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Why Animal Welfare Advocates Need to Work With Breeders to Pass Puppy Mill Legislation

Anyone who heard my exchange with Representative Steve Drazkowski during a hearing on proposed puppy mill regulations in the Minnesota House Agriculture Committee last session knows that he and I do not see eye-to-eye on all of the details of this issue.  That being said, however, I acknowledge that during his on-air debate with Representative John Lesch yesterday, he made some compelling arguments.


He expressed concern that Lesch’s proposed legislation could hurt small, responsible breeders.  And, he suggested that animal welfare folks lump all breeders in with puppy mills.


See the debate here…


Whether or not you agree with Representative Drazkowski’s ideas, one thing is certain: They will carry a lot of weight with members of the Agriculture Committee – THE most crucial committee the proposed legislation needs to get through in order to pass.


People advocating for puppy mill regulation in Minnesota should have learned this lesson by now.  For several years animal welfare advocates in our state cut breeders and other important stakeholders out of the conversation.  They kept presenting the same kinds of bills over and over and over, bills that most observers understood were dead before they even arrived at the legislature.


That all changed when Animal Ark reached out to the Minnesota Purebred Dog Breeder’s Association.  Rather than telling them what they should think, we asked them what they thought.  And, we incorporated their input into a bill that gained a tremendous amount of support from all quarters, reaching far beyond the animal welfare community.  Not only did we gain support for the bill from more people, opponents of the legislation could not make the arguments that are being made today about Lesch's bill.  It’s hard to say that animal welfare folks paint all breeders as puppy mill operators, if the animal welfare people are actually working with some breeders.  It is hard to say that the bill will hurt responsible breeders if responsible breeders are supporting the bill.


The legislative process is all about consensus-building.  That is the lesson animal welfare advocates SHOULD have learned over the last several years.  Not only have they not learned the lesson, some factions within the animal welfare community seem stubbornly committed to casting aside the most important partners in the effort to pass a puppy mill law.  And, in so doing, they not only hand over the arguments being used by their opposition, they also prove some of the arguments true.


This year’s House File 388 and Senate File 384 are identical to the “consensus” language from the last legislative session.  Rather than supporting that language, a subset of animal welfare folks went off and wrote their own competing language that is consistent with failed attempts from years past.  In so doing, they are demonstrating Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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Comment by Thomas Dock on March 2, 2011 at 1:30pm

This is a great article!  Getting the two sides to come together is going to be a very important step in resolving the puppy mill issue.


I would also respectfully add that getting the veterinarians of the state and the state veterinary medical association (VMA) involved should be required as well.  Down in Texas, the Texas VMA has been working with local animal welfare groups and actually helped draft the language for a new commercial breeders bill in that state.

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