Monday, February 28, 2011

Competing Puppy Mill bills in MN

This news is so disappointing. Looks like the two largest animal rescues in Minnesota have drawn a line in the sand yet again: Animal Ark is supporting one bill and AHS (Animal Humane Society) is supporting the other.

Can't animal rescue groups work together even for such an obvious common goal as eliminating animal cruelty in puppy mill breeding operations??

Who Is Behind Efforts to Kill Minnesota’s Puppy Mill Bill?
Posted by Mike Fry on February 27, 2011 at 11:30pm

Those who work on legislative efforts nationally and locally know that one of the most effective ways to kill a bill is to offer a competing alternative, thereby splitting the supporters of the cause, and giving opponents a rational excuse to vote down both bills. This is especially true if there is broad support for the original piece of proposed legislation.

This fact combined with news of competing bills to House File 388 and Senate File 384 being introduced in the Minnesota Legislature have left many people wondering, “who is trying to kill Minnesota’s puppy mill bill?”

The potential answers to that question get stranger if people look deeper into who is supporting the new competing legislation. It is a story that uncovers what could be either deliberate sabotage or incompetence within the animal welfare community.

The story begins a few years ago, when differing factions within the Minnesota animal welfare community were working on different approaches to regulating large-scale breeding operations in the state. One faction had been working for many years on one approach that had little support at the legislature and no support at all from those outside the animal welfare community. They had introduced bills repeatedly with absolutely no success at all.

Animal Ark had supported past efforts, but we realized a different approach needed to be taken. We began seeking input from other organizations, including small, responsible breeders, like the Minnesota Purebred Dog Breeder’s Association, sheriffs and veterinarians. The result was an interesting and widely supported new approach. It resulted in new language with broad support. But, a few animal welfare advocates clung to the old model.

When the Minnesota Legislature was approached with this new language, we were given a clear directive: get together with the animal welfare advocates working on other approaches, get on the same page, and deliver to the legislature a viable, single “compromise” bill. We did just that.

The process of getting agreement was fairly long, and somewhat painful for all parties involved. But we all together and succeeded.

The amended House File 253 in 2010 was the result of that challenging work. The new language was strong, tight and was supported by a remarkably broad spectrum of supporters. Organizations that testified in support of this new language last year included Animal Ark, Second Chance Animal Rescue, RAGOM, the Animal Humane Society, the Minnesota Purebred Dog Breeder’s Association, veterinarians and others.

Beyond that, the Board of Animal Health had produced a fiscal note that was very favorable to the language. The language got traction and quickly passed a couple of committees in the House. This was more success than any of its predecessors had ever seen.

In the end, after some dramatic twists and turns, an amendment version of House File 253 came within a handful of votes of passing in the House, thanks to the leadership of Representative John Benson, and others.

Believing in the language and the importance of collaboration, Representative Benson held a series of meetings with the small group of opponents to House File 253 over the interim. At these meetings, he asked for constructive input that would improve the language. None was offered.

As a result, he introduced House File 388 this year, identical language to the “compromise” language that was House File 253 in 2010. Immediately, a group of respected legislators signed on as co-authors. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate (Senate File 384) and immediately gained more sponsors.

Then, more momentum got going. A new Facebook page in support of the bills surged. A grass-roots effort of letter writing resulted in news coverage, letters to the editor and petitions being spread around the Internet. House File 388 and Senate File 384 were off to a strong start.

Then, something happened…

A little known web site ( announced competing bills. (The House version of this competing set of bills, it is worth noting, was authored by Representative John Lesch, the same representative that tried for several years to ban a variety of dog breeds throughout the state of Minnesota.)

A private individual apparently authors the web site She claims to represent a “broad coalition” of organizations, but has continually refused to say who they are. She has reportedly worked with the Humane Society of the United States. However, an email received today from the President of HSUS, Wayne Pacelle, clearly states his organization has nothing to do with these competing bills. Furthermore, does not appear to have a legal lobbying presence at the legislature.

So, the question remains: Who is Who are they representing? And why would they be working to sabotage the puppy mill bill?

We will continue to keep you posted as we learn more.

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