Gun rights groups score collective victory for sportsmen with defeat of HB446 & HB223

By Larry S. Moore

The Columbus Dispatch reported recently that the defeat of HB446, the so-called "puppy mill" bill that sought to increase fees and impose new regulations on dog breeders and kennel owners, had ruffled some feathers in the Statehouse.

Although the Dispatch acknowledges that the U.S. Sportsman's Alliance had been long-engaged in the debate, reporter Jim Siegel editorializes in his news article that Sen. Gary Cates and bill sponsor Rep. Shawn Webster were "blindsided" when another gun and hunters' rights group voiced opposition.

"This is not a gun issue, per se. I could not have foreseen last-minute involvement by the NRA in this," Cates said. "I would have been just as surprised if the Chamber of Commerce had weighed in."

Hohenwarter said he was contacted by at least one senator, and by an Ohio-based gun-advocacy group. He also talked to Connie Nolder, a friend and lobbyist for the National Pet Breeders Alliance.

"The breeders and their lobbyist brought the NRA to the table as an attempt to kill the bill," Cates said. "I guess they felt that was the only way they could stop this thing was to pull in some heavyweights."

Recently, I wrote Senator Cates to express my deep concerns regarding his comments. I have decided to share my letter as a means of answering questions for anyone else who may wonder why Buckeye Firearms Association , the USSA and yes, the NRA, had a duck in this hunt.

The Honorable Senator Gary Cates
Senate Building
Room #40, Ground Floor
Columbus, OH 43215

Dear Senator Cates:

I am writing to express my deep concerns regarding your comments after HB 446 was defeated in the late session of the General Assembly.

Since we've not met, I'll provide a brief personal history. I am a member of the Greene County Republican Central Committee; a twenty-year Ohio Hunter Education Instructor; a Southwestern Ohio Regional Leader for Buckeye Firearms Association; an Endowment Level NRA member; an outdoor writer; a member of the US Sportsmen Alliance and a life-long sportsmen dog breeder. I was honored with the US Sportsmen Alliance Patriot Award in 2005 at the same time your colleague Senator Steve Buehrer was also honored.

I contacted State Representative Chris Widener and Senator Steve Austria regarding my concerns and strong opposition to HB 446. I also corresponded via email with State Representative Kevin DeWine.

I find your remarks, as quoted in the Columbus Dispatch, that "The NRA got brought in by the breeders and their lobbyists" to be distasteful and inaccurate. I worked closely with the US Sportsmen Alliance. I was responsible for bringing this legislation to the attention of Buckeye Firearm Association. I am only one sportsman whose kennel is an extension of my hunting pursuits. I am the NRA and I am also your Republican constituent.

I raise Beagles and Brittany Spaniels. I currently have six dogs in my kennel but plan to expand that to eight or ten dogs. I have been raising, training and hunting with my dogs since age 14 - or about 44 years. During that time I've had as many as twenty-five dogs when I was actively competing in field trials.

HB446 was a threat because I do administer rabies and other vaccinations to my dogs. It was also a threat because it raised fees (taxes) at a time when many cannot afford increased expenses. The bill would have eliminated the requirement that a dog under a kennel license only have to wear a tag when outside the kennel to requiring a dog to have a license all the time. This is doubling the impact of the tax increase. It also would abolish the requirement that the registration fee for any dog acquired outside the state after July 1 is one-half of the original fee. Another tax increase.

In addition to HB446, the House was having committee hearings on HB223. Information indicated that there may be an attempt to amend HB446 with HB223. I concluded this was plausible since legislation is often hastily thrown together at the end of session. Additionally, HB 223 had three times as many co-sponsors than HB446. HB223 was even more onerous than HB446.

HB223 would have created an entirely new administration within the Department of Agriculture to manage the licensing and inspections of the various kennel operations. This is a huge expansion of state government at a time when the state budget is in trouble and deep cuts are being implemented. The Department of Agriculture does not currently have the staff to adequately inspect the various mega-farming operations around the state. This leaves our natural resources, wildlife and especially our streams in jeopardy of contamination.

HB223 also required additional kennel inspections. HB223 included criminal charges if water is found frozen in the kennels. I have electric heated water supply for my dogs but that has not always been the case. For many years in the winter I carried water to my dogs three times a day. Between those trips the water bowls did freeze. I was not mistreating my dogs as a result of this. The dogs adapted their drinking schedule to my watering times. My dogs were always healthy and strong for hunting or competition trials.

HB223 set an arbitrary limit of eight adult dogs for the additional Dept of Agriculture license and inspections. Apparently this was deemed as some limit at which a kennel becomes a puppy mill. Had HB223 passed, I may have been forced to put down my two oldest dogs in order to keep my kennel under the eight adult dog limit. I keep my dogs, my hunting companions, for their natural lifespan. When they are too old to hunt, even on short trips, they still have a loving, safe and healthy home where they have always lived. How would you like it if legislation forced you to put down your pet in order to enjoy a hobby because state law declared an arbitrary limit? Would you like to make that trip to the vets office with me? Fortunately, at least for now, that is not a concern for me or my lifelong hunting companions.

Quite frankly, the expansion of state government plus the increased manipulation and intrusion into the lives of citizens is the kind of legislation I would expect from the Democrat side of the aisle. The bill contained a number of provisions that certainly flew in the face of traditional Republican values of smaller government, fiscal responsibility and freedom for "we the people".

I take personal offense that this legislation paints me the same as a puppy mill operator. That is an affront to my good reputation. It casts the sportsmen and small hobby breeders in a most unfortunate light.

We all abhor the puppy mill operator, however enough people buy puppies through this venue to make the practice profitable. One way to avoid purchasing pets from puppy mill operators is to have local breeders where the buyer can observe the kennel conditions and see the parents of their new pet. Legislation that would drive the small local kennel out is wrong. It is wrong for the sportsmen and wrong for Ohio.

I would encourage you to work with sportsmen through the US Sportsmen Alliance, the NRA, the Ohio Animal Owners Association and other organizations to thoroughly understand our position. Together we can craft legislation that will shut down the puppy mill operations without hindering the law-abiding Ohio sportsmen and small back yard breeders. Unfortunately much of this legislation looked much more like a play from the book of the Human Society of the United States than a real attempt to solve an Ohio issue.

Please note this views expressed are mine and not approved by any of the organizations of which I am a member or have referenced in this correspondence.

If I can be of assistance to your office please contact me at (937) XXX-XXXX home or (937) XXX-XXXX cell.

Sincerely yours,

Larry S. Moore

CC: Kevin DeWine, Deputy Chair Ohio Republican Party

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