Every legislative session, no matter what animal protection issue the Texas Humane Legislation Network and other animal welfare supporters take on – puppy mills, dog fighting, horse slaughter or animal abuse – there is one group that most always lobbies to protect the perpetrators, rather than the victims of cruelty. They call themselves the “Responsible Pet Owners Alliance” or “RPOA.”
RPOA, which comprises pet breeders, pet dealers, retail sellers and related commercial interests, consistently fights animal protection legislation and proposed city ordinances that would implement spay/neuter programs or require even minimal standards on large-scale commercial breeding operations.
RPOA argues that any regulations on commercial breeding would actually result in a shortage of dogs and cats in the near future. This is a baseless and absurd argument. In reality, hundreds of thousands of companion animals are destroyed in Texas shelters every year, simply because there are no homes for them.
And, while countless numbers of healthy, adoptable dogs and cats -- mixed breed and purebred alike – face tragic deaths in animal control facilities, irresponsible breeders continue to flood the pet market with thousands of new puppies and kittens, exacerbating the pet overpopulation problem even more.
With no measures taken to restrict breeding, there is little chance that we can even reduce the euthanasia numbers statewide, let alone reach zero-kill numbers in our community animal shelters.
Through their actions, RPOA members keep the floodgates of pet overpopulation open while animal welfare agencies and animal control officers try in vain to stop the never-ending killing of innocent animals.
RPOA opposes other animal protection measures, even those that address aggravated acts of cruelty against animals. In 2007, RPOA opposed THLN’s animal cruelty bill, which was written specifically to address loopholes in the state’s existing animal cruelty statute. Before this bill was passed, perpetrators of some of the most heinous acts of animal abuse or inexcusable cases of animal neglect on record were exploiting these loopholes to escape prosecution.
District and county attorneys, law enforcement officials and animal welfare advocates throughout the state supported the THLN-backed animal cruelty bill. Many even traveled long distances to the Capitol to testify in favor of its passage before legislative committees. During that session, RPOA aggressively lobbied – without success -- to kill this bill, arguing that animals already had enough protection under the existing statute.
Horse slaughter for human consumption is another issue on which the two organizations differ. THLN consistently fights any attempts by horse slaughter profiteers to legalize the brutal and indefensible slaughter of horses for human consumption. RPOA, on the other hand, argues that horse slaughter is an acceptable method by which to dispose of an unwanted horse.
RPOA members frequently malign THLN, The Humane Society of the United States (The HSUS) and the SPCA of Texas, falsely accusing us of being “animal rights extremists.”
RPOA falsely claims that The HSUS wants to “end pet ownership” and “cause the extinction of animals.” Puppy millers, cockfighters, dogfighters, and other animal abusers use these same baseless accusations repeatedly as an attempt to deflect attention from their own actions. The HSUS's long history of promoting humane care for our animal companions -- as well as celebrating the joy that they bring to our lives -- stands on its own merits.
THLN, The HSUS, the Texas Federation of Animal Care Societies and the SPCA of Texas are mainstream organizations whose efforts to protect animals from cruelty are supported by law enforcement officials and criminal prosecutors throughout the state.
We will not be derailed or even distracted by RPOA’s rhetoric and misinformation. For all of the animals who find no mercy at the hands of those who control their fate, THLN and its many supporters will continue to be their advocates at the Texas Legislature and to the people of Texas.
Make Your Voice Heard
As animal welfare advocates, we ask you to stand up to RPOA by making others aware of their true agenda. We encourage you to cross-post this position paper on animal welfare websites and spread the word through social network postings and blogs. When bills are pending in the Legislature or animal welfare proposals are being considered by your city council, we encourage you to submit a “Letter to the Editor” of your local newspaper to help educate readers about these proposed measures.
We hope, if you haven’t done so already, that you will get involved with your regional THLN chapter and local animal shelter advisory committee as well. Successful measures at the local level do a world of good for the animals in your own community, set an example for other communities to follow and buoy the efforts of our work on the state level.
And, finally, to RPOA members, we challenge you to set an example for humane and responsible breeding practices and turn your efforts to helping your local animal shelters provide care and adoption services for the many abandoned pets – purebred and mixed breed alike – that are discarded every day in shelters throughout the state.