A bill designed to crack down on puppy mills and spearheaded by N.C. Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, has also attracted the support of the state’s first lady, Ann McCrory.
The two joined forces Wednesday afternoon during a press conference in Raleigh to urge the N.C. Senate to take up the legislation, HB 930, which already passed with bipartisan support on the House floor in a vote of 101-14 last month.
“We’ll take it,” Saine said of the traction the measure, of which he is one of four primary sponsors, has achieved so far, including through numerous co-sponsors.
Now it will be up to the Senate, where the bill has stalled in a committee, to move forward.
“Our state has become a magnet and safe haven for bad puppy-mill operators that are harmful to animals, and they are impacting responsible breeders, animal shelters and our communities,” said the first lady in a statement released following Wednesday’s press conference. “Now is the time for the Senate to take action on House Bill 930. Passing legislation to establish basic standards of care for large, commercial dog-breeding facilities is a very important issue to me, and to the people across our state.”
“I’d like to thank Rep. Jason Saine and Rep. Chuck McGrady for their leadership on this issue, and I look forward to seeing the Senate move quickly to pass legislation,” she added.
Saine’s involvement in taking up the task of pushing for animal welfare all started with his propensity to use social media, namely a “tweet” reacting to a puppy-mill bust that occurred in Brunswick County.
After various media outlets caught wave of his reaction to the story, requests started pouring in to speak with him about the subject and asking him what he was going to do about it.
He decided to take action on getting a bill drafted to provide law enforcement with the tools needed to restrict cruel treatment at large-scale commercial dog-breeding operations, as well as the ability to do so sooner rather than later.
Previous attempts at getting similar legislation through the General Assembly had failed, and Saine stressed that he knew it was important that the language not be too far-reaching. Though he said the bill could be described as a watered-down version of earlier and unsuccessful ones, he wanted to avoid the controversy that led to their demise.
Much of the opposition to such puppy-mill bills in the past has been from those afraid they would somehow place restrictions on hunting dogs.
Saine, who owns two Basset Hounds, said, for him, the issue is both a health one and a consumer one.
While he doesn’t think of his pets as humans, he said animals are something that spark a lot of passion among people, and they deserve necessary care and attention. Specifically, his bill demands that they be provided with the very basics, including proper amounts of food, water, veterinary care, shelter and exercise.
From the consumer side of things, he said, people who purchase dogs shouldn’t be kept in the dark about the conditions from which they came, especially with hefty medical costs likely down the road.
At the risk of the legislation appealing to emotions rather than intellect, his strategy to get the bill through the House and now the Senate has been to take a “measured approach.”
He didn’t want to oversell it or push it down people’s throats. Instead, after some heated discussions with his bill sponsors — as well as talks with stakeholders, a bit of research and help from bill writers — they pinpointed problems with the past bills and aimed for presenting the measure in as rational a manner as possible.
“Some wanted to do more,” Saine said.
However, for a bill that “looked destined to fail” due to remaining bad blood between entities involved before, he said a compromise was able to be reached.
“I’ve been thrilled to death with the work we did,” he said.
The legislation specifically raises standards for those breeders with more than 10 female dogs, not hobby breeders, Saine said.
“If you’re doing it right, you have nothing to worry about,” he said, describing the bill as a “narrow approach that seeks to not infringe upon any legitimate businesses across the state.”
Though Saine said the legislation complies with American Kennel Club standards, the organization has come out against the bill.
He plans to continue meeting with members of the Senate to “eliminate any misunderstandings,” acknowledging that there’s a way to go before he can claim victory.
“We’re at the 50-yard line,” he added.
One supporter he is certainly thankful to have in his court has been the first lady.
“Fortunately, she was passionate about it,” he said.