Article by Nita Hemeter
Dear Ms. Freeman and Ms. Ross,
We are writing you today about a serious issue in our community; one that impacts the safety and health of people and animals as well as the overall quality of life in our city. The issue is the illicit activities of “backyard breeders,” individuals who breed dogs on their property without proper oversight or licensure and sell them for profit. To help address this issue, we are asking you to actively support a law passed by the City of New Orleans that requires owners of intact animals to have a permit, and to publicize that permit number on any advertisements.
As you may have heard, Councilmembers Susan Guidry and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell sponsored and got passed into law (the New Orleans municipal code) changes to an ordinance designed to regulate the uncontrolled breeding of animals by irresponsible owners, including unlicensed “backyard breeders.” This law requires dog owners to spay or neuter their dogs or pay for a permit that allows them the privilege of having an “intact” (not “fixed”―spayed or neutered) pet. Each permit comes with a unique identification number.
Section 18-309, part d of the ordinance also specifically stipulates that anyone who keeps an intact dog and breeds it MUST advertise that permit number in any advertisement where puppies from this animal are being placed for sale or adoption.
Yet, anyone looking at the classified section of the newspaper will see ad after ad of breeders who are selling animals―with no permit number listed. We understand that the ordinance does not require the media to include intact animal permit numbers in advertisements. But it clearly states that the breeders must provide them to you.
As the gatekeepers that determine what information does and does not reach the public, we beseech you to support this ordinance and require anyone advertising puppies in the “Puppies and Dogs For Sale” section of your classifieds to provide their permit numbers. If they do not have a permit number, all your sales people need to do is direct them to contact the LASPCA.
When you begin requesting the permit number, breeders that have previously flouted the law will be forced to register their animals in order to advertise. This step will also help educate anyone that is unwittingly breaking the law about the new permit requirement.
Your newspaper has a long history of helping to expose dangerous and illegal activities, and that is exactly what we ask you to do, now. This permit and the requirements surrounding it are vital to the public’s welfare, providing numerous benefits to citizens:
- Many backyard breeders house their animals in cramped quarters in their homes or small urban yards, often without benefit of proper veterinary care. They do not want to register their animals, not only due to the cost, but also because the ordinance stipulates that animals must be kept in humane conditions and seen by a veterinarian once a year. This is a necessary step for the public welfare but an additional cost for these breeders.
- Requiring sellers of puppies to provide a valid permit number would facilitate monitoring breeder compliance with the law and make it easier to determine if one of their animals were responsible for a bite or other attack. (Intact animals are nearly three times more likely to bite people than those who are spayed and neutered. Intact males are four times more likely to bite.)
- It is a documented fact that individuals and businesses that “fly under the radar”―do not maintain proper business registration, sell items out of the backs of their vehicles or on street corners, etc.―are far less likely to obtain state and local licenses or pay sales tax and/or income tax on the gains from their sales. Backyard breeders often fall into this category, and requiring them to display their license numbers would help government officials prove they are netting profits from their activities.
- Both these puppies and their intact parents often end up in shelters when their owners cannot sell them or breed them any longer, or when they escape their bondage. Here, they are often euthanized because they are unsocialized and/or in poor health. As a result, these unfortunate creatures do not become part of the very small percentage of shelter animals that are adopted and leave the shelter alive. This unhappy outcome has an impact on the public, whose taxes fund the parish-sponsored budget for housing and euthanizing stray animals.
Without the requirement of displaying their permit numbers, most breeders simply will not register their animals. They will continue breeding animals in unseen corners of the city, making profits off misery and evading paying their fair share of the revenue this city so desperately needs to provide services to law-abiding citizens and businesses.
The permit number is short and could be published with just a number symbol in front, e.g. #765432. Surely, requiring such a small addition to each advertisement would not put an undue burden on your advertisers? We would like to suggest that the newspaper might even volunteer to run that portion of the ad at no charge, absorbing the cost in consideration for the citizens that support their businesses.
The Advocate, Times Picayune and other New Orleans newspapers have always shown themselves to be concerned with health and safety issues. In fact, the founder of the humane organization that became the LASPCA― Eliza Poitevent Holbrook Nicholson―was the owner of the New Orleans Daily Picayune. Furthermore, your efforts to educate the public about responsible pet ownership have always been commendable, and we are very grateful for your assistance in the past. We are positively dependent upon it, now.
With your support, we can ensure unlicensed breeders are held responsible for the problems they cause. We can begin enforcing this law, which the entire City Council and the Mayor already supported and passed. The signatories of this letter – and in fact the thousands of people across this city who benefit from enforcement of this ordinance – support you with readership, purchase of your papers and patronage of your advertisers. We ask for your support, in return, on this vital issue.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts regarding this request and will gladly work with you to help implement and promote this measure. Should you have any further questions about the ordinance, please reply to this email.
Please contact Nita Hemeter to see how you can help or for more information