The infamous 'puppy mill bill,' dubbed that by supporters of the Humane Society of the United States, is still alive in the Indiana legislature as time winds down on this session. However, the good news for those fearing that HSUS and other groups will use this bill as a stepping stone to seek more restrictive standards for producing farm animals is that the bill ahs been adjusted considerably during the legislative process.
According to one insider with Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc., the bill that purportedly intends to eliminate abuses by unscrupulous dog breeders started out as a very vague, all-encompassing type of bill. From the early days of the session, supporters of HSUS were open about their zeal for the bill. As it existed in its early form, it could have shut down what most people consider legitimate dog breeding operations, including many Amish dog breeding enterprises in northern Indiana.
HSUS, along with PETA, was one of the principal groups responsible for pushing Proposition Two, a ballot initiative, in California. It passed last fall, giving the animal rights groups their biggest victory yet, since California is a major ag state. To phase in by 2015, that bill has the potential to destroy California's huge poultry business, since it all but eliminates the potential for raising chickens in cages as is the practice today.
It's no secret that HSUS and others are targeting Ohio, another state with the ballot initiative process. Animal group leaders in Ohio expect some sort of ballot initiative proposal leading to an initiative on the general election ballot as early as next year.
Several states, including Indiana, do not allow ballot initiatives. With a ballot initiative, the general electorate votes up or down. If the proposal passes, it becomes law. In Indiana, that's left to the legislature to decide. So a favorite tactic of animal rights groups in these states is to start with some well-meaning-sounding bill, such as the current one that would tighten restrictions on dog breeders. Once they get it on the books and convince legislators this is the right thing to do, it's not such a far leap to beginning to propose such things as elimination of gestation stalls for sows and cages for chickens.
Apparently the changes to the House Bill that passed that chamber are so substantial that Farm Bureau has withdrawn its opposition. However, insiders say it's time for everyone concerned about the potential power of animal rights groups to contact their senators. The best thing that could happen, insiders say, is if the bill died in committee.
The hope, they note, is that a sound defeat in Indiana might send a message to the leadership of the animal rights groups, and slow down their momentum. It's been building quickly since their resounding victory in California. In that state since November, for example, key state legislators have taken other action that plays into the hands of these animal welfare groups and makes it harder for legitimate livestock producers to operate in that state.
Stay tuned for updates.