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Tag: senator

NC puppy mill law pronounced dead after senator’s remarks are taped

ncpupmill

Backers of increased restrictions on dog breeders in North Carolina recorded a conversation with a state Senator who opposes the bill at a meeting earlier this month and, as a result, some Republican leaders say there will be no vote on a proposed puppy mill law this year.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca said Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, was recorded without his knowledge during a private meeting, and that those who taped him planned to use the recording to “force” senators into passing the bill.

“It is wrong to secretly record private conversations with members of the General Assembly and then threaten to expose those conversations to the media to force legislators to meet specific demands,” Apodaca said. “That is nothing short of political extortion and represents a new low in lobbying for legislative action. To dignify those actions by moving ahead on this issue would set a dangerous precedent while condoning and encouraging these unethical tactics.” 

Janie Withers, the community activist who recorded the Jan. 16 meeting with Rabon, said the recording wasn’t a secret. She said she routinely tapes meetings, and that the tape recorder was sitting in plain view to all, including Rabon.

The bill passed the House last year, and has been pushed by both Gov. Pat McCrory and his wife, Ann.

In the recording, Rabon, using more than a few expletives, criticized the McCrorys for publicly supporting the bill.

Rabon“It was bullied out of committee by the executive branch,” Rabon (pictured at left) says in the tape recording, obtained by WRAL-TV . “The executive branch had absolutely, absolutely no business sticking its nose in the legislature on that sort of issue.”

He said Ann McCrory’s advocacy, including a visit to the House chamber to watch the May 9 vote, was “against all laws. … There is a strong line between opinion and lobbying. When you pick up the phone and you are in a position of power and call individual legislators and offer advice or praise or this or that, you are, under the law, lobbying, and you must be a registered lobbyist in this state to do that.”

Coming across as a bit of an Alpha dog, Rabon makes it clear that he is against the bill, and that it would be unable to pass without his support.

“That bill is not going to pass,” Rabon, a veterinarian, told the group. “Angels in heaven cannot make that bill pass.”

He said he planned to introduce a “stronger” bill that he said would not negatively impact on hunters and livestock owners: “ … When I do it, it will be done at the right time, and it will pass,” he said. “I’m in the top five members in power in the Senate. The best shot you folks have ever had, you’re talking to.”

Gov. Pat McCrory and his wife, Ann, have both pushed for the legislation, which is designed to set minimum standards for people who keep at least 10 female dogs primarily to breed and sell the offspring as pets. McCrory urged its passage again on Monday.

“Just because someone uses foolish tactics, there is no reason to stop good legislation which needs to be passed here in North Carolina,” McCrory said.

(Top photo: From a 2012 puppy mill raid in NC, courtesy of Humane Society)

New York’s state dog could be the mutt

Two New York state legislators plan to introduce a bill today to name an official state dog — and they’re suggesting it be the mutt.

Assemblyman Micah Kellner, an Upper East Side Democrat, and State Senator Joseph E. Robach, a Rochester Republican, are proposing the legislation.

If passed, New York would join about a dozen states that have named state dogs, including the Chesapeake Bay retriever in Maryland, the Great Dane in Pennsylvania, the and the Boston terrier in … take a wild guess.

(If you think you know your state dogs, take this quiz — or, if you’re a cheater, go straight to the answers.)

No state has chosen the mixed breed — that most prolific of all dogs — to represent its state.

In New York, a spokesman for Kellner said the assemblyman would choose a rescue dog — as in rescued from a shelter — to symbolize the need for people to adopt pets from animal shelters and animal protection groups. Kellner has no dogs of his own, but he has provided foster care for several.

“He’s a huge advocate for animals in need,” the spokesman told the New York Times.

Also appearing at the announcement of the proposed bill will be Kim Wolf’s dog, Sarge Wolf-Stringer, a Philadelphia dog who was rescued in 2009 from an abusive owner by the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and who now works with the elderly and hospital patients as a certified therapy dog.

(Photo: A Baltimore mutt named Martini)

The wheels of justice: Chamberlin’s Law

A state senator in North Carolina has introduced legislation that would makes recklessly neglecting a pet a crime.

