It's time. Time to stop being so dang nice and tolerant. Time to act. For a few years now I have read and heard stories about fellow dog lovers, breeders, bird dog owners and other pet owners having to defend themselves against wrongful accusations regarding the welfare of their dogs. Each time I felt badly for the individual and although I knew it was wrong to not do more, I just ducked my head a bit and was relieved that it didn't happen to me. Thankfully it still has not happened to me but it has come close enough for me to no longer idly sit by. And you and your dog may be next so I encourage you to read this and to consider what action you can take. Just in case you think that the fact that I am a hunter and breeder means that I am at greater risk of having their dogs taken away, I'll give you the two most recent scenarios that have brought me to action. Any one of you who has used a kennel to housebreak your puppy or keep your dogs safe, make sure you read through to the end because you are in the target zone also.
Situation 1. Nice suburban couple has 3 fairly large dogs that they adore. Well trained and socialized, the dogs live in the house, go on vacation with the family, and romp in a yard that was fenced in for their safety. For safety when traveling, the dogs travel in the back of their vehicle, secured in airline approved travel kennels. A recent family health situation brought them to travel to another state (which happens to be a destination state for bird hunting, may I add) so of course the dogs went along. The husband frequently checked on the dogs in the vehicle out in the parking lot of the hospital which was Ground Zero for the whole family. At one point he decided to walk the dogs and reached into the back of the vehicle to unlatch the kennel door. The normally well behaved dog excitedly burst out of the kennel and rushed to jump out of the vehicle. My friend reflexively grabbed the collar of the large dog and had to use his body as a block to prevent the dog from jumping out into the traffic lane. Phew, close call. But. But then he hears a womans voice nearby, yelling that she "saw him punch that dog in the head" and she was calling the police for animal abuse. Shocked, he secured the dog (it's safety comes first), turned and began to explain the situation but the woman was yelling at him and snapping photos of him with her cell phone. An officer did indeed come, listened to both the woman and the dog owner, rolled his eyes as the woman persisted, and told the dog owner that it was obvious that there was no wrongdoing so everyone please go on their way. The officer also said that these types of hysterical, over-reactive reports are not unusual these days but that he is required to at least respond each time. My friend, the dog owner, was mortified and in shock. Not only had he experienced a close call with his beloved dog jumping into a traffic lane but he had a stranger outrageously accuse him of cruelty which was unthinkable for him and dogs. With his family dealing with the passing of a loved one, he decided it was best to simply put the incident behind him although he did wonder aloud if his face was going to be on Facebook that evening under the heading of Dog Abuser......
Situation 2. It's wonderful to have a farm. Plenty of rural acres, you can run your dogs for exercise and training. But even well trained dogs sometimes "get a wild hair", forget their lessons and let their legs take them where they shouldn't. Particularly when they are highpowered bird dogs and they live in bird country...sometimes temptation is just too much. For 3 days this particular dog had her fun on the run while her owner went without sleep, drove hundreds of miles of back roads looking for her, made posters, spread the word and worried himself sick. Finally a call came from someone who had found her; he said she was at the dog warden's kennel “in rough shape,” to be picked up in the morning. Even more concerned now, the owner drove to the home of the man who had found the dog, paid him a sizeable reward, and thought it odd that the man apologized over and over for not calling the owner first from the info on the collar. The owner reported to the county animal shelter first thing the next morning. The dog is a fit athlete, but after 3 days of running she was thin and tired but fine, and her owner was enormously relieved to get her back safely. However, the dog warden informed him that he was being charged with animal abuse because in the opinion of the person who found the dog and the veterinarian who then examined her because of the complaint, "she was at a ’Level 1’ of starvation." Despite the fact that the dog is of a hunting breed known for being very slender at any time and despite the fact that she had been missing - and therefore had not eaten - for 3 days. Despite the fact that he is a lifelong farmer whose profession, passion and heart has been wrapped around elite hunting dogs like the wayward one who rode home on his front seat, wagging her tail and very happy to be headed home. So now this dog's owner is on county probation for animal abuse, with no opportunity for explanation and no specifics of how/what the probation actually means, other than that his farm is subject to random visits from animal control authorities.
Still thinking that you are safe from this type of legal accusation? If like most owners of multiple dogs you happen to use kennel runs to keep your dogs safe and to keep your house from becoming a kennel, check out the following active proposed legislation. If this law passes and you keep a dog in a kennel overnight in New York, you will be punished with jail time and fined.
"THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM-
BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
Section 1. The agriculture and markets law is amended by adding a new
section 353-g to read as follows:
§ 353-G. TETHERING, RESTRAINING, CAGING OR PENNING OF DOGS. 1. IT
SHALL BE UNLAWFUL TO TIE, TETHER, RESTRAIN, CAGE OR PEN A WORKING OR
NON-WORKING DOG OUTDOORS, BETWEEN THE HOURS OF 7 P.M. TO 6 A.M.
2. A WORKING OR NON-WORKING DOG MAY BE TIED, TETHERED, CAGED OR PENNED
OUTDOORS BETWEEN THE HOURS OF 6 A.M. AND 7 P.M., TO A STATIONARY OBJECT
OR A PEN OR CAGE IN A SIZED PEN OR CAGE FOUR TIMES THE HEIGHT AND LENGTH
OF SAID DOG...
.... 3. ANY PERSON WHO KNOWINGLY VIOLATES THE PROVISIONS OF THIS SECTION
SHALL BE GUILTY OF A MISDEMEANOR, PUNISHABLE BY INCARCERATION IN CITY,
TOWN, VILLAGE OR COUNTY JAIL FOR NOT LESS THAN TWO DAYS AND NOT MORE
THAN SIX MONTHS, SHALL PERFORM BETWEEN FORTY-EIGHT AND ONE HUNDRED TWEN-
TY HOURS OF COMMUNITY SERVICE, AND SHALL BE SUBJECT TO A FINE OF BETWEEN
TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS AND ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS, UPON THEIR FIRST OFFENSE.
UPON THEIR SECOND OFFENSE, SUCH PERSON SHALL BE SUBJECT TO INCARCERATION
IN CITY, TOWN, VILLAGE OR COUNTY JAIL FOR NOT LESS THAN TEN DAYS AND NOT
MORE THAN SIX MONTHS, AND SHALL BE SUBJECT TO A FINE OF BETWEEN ONE
THOUSAND DOLLARS AND TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS. UPON THEIR THIRD OFFENSE,
SUCH PERSON SHALL BE SUBJECT TO A FELONY."
The list goes on for the number of bills being proposed across the USA that would make many pet lovers/owners criminals and allow other people to decide whether you and I can own a pet. If we responsible animal owners do not fight back, the list is going to get longer. Stand up for yourself and for your animal. Educate the ignorant and that includes making sure that friends and families are not unknowingly supporting anti-animal groups through monetary contributions: the marketing ploys can be very deceiving and the money that the anti's collect will be used against you and I. Stay alert to proposed legislation and let your representatives know that you oppose. Nearly 70% of households in the USA own a pet, let's stop the anti-pet minority from pushing us around. Don't just be afraid. Stand up and speak up. For you, me, and our pets.