't want to elaborate on how a statute that only regulates commercial breeders is a "pet" issue.

"It's in the first paragraph of the first email I sent you," she told us. Uh, okay. Here's that paragraph:

HSUS is writing our Texas animal laws! HB 1451, the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) misnamed "Puppy Mill" Bill, is a radical national "animal rights" legislative agenda to end all use, breeding, sales, and ownership of animals for any reason, including pet ownership. The "first step" to attacking other Texas animal interests! It's not a "breeder" issue; it's a pet issue. Our pets have never meant more to us than in these stressful times.

Clear as a bell, right? Well, we pressed on anyway, and Duerler told us, "If you can't breed any animals, you're not going to have any pets. That should be pretty obvious."

What the fuck?

When we asked if there was anything in the statute that outlawed animal breeding, she again referred us to her email, which doesn't explicitly answer that question but warns that the very existence of this bill, coupled with animal rights "extremists," will drive breeders out of business.

But we don't really see that. The statute imposes a fee on the relevant breeders and there's a yearly inspection and license renewal -- but, hey, if you're any good at squeezing out those pristine yorkies or setters or whatever pet-Pez-dispenser you have in place, then you should be fine.

The statute also calls for, among other things, minimum standards, i.e., a dog has to be exercised one hour each day in an area that has a surface with "adequate drainage"; and animals need to be bathed and have their nails trimmed. The horror!

We just wish Duerler would be more upfront about the RPOA's mission. While we find breeding to be an odious endeavor, there is nothing invalid about a group coming right out and saying it wants fewer -- or no -- breeder regulations. But it's hiding a true agenda that bugs us.

The group's site states that "our purpose is to make a lasting contribution to the quality of life for animals and people, as animals are a public health and safety issue," and that "we strive to change the 'attitudes' of pet owners -- addressing animal problems with a positive message, education, and assistance."

To that end, RPOA claims to run a "Pet Education, Assistance & Rescue Program," and also claims that this program operates "in collaboration with all animal welfare groups, pet clubs, veterinarians, shelters, animal control divisions, and other pet interests."

The program purports to include "presentations on pet care & bite prevention" at schools, but Duerler either could not, or would not, provide any information about any past or upcoming events. The site's "animal events calendar" is frozen at 2013, and plugs a single temperament testing event.

And RPOA's 2013 federal tax return states that its "exempt purpose is to be the leading provider of information and assistance concerning animal welfare and related public health issues in the state of Texas."

Come now. That's just a load of what our dog leaves on the neighbor's lawn.

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