January 2007


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Jill Erisman <[log in to unmask]>
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Jill Erisman <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 5 Jan 2007 14:43:49 -0500
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-----Original Message-----
Subject:  Important article by Cindy Cooke
Date: Fri, 5 Jan 2007 10:25:10 -0500

This may be of interest to some of you on the list.  This concerns the 
restrictive dog legislation recent passed in Kentucky.  Cindy Cook was a 
former VP at UKC.

>  No More Dogs in My Old Kentucky Home
>  by Cindy Cooke, Legislative Specialist
>  Published in "Bloodlines" magazine
>  On Wednesday morning, December 20, 2006 at 3:45 a.m., the Louisville 
> City Council passed the most controversial animal ordinance in the 
> city's history.  The ordinance is 91 pages long and was vigorously 
> opposed by every dog organization in the region.  How did this happen 
> in a region known for its dedication to animal husbandry in the horse
>  industry?  It's a long, sad story.
>  Like so many bad laws in recent times, it started with a dog attacking 
> a child.  In this case, the child was killed by her family's dog.  This
>  incident was followed almost immediately by a fatal attack on an 
> elderly man by two dogs as he walked home from work.  Since all of the 
> dogs
>  involved in these two attacks were alleged to have been "pit bulls," 
> the Louisville ordinance started as, you guessed it, a breed-specific
>  dangerous dog law.  This was certainly a bad solution to the problem 
> of dog bites, but in the interim between the dog attacks and the 
> passage of the bill, it morphed into one of the most restrictive dog 
> ownership laws in the country -- without, however, any breed specific 
> restrictions. How did this happen?
>  To understand this story, we have to go back to 2005 when the city of 
> Louisville decided that their Animal Services department needed a
>  radical overhaul.  To that end, they hired the first veterinarian in 
> the department's history to serve as director of Animal Services. The 
> man
>  they hired was Dr. Gilles Meloche.  And it was to Dr. Meloche that 
> Councilwoman Cheri Bryan Hamilton turned to draft an ordinance to
>  address what she perceived as a "pit bull" problem in her community.
>  Dr. Meloche's first efforts immediately drew fire from the responsible 
> dog owners of Louisville. For most of the year, dog breeders and owners 
> tried to reason with Dr. Meloche and Councilwoman Hamilton, to no 
> avail. The ordinance went through revision after revision, but without 
> any real
>  compromise from Dr. Meloche's camp.  He and Councilwoman Hamilton 
> ignored every effort by the dog community to help produce a pet- and
>  breeder-friendly ordinance.  Each revision (and there were at least 11 
> of them) was as bad as the last.
>  To understand Dr. Meloche's resistance to working with the dog 
> community, it helps to know a little about his background.  Meloche 
> began his career as a teen-aged dairy farmer in Quebec, Canada, after 
> he was forced to leave school when his father had an accident.  In 
> 1982, he
>  entered Montreal University where he studied veterinary medicine.  He 
> graduated in 1986, and that July became director and owner of the De la
>  Cité Veterinary Hospital in Quebec.
>  In 1995, Meloche pleaded guilty to an administrative charge of failing 
> to keep adequate records for a controlled substance and failure to 
> write a suitable veterinary prescription.  His veterinary license was 
> revoked and he was fined.
>  For the next four years, Meloche taught at College Lionel-Groulx in 
> Sainte-Therese, Quebec, while he earned an MBA from Concordia
>  University.  He left his job and was out of work until March 2001, 
> when he was hired as the animal control administrator for the city of 
> Durham,
>  NC.  He was fired from that job after only ten months.
>  According to the chair of the Durham County Animal Control Advisory 
> Committee, Dr. Meloche had a controlling personality: "Part of the 
> problem is that he would get, I don't want to say a loose cannon, he'd 
> get an idea stuck in his brain and there was no way to shake it out of 
> him."
>  In February 2002, Dr. Meloche moved to Florida where he became 
> director of the Tallahassee-Leon Community Animal Services Center.  By 
> this time, Dr. Meloche had an American veterinary license which, 
> combined with his MBA, made him a desirable candidate for the job.  
> Given a mandate to reduce euthanasia statistics, Dr. Meloche took this 
> opportunity to impose his no-kill philosophy.  The shelter soon filled 
> up and eventually reached near double capacity.  Shelter workers 
> finally
>  complained that animals were dying in their cages and that the 
> facility reeked of urine and feces.  As one worker put it, "We all 
> thought he was going to be the breath of fresh air we were looking 
> for.  Gradually it became a nightmare."
>  Even Dr. Meloche's supporters felt that his plan for Tallahassee was 
> unrealistic. Dr. Meloche says of his time in Tallahassee: "I did a 
> fantastic job."  A July 2005 audit of that Tallahassee facility,
>  however, found that overcrowding had led to inhumane conditions and 
> that the overcrowding was a direct result of Meloche's no-kill policy.
>  Meloche arrived in Louisville in 2005, and Councilwoman Hamilton's 
> request for a new animal control ordinance was like manna from heaven. 
> Here was a real opportunity for him to put the "CONTROL" in animal 
> control.  But why would he think that Louisville would provide a
>  friendly environment for such a draconian bill?
>  For starters, the Mayor has pledged to build a new shelter and added 
> $100,000 to the city budget to train and hire new shelter employees.
>  For another, the Kentucky Humane Society and the Shamrock Foundation, 
> a Louisville-based charity devoted to reducing pet overpopulation, both 
> supported him.  So Meloche must have been surprised when his first 
> draft was greeted with a howl of protest from every dog organization in
>  Kentucky.  As he had in the past, however, Dr. Meloche remained 