Sen. Don Vaughan, a Greensboro Democrat, filed what he dubbed “Chamberlin’s Law” on the opening day of the General Assembly session, according to the Greensboro News-Record.

The bill would allow criminal charges to be brought against pet owners who “recklessly” neglect their pets, as opposed to the current law, which allows just those accused of doing so “maliciously” or “intentionally” to be prosecuted.

“They’re living things,” Vaughan said of dogs. “And they’re different from having a desk or a chair. They’re actually living beings in God’s world, and we ought to take care of them at least to a minimum standard.”

The bill has been named after Chamberlin, a black and white pit bull mix who was severely neglected — left in a backyard in High Point among tall weeds along with another dog. The other dog, who had been tethered, became so sick it had to be euthanized. Chamberlin was in bad shape, as well.

“His front legs had fused together,” said Marsha Williams, executive director of the Guilford County Animal Shelter. He was unable to walk when he arrived at the shelter in December, but was still wagging his tail, she said.

Since then he has put on weight and in coming weeks he will be fitted with a wheelchair to support the weight of his front legs, which no longer function.

The dog’s care was paid for with donations, some of which came from a fund established in the name of Susie — a dog that was beaten and lit on fire. The judge refused to sentence the perpetrator in that case to jail time because it was his first offense. The public outcry that followed led to ”Susie’s Law,” which increased the penalties for animal cruelty and gave judges discretion to sentence even first-time offenders to active jail time in certain cases.

The owner of Chamberlin is facing charges in Guilford County court, but under current laws, prosecutors will have to prove the dog’s owners intentionally or maliciously let him waste away.

Chamberlin’s law would switch that standard to “recklessly,” which is easier to prove.

In addition to making cruelty cases easier to prosecute, the bill also would set minimum standards for the shelter that dogs must have if they are kept outside and give judges the power to seize animals and order psychiatric evaluations in animal neglect and cruelty cases.

Sen. Austin Allran, a Hickory Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee to which the measure has been assigned, said the bill could face an uphill battle. In the past, hunting and dog breeding groups have fought similar measures.

(Photo: Nelson Kepley / Greensboro News-Record)

Mixing dogs and politics in Illinois

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, hoping to tie down the dog lovers’ vote in his re-election bid, appeared at the 109th  International Kennel Club Dog Show in Chicago Saturday and spoke out against a bill introduced by his likely Republican rival, state Sen. Bill Brady.

Earlier this month Brady, introduced legislation that would have allowed mass euthanizations of unclaimed and unadopted shelter dogs. 

Brady, after objections from the animal welfare community, later backed off the bill, which would have allowed up to 10 dogs at a time to be gassed to death with carbon monoxide.

Quinn, attempting to keep the controversy alive, appeared at the 2010 Chicago dog show at McCormick Place over the weekend to voice his displeasure over the proposed legislation, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. 
 
“As long as I am governor, we’re never going to pass any kind of legislation that allows cruelty toward animals, whether it be dogs, cats or any other living things,” Quinn said.

“The governor has a veto pen and we’re going to make sure we protect our animals from any kind of cruelty,” he said, then added, “There are some folks in our society unfortunately they have dollar signs for eyes, and that’s all they think about is money. We’re not going to let that kind of monetary compulsion get in the way of treating our animals in a proper, dignified, friendly manner.”

Asked if that was a shot at Brady, Quinn said, “That was a terrible piece of legislation and I think everybody in Illinois knows it. A bill was put in to allow a mass killing of dogs and cats in the gas chamber. Putting all those animals together …  for them to be subject in their last minutes on earth to that kind of cruelty, is just plain wrong …  There may be firms out there that think they can make money by mass killings of dogs, puppies and kittens. But that’s not what our state stands for and that law will never be approved.”

Quinn, who owns a 13-year-old Yorkshire terrier named Bailey.

Registries proposed for animal abusers

Public registries for convicted animal abusers — much like those that monitor and publish the whereabouts of sexual offenders – have been proposed in California and are being encouraged in other states in a campaign by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Those convicted of felonies in cases involving torture, mutilation, intentional killing, dogfighting, neglect and hoarding would be listed on state registries under the proposal, announced yesterday in an Animal Legal Defense Fund press release.

