AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill that has pitted Maine’s dog breeders against Norma Worley, the head of the Animal Welfare Division of the Maine Department of Agriculture, has now come under fire by a national sport dog organization.
Maine dog breeders have already labeled LD 964 — which establishes new dog breeding regulations, fees and definitions — as too restrictive on their industry and an attempt to eliminate breeding altogether. The breeders feel that laws on the books now are strict enough to address animal abuse and cruelty and to control “puppy mills” and disreputable breeders.
The American Sporting Dog Alliance on Monday initiated a nationwide petition that calls for the firing of Worley if LD 964 passes. The petition also calls for a boycott of Maine travel and the purchase of all Maine products. In less than one day, almost 600 out-of-state dog owners and breeders have signed the petition.
They have left comments such as, “Had plans for a late summer holiday, but I’ll be choosing a state that is friendly and supportive to dogs and their loving owners.”
Worley said Monday that she was blindsided by the petition. “I thought we were moving forward well,” she said. “We cleaned up a lot of areas in the legislation that not only breeders had strong feelings about, but we did, too.” She said members of the American Kennel Club and several dog breeders were represented within the working group that created the proposed legislation.
Worley said the ASDA’s contention that she has close ties to the Humane Society of the U.S. is wrong. Many breeders believe the HSUS and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are working together to pass legislation across the country that edges closer to a goal of eliminating all pet ownership.
LD 964 is set for a public hearing at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, before the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.
In an open letter to dog owners across the country that was circulated to 100,000 people on various dog databases, John Yates of ASDA calls the proposed legislation “Draconian.” He says Worley “has run roughshod over the rights of dog owners in what can only be described as official repression by a rogue governmental agency gone mad.”
Yates urges Maine dog owners to contact members of the committee and to attend the hearing if possible. But, he said, “We don’t think this goes far enough. The American Sporting Dog Alliance is also asking dog owners across the country to sign our petition.”
The petition urges a total boycott of Maine by tourists and consumers until Worley is removed from her position. Comments on the petition include: “I will no longer support L.L. Bean on the Internet,” “I was planning to come to Maine this summer. Not now,” and “No more ski trips, dog shows, products sold or produced in Maine will be funded from my income.”
Yates maintains that Worley has “demonstrated a lifetime of animal rights movement fanaticism, and has clearly used her powerful position to crusade for her beliefs. While we defend Worley’s right to hold whatever beliefs she chooses, we believe it is wholly inappropriate for someone with a crusader mentality to head a state regulatory agency.”
The ASDA petition calls for a complete boycott of travel to Maine for vacations, business, hunting or fishing, dog events or any other reason. “Our goal will be to remove at least $1 billion from Maine’s economy, and we will suggest that dog owners spend that money in other states or Canadian provinces that are dog-friendly,” Yates stated. “Quite frankly, we are tired of being used as punching bags by the animal rights movement.”
He further stated that only nonresidents should sign the petition. “It simply is too dangerous for Maine residents to sign this kind of petition, because of numerous reports that Maine kennel owners who have criticized the bureau or the proposed legislation have been targeted for enhanced enforcement of state regulations in an attempt to intimidate them into silence.”
Worley said Monday that Yates’ description of the details of the bill, included in his letter to the U.S. dog owner community, was accurate, but she denied ties to the HSUS and PETA.
“I really don’t understand all this outcry,” she said. “I really thought we had come to a good compromise.”
The petition and comments by signatories can be found at www.petitiononline.com/Maine1/petition.html.
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Details of LD 964
• A breeding kennel is defined as keeping five or more female dogs and cats that are capable of reproduction, if one or more dogs, puppies, cats or kittens are sold.
• Any kennel that sells 16 or more animals a year also is defined as a breeding kennel.
• Three categories of breeding kennel licenses are proposed depending on the number of female dogs and cats that are capable of breeding. License fees are $75, $250 and $500 a year. Conditional licenses are issued pending inspection, and may be revoked if complete compliance is not attained within six months.
• The standards for the inspection are not part of the bill and will be developed by the Animal Welfare Division.
• It authorizes the department to revoke, suspend or refuse to renew a license pending an administrative hearing.
• It expands the definition of “seller” to include those owners or keepers who advertise for sale more than one dog or cat a year and adds additional disclosure requirements for sellers.
• It requires a seller to have a dog or cat examined by a veterinarian before sale.
The full text of LD 964
can be found at http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/display_ps.asp?LD=964&snum=124