Scary PA Tail Docking Bill

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Scary PA Tail Docking Bill

Post by eaglerock814 » Fri Jun 05, 2009 8:53 pm

Scary Tail Docking Bill Faces
Pennsylvania Hearing Tuesday

American Sporting Dog Alliance

This report is archived at ... &thread=42

HARRISBURG, PA – In laws, ambiguity is the most frightening of all flaws. When a law is ambiguous, it is open to a wide range of subjective and biased interpretation by enforcement officers and judges, and citizens cannot tell what they must do to comply with the law.

Pennsylvania legislation about tail docking and dewclaw removal, which faces a State Senate hearing this coming Tuesday, June 9, 2009, is this kind of dangerous bill. It’s ambiguity means that every dog owner who is accused of a violation faces a total crapshoot when confronted with a dog warden or animal cruelty police officer, or is brought before a court to face animal cruelty charges.

This kind of legislation is just plain wrong, and the American Sporting Dog Alliance is urging all Pennsylvania dog owners to immediately contact her or his state senator and members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and express strong opposition to this kind of reckless legislation. Laws should be written clearly so that guilt or innocence is spelled out in black and white.

Moreover, no evidence has been shown of any reason to restrict practices such as tail docking and dewclaw removal, which have been common practices for hundreds of years in many hunting, working and other breeds. These simple procedures, when done correctly, are virtually painless and safe. For many working and hunting breeds, tail docking and dewclaw removal are done for the dog’s safety.

Legislation such as this also sets a dangerous precedent for farmers and hunters. Farmers should be concerned because it is a foot in the door to banning of necessary agricultural practices, such as docking the tails of baby pigs to prevent injury. Hunters should be concerned because this kind of legislation is supported by animal rights extremists who want to eliminate hunting. The bill needs to be stopped in its tracks.

The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee will hear testimony on House Bill 39 this coming Tuesday, June 9, at Noon in Room 8E-A of the East wing of the capitol building in Harrisburg. If possible, concerned dog owners should attend this hearing and voice opposition.

For those who cannot attend, we urge immediate phone calls and faxes to committee members to express opposition to HB 39. Emails are less effective but much better than nothing. Contact information will be provided below.

HB 39 is an amendment of current law. Here is a link to the actual text of the legislation: ... 39&pn=0031. Please note that underlined words are added to the existing law, while bracketed words are removed.

The provisions about tail docking and dewclaw removal are very similar, and equally ambiguous. It says:

· A person commits a summary criminal offense if he or she cuts off tails or dewclaws, or procures their removal, after a puppy is more than five days old. That sounds reasonable, as most people who raise dogs already do this - until one sees how ambiguously it is applied. Then, the bill becomes patently unreasonable and unfair.

· There is no clear definition of guilt or innocence, and no standard of proof. The bill doesn’t say how a person can prove the age that these procedures have been done, or how an investigating officer can determine a dog’s age to see if a violation has occurred. Thus, evidence presented in court by either side would be wholly subjective and could not be proven factually. This automatically provides a legal advantage for the prosecution, as courts most often take the word of an arresting officer over the word of an accused person.

· The bill says that possession of a dog over five days old with an unhealed wound is prima facie evidence of a violation (that is, it means a person is automatically guilty, and has no possible defense). However, legally docked puppies would not have time to heal by that cutoff deadline, and their owners thus would be guilty of a violation if the procedures actually were performed legally. Even an insignificant cut on a person or animal takes several days to heal.

· One provision requires owners to keep a record of any tail docking or dewclaw removal procedures. However, it does not say what kind of record must be kept, or if the record will be considered legal proof that the procedure was done before six days of age. A further ambiguity is that the only certain way of proving the accuracy of these records would be for witnesses to sign an affidavit, or for the puppies to be taken to a veterinarian to perform the procedure. We consider this ambiguity a deliberate but backdoor attempt to require veterinarians to do the work in order to have proof of compliance.

· The bill does not account for accidents. Sometimes dogs’ tails get broken from injuries such as being caught in a door, from falling objects, from being stepped on or accidentally chewed off by the puppies’ mother, from being accidentally stepped on by people or livestock, or from being attacked by stray dogs. Oftentimes broken tails do not heal, or cannot be repaired, and some broken tails atrophy and fall off on their own. In any of these examples, there would be a visible wound – and thus a serious animal cruelty law violation.

· We also see a strong potential for this bill to make it harder for rescue groups and shelters to find adoptive homes for dogs with docked tails or dewclaws that have been removed. We believe that many potential adoptions of these dogs will be stopped by fear of the proposed law’s ambiguity. This could result in the needless euthanasia of many innocent dogs.

· We also see a strong possibility that the bill will affect out of state residents who come here for dog shows, field trials, other kinds of dog events, hunting with dogs or while merely traveling. The legislation requires only possession of a dog that is not in compliance for an animal cruelty citation to be written. It does not exempt nonresidents whose dogs are completely legal in their home states. This “Catch 22” situation already has an impact for dogs that have cropped ears, and some people believe it already prohibits participation in American Kennel Club events, as the AKC rules forbid noncompliance with state laws. Some dog fanciers are worried that it might mean citing dog owners for merely possessing a dog with cropped ears, as the rules for this procedure are more complicated and equally ambiguous (see the text of the bill for the current ear cropping law).

It must be emphasized that a conviction under this proposed law is a criminal animal cruelty offense. A conviction prevents a person from owning a kennel or having a dog-related business. For this reason alone, it is essential for these laws to be written clearly. The livelihoods of good people could be destroyed by this legislation’s ambiguity, as could a lifetime of work by a dedicated hobbyist.

It also must be emphasized that animal cruelty police officers are not always objective. They usually work for local humane societies, and some of these officers have strong personal beliefs in the animal rights agenda. The ultimate goal of animal rights groups is the complete elimination of animal ownership, farming with animals and hunting with dogs. Thus, there may be a double prejudice against a hunter who owns a spaniel, for example, or a farmer who uses one of the herding breeds with livestock.

Guilt or innocence should not depend on the personal opinions of an investigating officer or judge. They should be based only on the actual wording of a clearly written law. HB 39 falls far short of this measure, and we believe the ambiguity is deliberately written in order to scare people away from performing those legitimate and important procedures. In this context, HB 39 clearly is animal rights legislation.

Dog owners face an uphill battle to block this dangerous legislation. It already passed the state House by a unanimous vote. If the Senate approves it, it will be sent to Gov. Ed Rendell, who strongly favors it and is expected to sign it into law.

The American Sporting Dog Alliances urges all Pennsylvania dog owners to immediately (before Tuesday) contact members of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee to voice strong opposition to HB 39. Please state your reasons for opposing it, and also contact your own state senator.

Here is a link to all committee members: ... e=3&body=S. Here is a link to all state senators: ... _alpha.cfm.

If you click on a senator’s name, a page will be displayed showing mail, phone and fax contact information. This page has a further link to each senator’s home page, which contains email forms or addresses.
The American Sporting Dog Alliance represents owners, breeders and professionals who work with breeds of dogs that are used for hunting. We also welcome people who work with other breeds, as legislative issues affect all of us. We are a grassroots movement working to protect the rights of dog owners, and to assure that the traditional relationships between dogs and humans maintains its rightful place in American society and life. The American Sporting Dog Alliance also needs your help so that we can continue to work to protect the rights of dog owners. Your membership, participation and support are truly essential to the success of our mission. We are funded solely by your donations in order to maintain strict independence.
Please visit us on the web at . Our email is .


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