The ALDF says such registries would help protect animals, pet guardians and communities by preventing repeat offenses from anyone with an established history of abusing animals.

Through its campaign, www.ExposeAnimalAbusers.org, the animal protection organization is promoting model legislation that state legislatures could enact.

Bills to establish registries have been introduced in Rhode Island, Colorado, and Tennessee, but the first-ever bill for a statewide registry in California was announced yesterday by its sponsor, Sen. Dean Florez.

The ALDF cited several cases that show the need for such registries:

In 2004, Robert Rydzewski, a 29-year-old man living in upstate New York shot his neighbor’s dog in the face twice. Two months later, he killed another neighbor’s Welsh Corgi with an ax. Rydzewski was convicted of “torturing or injuring” an animal, and he has since been arrested for assaulting people and resisting arrest. His whereabouts are unknown.

In 1999 Shon Rahrig, while living in Ohio, allegedly adopted several cats and a puppy from local shelters and tortured them sadistically. He poked out the eyes of a cat named Misty, broke her legs and jaw, cut off her paws, and left her bleeding in a laundry basket. His girlfriend turned him in, and he took a plea bargain that admitted abuse of only one animal. Rahrig was forbidden to own an animal for five years, but he was subsequently seen at an adoption event in California.

Since 1982, Vikki Kittles has been run out of four states for hoarding animals. Time and again, she has been caught housing dozens of sick, neglected animals in squalid conditions. An Oregon prosecutor convicted Kittles in 1993 after finding 115 sick and dying dogs crammed into a school bus, but she has gone on to hoard animals again in Oregon and other states several times since.

“Animal abuse is not only a danger to our cats, dogs, horses, and other animals, but also to people, said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Many animal abusers have a history of domestic violence or other criminal activity, and there is a disturbing trend of animal abuse among our country’s most notorious serial killers.”

The ALDF pointed out that Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz (“The Son of Sam”), Albert DeSalvo (“The Boston Strangler”) and Dennis Rader (Kansas’ “BTK killer”) all abused animals before their other crimes, as did many of the teenagers who went on shooting rampages at high schools in Columbine, Colorado, Pearl, Mississippi, and Springfield, Oregon.

“But it’s not just about how animal abusers end up also hurting or killing humans,” said Wells. “It should be motivation enough to protect our animals from repeat offenders – and any abuse of any kind.”

To sign a petition calling for the establishment of such a registry in your area, click here.

Bill would let dogs dine in Frederick County

Dining with your dog could soon become legal in Frederick County, Maryland.

Sen. Alexander Mooney  is proposing a measure to give the Frederick County Commissioners the authority to allow people to dine with their dogs in outdoor dining areas, the Frederick Gazette reports.

Mooney filed the bill last week, the day after Frederick city officials — who want to see outdoor dining with dogs legalized — decided to wait on drafting a bill of their own, in light of concerns that restaurant rules and regulations fall under county jurisdiction.

Mooney’s proposal would give the county commissioners the authority to allow outdoor dining with dogs. The Maryland General Assembly would have to pass the bill, and the governor would have to sign it. Then it would be up to the county on whether to allow it.

The Downtown Frederick Partnership, which promotes economic development in downtown Frederick, has spearheaded the campaign to permit dining with dogs.

Kara Norman, executive director, said one of the partnership’s most successful events is its August “First Saturday” celebration, which is themed “Dog Days of Summer.” The event brings more than 11,000 visitors to downtown Frederick from several counties and neighboring states.

“I think it’s important to our residents and the people who live here, as well as to our tourists,” she said. “The partnership has found, and many of our merchants have found that this is a group who is loyal, willing to travel, and really appreciates that you take care of them … and their dog.”

Mcdonald’s bars service dog of influential vet

vetdogA disabled veteran is suing McDonald’s for $10 million, claiming he was harassed, beaten, and told that he couldn’t take his service dog inside.

Former Army captain Luis Carlos Montalvan, who inspired Sen. Al Franken’s first legislative victory — a service dog program for disabled veterans — claims in the lawsuit that he was confronted by restaurant workers on two separate visits, and beaten with garbage can lids when he returned with a camera.

