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By NWV News writer Jim Kouri
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
February 21, 2010

As the old axiom -- "As goes California, so goes the nation" -- reminds us, there is a new move within federal and local government agencies to take a more active role in the relationship between Americans and their pets.

Last Tuesday, the city council in West Hollywood unanimously voted to ban the sale of dogs and cats within city limits. While the goal is to disrupt the activities of so-called puppy mills and kitten factories, the new law as written will prevent legitimate pet stores from enjoying unfettered free trade, say critics.

City officials said that they hope the vote will be seen beyond West Hollywood as a symbolic stand against puppy mills, defined as enterprises that mass-market young dogs.

"You have to start somewhere," said the city council in a press statement. Councilman Jeffery Prang is credited with aggressively sponsoring this latest legislation. "The more people jump on the bandwagon the better."

While many critics are complaining that this law is an example of government intrusion going to the extreme, defenders claim that the city is on the cutting-edge of animal rights.

"This new law illustrates this extreme mentality that the government should control every aspect of our lives. These lawmakers have now intruded into the relationships of pet owners and their pets," said political strategist Mike Baker.


"The law was passed in error: animals cannot have 'rights' since animals cannot intellectually reason. I'm an animal lover and I believe in animal protection, but animals do not have rights. Where in the U.S. Constitution do you read about 'animal rights?'" said Baker.

Historically, West Hollywood was the first U.S. city to ban the declawing of cats. That local law passed in 2003 can now be found in dozens of other cities, including Los Angeles.

Another West Hollywood ordinance officially terms pets as "companion animals" and gives their "guardians" a local tax deduction for pet adoption fees. Critics accuse these lawmakers of not only attempting to control the relationships enjoyed by pets and their owners, but also of attempting to change the language used to describe such relationships. "What are they going to do? Criminalize acts between pets and loving pet owners?" asks a former NYPD police officer.

"And what's next? Lawmakers dictating who can be a dog or cat owner and who cannot?"

Since this city ordinance was introduced in the beginning of February, officials boast that they have received dozens of emails, letters and phone calls from other cities and townships across the nation seeking information so they might pass similar ordinances.

According to officials in West Hollywood, the new law goes into effect this fall at which time pet shops would only be permitted to offer animals from shelters for sale. Advocates for the pet industry said such ordinances are misguided because they do not tackle the source of the problem -- irresponsible commercial breeders who keep animals in deplorable conditions.

"It's not going after the substandard breeders," said Michael Maddox, vice president of governmental affairs for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council in Washington, D.C.

"A pet store doesn't get you very far. We support people's right to get their pet from the best source that suits them," he said in a press statement.

And it's not only animal pets that are in the sights of animal rights groups. For example, in Kentucky, animal rights organizations are pushing an aggressive anti-cruelty agenda with the state's legislators during the next legislative session; pro-farm groups are hoping the formation of a new commission will allow the state to manage its own standards for animal care, according to Tim Thornberry of Business Lexington.

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On a recent visit to Kentucky, Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) visited with supporters to rally the troops for the legislative session. The organization's agenda included shoring up existing anti-cruelty laws including those against cockfighting and the practice of soring as it pertains to walking horse, according to Thornberry.

When asked if his association was against animal agriculture, he said the HSUS is not against it by any means, adding that theirs is not an anti-meat campaign but an anti-abuse campaign.

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While many critics are complaining that this law is an example of government intrusion going to the extreme, defenders claim that the city is on the cutting-edge of animal rights.