> uncompromising in his determination to exert near total control over 
> pet ownership in his dominion.
>  By September 2005, the ordinance had been redrafted nine times.  At 
> that point, the American Veterinary Medical Association sent a letter
>  opposing the breed-specific aspects of the ordinance.  After yet 
> another amendment, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife weighed 
> in to explain how the proposed ordinance would harm hunters. Still, Dr. 
> Meloche stood his ground.  The ordinance continued to be revised right 
> up until the start of the December 19 council meeting.
>  The meeting lasted until 3:45 a.m., with opponents arguing that the 
> council should not vote on a bill that none of them except its author 
> had even read in its entirety.  In the end, however, party loyalty 
> trumped reason. All of the Democrats on the council voted for the 
> ordinance and all of the Republicans opposed it.  And that, as they 
> say,
>  was that.
>  Remember, I told you that this bill started as a breed-specific 
> dangerous dog law. In the end, however, the breed-specific language was
>  deleted completely.  Instead, dog limits, breeder licenses, and other 
> onerous restrictions on dog ownership and breeding were introduced. 
> According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, some of the key points of 
> the bill are as follows:
>  a.. Sets these annual license and permit fees: altered dog or cat, $9; 
> unaltered dog or cat, $50 (but only $35 if the animal is currently 
> licensed); potentially dangerous dog, $250; dangerous dog, $500.
>  b.. Defines a "dangerous dog" as one that kills or harms someone in an 
> unprovoked attack, maims a pet or livestock, is used in a crime, or is 
> kept as a fighting dog.
>  c.. Defines a "potentially dangerous dog" as any dog that bites, 
> scratches or bruises someone "in an aggressive manner" or bites or 
> injures a pet or livestock.
>  d.. Requires that "dangerous" and "potentially dangerous" dogs be kept 
> behind a 6-foot fence.
>  e.. Requires "animal dealers" to buy $300 licenses.  People who sell 
> only one litter in a 12-month period do not need one.
>  f.. Prohibits the sale of a "dangerous dog" or a "potentially 
> dangerous dog" without permission from the Animal Services director.
>  g.. Requires a dog or cat in heat to be confined, safe from contact 
> with another dog or cat.
>  h.. Requires veterinarians to provide copies of vaccination 
> certificates to Metro Animal Services.
>  i.. Prohibits using a buried-wire electronic fence to restrain an 
> unaltered dog.
>  j.. Requires unaltered dogs to be kept on a 4-foot leash while off 
> their owner's property.
>  k.. Requires unaltered dogs impounded by Animal Services to be spayed 
> or neutered if owner wants to reclaim them.
>  l.. Defines a nuisance animal as one that "irritates, perturbs or 
> damages rights and privileges of others" -- and could include dogs that 
> howl or bark, chase people or cars, or roam free.
>  m.. Requires unaltered dogs to be microchipped.
>  n.. Prohibits keeping more than three dogs outside on residential lots 
> of a half-acre or less.
>  o.. Prohibits keeping more than seven dogs outside on residential lots 
> between one-half and two acres.
>  If you're not too depressed after reading this list, you can read the 
> entire 91 page ordinance on the web at HYPERLINK 
> "
>  nded.pdf" e_as_amended.pdf.
>  As you can see from reading the above list or the ordinance itself, 
> the real purpose of this bill is to make it expensive, inconvenient, or 
> impossible for most people to breed dogs.  The supporters of this bill 
> are willing to throw all of the city's responsible breeders and owners 
> under a bus in order to prevent what they claim to be an epidemic of 
> pet overpopulation. There are two big problems with this position.  
> First, only 15% of Louisville's dogs are currently licensed.  No 
> reasonable person can infer that making licensing more expensive and 
> complicated will cause an increase in dog licensing.  Secondly, there 
> is no evidence that Louisville even HAS a pet overpopulation problem.
>  I did a quick check on the internet and found that in 2003, the 
> population of Louisville, Kentucky was about 4.1 million. During that 
> same year, Metro Animal Services took in 11, 253 dogs, of which 1189 
> were reclaimed by their owners, 646 were adopted and 6985 were 
> euthanized.  If only half of the 4.1 million residents of Louisville
>  owned a dog (most studies estimate about 64% of Americans are dog 
> owners), that means that Animal Services euthanized about 3.5% of the
>  dog population. Is that number too high?  Maybe, but it's certainly 
> not high enough to justify such a radical imposition on the property 
> rights of American citizens.
>  It's very clear that if we are going to stop our cities from falling 
> like dominoes before the animal rights juggernaut, we are going to have 
> play hardball. Like the big boys over at the NRA -- HARDball.  What 
> does that mean?  It means we must:
>  a.. Spend money on our cause.  How about donating the price of one 
> puppy or 10% of your puppy sales to the National Animal Interest 
> Alliance in
>  2007?
>  b.. Spend time on our issues.  Start going to council meetings in your 
> city. Introduce yourself as a dog expert.  Offer to be available to 
> help
>  with dog-related issues.
>  c.. Reward our friends, punish our enemies.  Cheri Hamilton should be 
> the first member of the Louisville City Council to be sent packing. 
> Getting rid of an incumbent is not easy-you must find an electable 
> candidate to oppose her, you must help fund him/her, you must make 
> phone calls in the district, and you must reach out to the media at 
> every opportunity.
>  d.. Recruit the pet owners.  Most pet owners know nothing about these 
> issues. If they did, they would rise up in a huge angry wave of 
> opposition.  If they don't know about what's going on, whose fault is 
> that?
>  Let's face it.  We expect nonsense like this in California.  When a 
> bill like this can pass in Kentucky, our house is not only on fire, the 
> fire
>  department isn't coming to save us.  We'd better get the buckets out 
> and save ourselves.