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Dog Owners Are Under Attack!

Gun dog owners should be aware of hidden agendas and unseen attacks on pet ownership.

Dog Owners Are Under Attack!

Misguided kenneling and tethering requirements are some of the most common attacks on dog ownership. (Photo By: Bill Buckley)

As gun dog owners, trainers, handlers and lovers, we often take for granted all the opportunities we have with our canine companions. Whether hunting, hunt tests, field trials or just having them around the house for companionship, our dogs make our lives better or we wouldn’t put so much time, money and effort into them. So certainly, we don’t want to pick up our favorite magazine—GUN DOG—and find a story about politics rather than hunting, conditioning, training or other important topics. Trust me: I’m with you there.

That said, constant efforts throughout the country to dictate what we can do with our dogs, how we can house them and other factors that should be up to our own good judgment leave the very future of our sport imperiled. And that’s not an overstatement, as dangerous proposals—some by well-meaning people who just go too far—should not simply be ignored if we want our hunting and field trialing ways of life to continue.

Brian Lynn, vice president of marketing and communication for the Sportsmen’s Alliance, knows these dangers well. A gun dog owner himself, he and his organization are constantly involved in trying to head off do-gooders or even haters who want to tell us how to care for our dogs and what we can legally do with them.

“Proposals that would negatively affect gun dog owners are extremely common,” Lynn said in an exclusive interview with GUN DOG. “Every single session we see something that needs to be addressed. Usually, it’s tethering. With those proposals, stakeout chains would become illegal. These proposals are written for city people and abuse cases, but that’s not what happens. By the letter of the law, hunting would be impacted, or breeding would be impacted.”

Lynn said such efforts by those who wish to control animal owners generally fall into one of a handful of categories— tethering, kenneling, or breeding. All might seem innocuous when you first hear about them—possibly even sound like good ideas—but when you dig deeper real problems can be found. “The intent isn’t always apparent,” Lynn said. “Nobody wants to see abused dogs, so everyone gets behind it or gets complacent about it. But if you read the letter of the law, you’re very much in danger.”


Breeding Restrictions  

Restrictions on breeding—aimed at stopping the proliferation of so-called “puppy mills”—are one of the most common types of proposals the Sportsmen’s Alliance is forced to address, and some of these restrictions might even sound reasonable. But you’ve got to look at the big picture to get to the truth.

“Breeding proposals are very, very common,” Lynn said. “They can target the number of females you own, so if you have “x” number you now will be classified as a commercial breeder. Or it could be how many puppies you produce, or how many puppies you sell or transfer. “We’ve even seen proposals where you can’t transfer a dog in public. Of course, it’s aimed at people sitting outside Walmart selling puppies all the time. But at the same time, what if you’re in wherever and I’m here and I’m getting a puppy from you, we drive and meet halfway at a rest stop, and you’ve just broken the law in some of these bills we’ve seen.”

Breeding proposals are especially dangerous because of the incremental nature of infringing legislation of all kinds. Sure, maybe someone selling 10 litters a year should be considered a “commercial” breeder. But once a threshold is set, it is easy to change it. “The law will say you can’t sell 10 litters a year, and all of a sudden next year it could be five or two,” Lynn said. “We deal with that quite often. They’ll seek to change the number of litters you can transfer or that you can birth, they’ll go both angles. Lowering that threshold that triggers a commercial breeding requirement—we see that all the time.

german shorthaired pointer puppies
Responsible gun dog breeders could be significantly affected by regulations meant to harm "puppy mills." (Photo By: Mark Atwater)

“Nobody wants to see puppy mills. But these breeding restrictions that we see could apply easily to your casual breeder or your hunting dog breeder. When you’re talking transfers limited to two puppies in a year or you have to be registered as a USDA breeder, you have just one litter and you can’t sell them. Then you’re subject to home inspections, and fees, and permits, and business licenses.”


Tethering And Kenneling  

Tethering requirements are another common type of restriction that often seem reasonable but can end up having a negative effect on gun dog owners. Of course, there are times when a lawmaker making such a proposal has good intentions because, “Hey, nobody wants to see a dog spend its life out on a chain.” But then when the legislation is actually written, it doesn’t come out that way.

For instance, proposals that ban keeping a dog on a chain completely ignore the importance of stakeout chains and chain gangs for trainers, field trialers, and hunters. So, if the venue where your next trial is set to be held falls within a jurisdiction that makes chaining dogs illegal, you could be breaking the law by staking the dogs out beside your trailer like you’ve been doing for decades.

dog in a kennel
Kenneling requirements are another type of proposal that can become problematic—especially if the person writing the legislation wants to make it as hard on dog owners as possible. (Photo By: GUN DOG)

“There are times when we can tell it’s just an open attack,” Lynn said. “And if they’re not willing to put exemptions in the legislation, there’s an issue there. You’ll see that a lot with the kenneling requirements. There are bills out there that are like a housing code. Building a dog house and kennel, you’ve got to have this much gravel, then this much pea gravel on top of that, and the house has to be “x” number of inches off the ground, have “x” number of inches of overhang, this kind of bedding not that kind.

“Even proposals that require 24-hour access to water are problematic,” he continued. “Those sound reasonable when you think about it. But dogs kick their water bowls over all the time. So, say you’re out in the field training one dog and the other dog kicks its bowl over. A half hour later you come in, and if the allowance is 15 minutes you’ve just broken the law.”