Franken, in an e-mail message to Montalvan last week, called it an “awful, bizarre story,” according to the Star-Tribune.

A spokeswoman for McDonald’s USA said the matter is under investigation.

Montalvan, 36, of Brooklyn, filed the lawsuit in October, a week after Congress approved Franken’s provision establishing a pilot program to pair 200 wounded veterans with service dogs from nonprofit agencies.

Franken said Montalvan and his service dog, a golden retriever named Tuesday — both of whom he had met at a presidential inaugural ball — inspired his proposal.

“Captain Montalvan made great sacrifices fighting for our country in Iraq,” Franken said. “I’m not entirely familiar with the facts of this case, but what I do know underscores both the need to help our returning veterans and to raise awareness and increase access for service dogs.”

Montalvan suffered spinal cord damage and traumatic brain injuries during two tours of duty in Iraq that also left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. Tuesday, his service dog, helps him with balance, mobility and emotional support.

Montalvan’s lawsuit recounts a series of events that began last December, several weeks after he completed service dog training. Visiting a McDonald’s in Brooklyn, Montalvan was told by employees that pets were not allowed. He complained and a supervisor later apologized in writing and assured Montalvan that his dog was welcome.

Montalvan’s dog was barred from the restaurant again in January. Two days later, when Montalvan returned with a camera, the restaurant had been closed due to  health code violations, but two McDonald’s workers confronted him and beat him with plastic garbage can lids, he says.

Franken’s service dogs for vets act passes

Sen. Al Franken’s first piece of legislation — aimed at increasing the supply of service dogs for veterans – has been passed and is headed to the White House for approval.

Under the legislation, the Veterans Administration would develop partnerships with organizations that provide disabled veterans with service dogs. Franken said the measure will cost about $5 million and is designed not to interfere with non-profit organizations providing service dogs.

“The government is going to pay for essentially every other dog. What I didn’t want to happen was to dry up the funding for the organizations like Hearing and Service Dogs in Minneapolis and all of these non-profits who have been providing dogs to some vets.”

Franken said about 200 veterans will get dogs as a result of the legislation. The legislation was passed yesterday as apart of the Defense Authorization bill, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

Franken introduced the legislation after meeting Luis Carlos Montalvan, a veteran who said his service dog improved his quality of life.

The end of an era, in more ways than one

splashThree of the most likable, least argumentative occupants of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington D.C. are no longer around, and some say their absence constitutes the end of an era.

Splash, Sunny and Cappy, Sen. Ted Kennedy’s three Portuguese water dogs, had become a fixture in the halls of the Russell building, committee rooms and in the office of the senator, which was always equipped with water bowls and tennis balls, Politico reports.

“It’s like the end of an era,” said Kennedy’s former judiciary committee general council David Sutphen. “I find it hard to believe you’ll have another senator with a dog who comes to meetings all over the Capitol. It’s kind of the closing of a chapter.”

Except for the Senate floor, there were few places Splash, Sunny and Cappy didn’t have access

Kennedy often used his dogs to break the ice with Republican lawmakers, relax nervous visitors and to “put political personalities to the sniff test,” the Politico article says.

“They were part of the landscape,” said former Bush senior education adviser Sandy Kress, who partnered with Kennedy’s office to develop the mammoth education bill No Child Left Behind. “I had no problem patting the dog while talking about Section 10.32. … It just created a pleasant environment,” said Kress, who often watched the senator toss tennis balls to the dogs in the office.

Studies have shown that pets in the workplace can boost productivity and raise employee morale and Kennedy was walking proof, animal experts say. But Kennedy’s dogs could be disruptful as well. Splash has been known to bark impatiently during long meetings, and dig in the shrubs, but it was rare that anyone complained.

Today, the Kennedy offices are quiet and the dogs are residing at the family compound on Cape Cod with the late senator’s wife, Vicki.

“He showed that animals are intimately involved in our lives, and there is an implicit reminder of our responsibility to them,” said Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “So many more people are treating their dogs like members of the family. You may see other members handle their dogs in a similar way.”

In Memoriam: Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

This is the eulogy Sen. Edward Kennedy, who died yesterday of brain cancer, gave at the public memorial service for his brother Robert Kennedy on June 8, 1968 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.