Thoughts on How to Reform Companion Canine Breeding Practices

Everyone understands that many breeders don’t follow any guidelines, and that many safety, health and abuse conditions exist in the most offensive breeders. There are large breeders, small breeders, and everything in between. Different titles are synonymous with this discussion, including backyard breeders and puppy mills. All are just dog breeding operations, put simply, for monetary gain.

Currently there exists no objective way to determine if the mills are well run or not, in fact, there is no good way to even identify how many there are, their volume, ownership or location.

I am forming a group to reform breeders and auctions, I hope you will register there to learn more in coming days as the group gets it legs, but I wanted to share my thoughts on how I believe we can accomplish our goal.

I spent my business in the auto salvage business, beginning in 1978, where there was little or no regulation or environmental controls. I sold out in 1999 to Ford Motor Company, after having built one of the largest such businesses in the United States. I was an active member of the Automotive Recyclers Associations, and a pioneer in many ways. I was one of the first to computerize, and was always a proponent of free competition, while recognizing the need to be regulated. Many in the business didn’t want regulations, both good and bad operators. Eventually it became clear there was going to be more regulation, especially on the environmental issues, and we could either be part of the process or watch as it occurred. Many of the more sophisticated better run operations became proponents of more regulation, as it became obvious that the bad operators had a competitive advantage, with lower costs, lack of taxes collected, their pay and treatment of employees, so on and so on. Eventually, working together with the good operators, who wanted to be a part of the regulation (rather than stand on the outside and watch it happen TO them), regulation occurred, at city, state and federal levels. It was a great thing. Some will say that there is no comparison, and this experience isn’t valuable, but the auto parts industry dwarfs dog breeding in size of dollars, industries, and people affected. It crosses the insurance, collision, auto repair and legal industries. It took a decade to get better regulations on the books, and is ongoing still.

What did I learn from this experience?

  • Transparency is key, and in order to regulate, you must register all qualifying participants. Laws would define who needed to register; likely based on how many dogs were held, bred or sold I am sure there are folks smarter than me to help with what “qualifies”. I need help with this, I don’t understand enough to come up with these guidelines, but our proposed group will have the experience and experts to reach a consensus on this issue. There could be exclusions for those that primarily show, for instance. This step is perhaps the most key. With registration at the center of it all, anyone not registered could be reported, and those that are registered would have a big incentive to be compliant. I would dare say that this one component of proposed legislation is the most important, because inhumane treatment could likely be prosecuted under existing laws for animal cruelty. Pet stores would surely only want to buy from licensed & registered breeders. The fee would be modest I believe, less than $100 annually to register, perhaps based on size, yet to be decided.
  • Regulation following registration is also important. There is no reason to “break our pick”, where others have found solutions. We need to gather legislation from all 52 states, if it exists, and then review those that seem to be both most effective and have a high probability of being passable, which will require a compromising attitude from all parties. We won’t get everything we want. We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and should stay focused on something that is passable. We can then hire an expert to draft a proposed model law, and then find volunteers in every state to advance it with their lawmakers. I am a business person, one that does not like big government. Commerce is key, and things that limit it should be looked at with a questioning eye. I am not a person that is all the way on the right or left, that wants to focus on the exception rather than the majority.
  • Many will have various reasons why these actions aren’t needed, but responsible breeders will swiftly recognize the advantages and want to be a part of the registrations. If we keep our wish list small, and focus on registration and abuse issues, others will have trouble raising credible objections. We should make sure that all stakeholders are asked to perhaps, especially the breeders. Legislation does work, check this link.
  • Many will never register, and will be lawless. They will move from one location to another, and hide, but will eventually be uncovered by the many passionate people in this community of dog lovers. We can’t solve 100% of the problem, everything is incremental.
  • Any attempt to regulate commerce (like limiting pet stores sale of dogs) will be met with justifiable stiff resistance, and be seen as self-serving, we need to focus on the abuse of animals, and a goal everyone can relate to. We will have plenty of resistance anyway, without creating more by throwing everything but the kitchen sink in our wish list. There are lots of distracting issues, many with merit, but need to stay focused on our goal.
  • Registration is a viable request; most all professionals have to be registered. Barbers, plumbers, insurance salespersons, it should be easy to see why there is a need to register companion canine breeders.
  • I’ve heard dozens of other ideas, ranging from involving the IRS, to limiting demand or supply of dogs. Some ideas have merit, others are just dreams, but I believe we should focus on legislation to reform the breeders.
  • We can work on auctions next, another area I have extensive experience in, having owned one, and been involved in legislation and even testifying on bid rigging before the FTC. That discussion is best saved for later.
  • We need lots of hands on this pump. Please register at our site, www.ReformCanineBreedersAnd (this name may change, at board’s direction), and send in the volunteer to serve form, as we are looking for high quality people to serve in all positions, including the board. You aren’t obligated just because you register at our site.
  • This document is intended to spur professional discussion of these topics, please be respectful of your comments.

Ron Sturgeon

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