The following was written by Carlotta Cooper. It makes me sick that the fancy still does not “get it” and is willing to form unholy alliances with the HSUS. Now that a “magic number” has been established into law, the next step will be ANOTHER piece of legislation to LOWER that number. That IS the HSUS game plan; and the fancy played right into their hands.
I was asked to provide a little more information about why we lost with the commercial breeder bill in Tennessee. These are my views on the matter.
Losing with this bill is devastating. We have people who have been fighting the legislation who are now trying to decide which dogs to have put to sleep or looking for friends and family to take some of their dogs so they will be under the 20 female dog limit and won’t have to be inspected. We have some people who want to move out of the state.
I think the primary reason we lost was because our dog people were divided. Everything in Tennessee centers around Nashville and that’s where the decisions are made. Last year HSUS carried out a raid on a
breeder near Nashville with 700 dogs. They got the Nashville Kennel Club and some other local clubs involved in helping them. Ever since that time there have been some core people in those clubs who were
convinced that fighting “puppy mills” was their primary mission. The new HSUS state director was very smart in getting these kennel club members involved in the raid and making friends with them.
At the same time the Nashville Kennel Club, led by AKC judge Jon Cole, was heading up a new dog federation in Tennessee (Tennessee Federation of Dog Clubs). They had about a dozen member clubs from
around the state and enough money to hire a lobbyist. HSUS convinced them last winter that a bill against “puppy mills” was going to pass and that they would be better off helping to write it. So, the Federation sat down with them, had some input and has supported the bill since that time, with just a few exceptions. That was 12 of the biggest clubs in the state. Very little information was actually given to the members of the clubs. Delegates voted to accept what Jon Cole and the others decided. All meetings were held in the Nashville area.
So, it came down to the Nashville area clubs deciding things for the entire state with very little input from anyone else.
The rest of us — Responsible Animal Owners of Tennessee (mostly in Memphis and the west) and Tennessee Pet-Law (a lot of people in east Tennessee and across the state) were picking up everyone else opposed to the commercial breeder bill.
HSUS was able to say that they had the blessing of show breeders and others with the bills. They claimed to have stakeholder input which wasn’t true — there were no real commercial breeders involved in writing the bill at all. But they did have the Federation on their side.
I contacted Jon Cole as soon as I heard that he was working with HSUS on the bill in December to ask him to oppose it. I told him the reasons why he shouldn’t be working with HSUS. I told him why he should be protecting breeder rights. I told him we should be fighting breeder licensing, not trying to get it. I told him that
they should have real commercial breeders on their committee if they wanted to have a fair bill. He blew me off. I know that I’m not the only one who contacted him and told him these things.
I think if the Federation had opposed the bills and informed their membership about them so they could help fight them, the bills would have died in committee. We certainly could have used their lobbyist working for us. If they had even fully informed their membership of what they were doing I think the membership would have tried to stop them.
We got ZERO help from AKC. No alerts sent out. No messages posted on their home page. They posted a couple of messages about what was happening in Tennessee — buried deep in their government relations
section. But they never even sent them to me so I could post them on the Tennessee Pet-Law list or send them to e-mail lists. They frequently posted inaccurate, out-of-date information in their Take Command newsletter, even though I was sending them updates. I wrote Sheila Goffe several times explaining the situation and asking for help. I felt like I was “handled.” The AKC basically continued on the same course.
Instead, they(the AKC) stayed in contact with the Tennessee Federation of Dog Clubs and encouraged them to compromise on the bill throughout the process. Most of the time they claimed to be Neutral. For a few weeks I convinced AKC to oppose the bill, but as soon as one or two amendments were made they went back to being Neutral.
NAIA wasn’t much help either. They also worked with the Federation and encouraged them to negotiate rather than fight the bill.
Those of us fighting the bills could have done more. We were learning as we went. I wish that we had been able to attend the committee meetings. We were only able to make a presentation at two committee hearings (and our presenter wasn’t treated very kindly at one of them). But Tennessee is a looong state and it’s hard to convince people to drive 6-7 hours to be there for a two-minute presentation. We couldn’t pull together any kind of demonstration to hold at the Capitol either.
It would have been better if we could have lobbied in person. We discovered that our e-mails and faxes were being deleted and thrown out. Only phone calls had any effect at all. Even then, a representative could assure you that he was opposed to the bill and then vote for it. We had staff completely lie to us. When a dozen people called the governor’s office and spoke to his assistant to tell them they were opposed to the bill, I called and spoke to the same woman. She told me they hadn’t received any calls about the bill.
We looked for assistance from dozens of outside groups that had similar interests but, though some were sympathetic, none were really willing to help.
I’m sure it didn’t help that Wayne Pacelle personally went to Nashville to lobby for the bill.
So, those are some of the reasons that we lost. I hope some of this is helpful for others. Again, these have been my impressions from working on the commercial breeder bill since December of last year, before it was fully written. Some people may disagree with me and take offense but this is the truth.
I wanted to add just one more thing about the situation with the Tennessee Federation of Dog Clubs. From what I understand Mr. Cole and a small group made a unilateral decision in late 2008 to work with HSUS to write the commercial breeder bill that was so harsh to breeders. This was all done before the bill was introduced into the legislature. It was done without the knowledge or consent of the other Federation member clubs.
AFTER the bill was written and introduced Mr. Cole took a vote at the Federation’s annual meeting in March to see if the Federation as a whole would support the bill.
There was one dissenting club (bless them) and a few clubs with delegates who were not present, but the Federation voted to support the bill. Later there were clubs within the Federation who voiced their opposition to the bill but they didn’t have the votes to turn the Federation around and make them oppose the bill in its entirety.
By that time the damage had been done and they could only respond to each amendment as it was written.
Permission to cross-post this message and my previous message on Why We Lost In Tennessee.