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.