The Culprits  

While some of these proposals are made by ignorant legislators who don’t understand dog ownership or trust their constituents to take care of their dogs, most come from large animal rights groups. The two biggest culprits are the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Unfortunately, while the HSUS is tops at trying to push bad restrictions on dog owners, many pet owners are fooled into believing that group is the umbrella group for all the local humane societies throughout the country, most of which do actually help animals. And it’s likely that even some gun dog owners donate to a group that would like to see them outlawed.

“The Humane Society is not responsible for one single shelter—they even say it,” Lynn emphasized. “Less than 1 percent of their $200 million budget goes to shelters. They are an advocacy organization that makes a ton of money on the name that they’ve co-opted. “Everybody thinks it’s a national umbrella group for their local shelter. It is not. Your local shelter runs on taxes and donations.” For a deeper dive into understanding HSUS, spend some time exploring humanewatch.com. That website reveals the ugly underbelly of HSUS, which would, incidentally, like to see all kinds of hunting outlawed.

A Strange Reality

We haven’t even mentioned the widespread effort by some people and groups to have animals considered equal to people. Such craziness usually starts in Europe, then gradually makes its way to our shores. “For a lot of this stuff, just look to Europe,” Lynn said. “What happens in Europe eventually comes here. And there is literally the Animal Party in the Netherlands that has a seat in Parliament. They get to voice the animals’ perspective!”

Think such craziness couldn’t happen here? A measure proposed earlier this year in Rhode Island would have provided appointed lawyers to animals, and this attorney would have the same rights to participate in all case matters as lawyers with human clients.

Additionally, a few years back in Washington state, a group from Seattle made an effort to define “pain and suffering.” “We got invited into the working group, and the Humane Society of the U.S. was right there in the meetings,” Lynn said. “Their definition of pain and suffering was anything that would cause pain to a human, be it mild discomfort or excruciating pain, physical or mental, and it would apply to all animals.”

Lynn’s group brought up in the meeting that such a definition would negatively affect gun dog owners and trainers and the tools they use.“Say that the pain and suffering bill gets passed,” Lynn said. “Now all of a sudden someone brings up e-collars. Hey, this is painful. So that opens the door to a ban. Then, you’re not training your dogs as well or as efficiently, which actually can endanger the dog.”

dogs on a chain gang
Field trailers and dog trainers who tether their dogs could be indirectly affected by new animal welfare laws. (Photo By: GUN DOG)

Sportsmen’s Alliance   

When misguided or even crazy legislation is introduced, that’s when Lynn’s organization comes into play. Sportsmen’s Alliance staffers keep tabs on proposals at all different levels of government that could affect sportsmen in some way, including gun dog owners. “If it’s introduced, we’re in there trying to kill legislation like that, and if we can’t kill it then we’re looking for some kind of amendment or exemption for us,” he said. “For instance, a bad bill will come up and we’ll call the guy and see if we can get some concession. A lot of times they didn’t understand the ramifications. So, they’ll write an exemption by breed, or by activity, or exempting hunting, training, trialing or field tests or whatever. We try to get some protections in there.”

american brittany mother feeding puppies
Sportsman's Alliance works tirelessly to identify and extinguish any potentially harmful legislation that would hinder how gun dog owners care for their dogs. (Photo By: Jerry Imprevento)

If the author isn’t willing to carve out exceptions that would respect hunters, gun dog owners and other sportsmen and women, the Sportsmen’s Alliance begins a full-frontal effort to kill the measure, ranging from having people writing op-eds, doing social media posts, having people call law-makers, and sending out alerts to put pressure on the authors of such measures.

Lynn said that while many gun dog owners don’t believe these crazy sounding proposals could ever affect them, they need to think again. “A lot of this stuff they don’t think is aimed at them,” he said “I mean, we’re dog owners, right? We love dogs and take good care of them. They’re the reason we can do what we do, and for a lot of us just watching the dog work is the biggest thing.“So, dog owners see these things and think, ‘Oh, this isn’t aimed at me. This is aimed at a pit bull that’s on a chain its whole life.’ But without a doubt it can affect you.”

As Lynn mentioned, all it takes is to have a proposal implemented. Once it’s passed, it becomes up to the interpretation and the discretion of the responding officer. “So, if your neighbor down the street or down the country road doesn’t like what you’re doing or thinks you’re mistreating your animals, all it takes is a phone call,” he said. “Now you have to defend yourself. It might not be true, but you’re going to have to defend yourself and prove that you’re innocent, even though it’s supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.”

And as Lynn points out, if you are a professional who works with dogs for a living in one way or another, such accusations can have a direct negative impact on your livelihood. “If you’re a breeder or trainer—a professional who does this for a living—and you get that complaint against you, that’s a black mark,” he said. “With today’s social media, even if you are innocent and you go to court, and they drop everything, there’s still that doubt that is created and that black mark against your name, even though you’re innocent.”

Notably, many pet-oriented proposals that would hurt gun dogs and gun dog owners are economics based, attempting to stop whatever activity they want to ban by making it too expensive. “A lot of this stuff we see for dogs is actually an economic attack,” Lynn said. “If they can get kenneling restrictions in place and make them so onerous that a breeder can’t comply with it or it’s super expensive to comply with it, that increases the price of the puppy. If you’re just talking kenneling, if you send your dog to a pro or get a started dog, it could make that so expensive that the average guy isn’t going to be able to afford it.”

In the end, it’s important for gun dog owners to at least stay somewhat alert to dangers that can be created by misguided groups or politicians who think they know better how you should care for your dogs than you do. To stay in the loop, visit the Sportsmen’s Alliance website and sign up for the e-newsletter and state alerts that can keep you informed on dangerous proposals that could affect you and your gun dogs.  

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