Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sporting dog owners cut a break

Ohio's governor Ted Strickland is reassuring owners of sporting dogs and those who raise a litter or two of puppies that they won't become ensnared in bureaucracy.

This, as a result of a three-way compromise that involves the state, the Ohio Farm Bureau and the rabidly anti-hunting Humane Society of the United States.

In order to avoid a lengthy and costly initiative petition drive the Farm Bureau and the HSUS have reached an agreement. In exchange for dropping the HSUS-led efforts to bring before Ohio voters an initiative regarding animal husbandry issues, the Farm Bureau has agreed to enfolding modifications to certain farming practices, including a phase-out of constricting livestock pens.

For its part the Strickland Administration has accepted the responsibility to undertake legislation dealing with cock fights and dog breeding as well as issuing an executive order pertaining to exotic animals.

All of which has made the Columbus-based U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance a tad nervous. It is this organization that has been in the forefront of the restrictive dog-breeding movement.

Its arguments include that HSUS-backed legislation in Ohio and elsewhere would greatly damage efforts by sporting dog owners to breed pure-bred animals and also hamstring those dog owners who see only one or two litters a year.

But Strickland has pledged that any legislation requiring his signature will protect sportsmen's interests and still satisfy the HSUS.

Those assurances pleases the Alliance which has seen eight amendments added to pending dog-breeding legislation that tackles the issue of sporting dogs and part-time breeders.

"I know that Ohio sportsmen have worked hard to ensure that legislation includes provisions that ensure they are not treated as commercial operators. Consistent with our agreement, my support for the current version of the legislation (will) include those important protections for sportsmen and women," Strickland said.

"In other words. this legislation will in no way interfere with the rights of Ohio sportsmen and women."

The Alliance accepts Strickland's strategy and in the past has noted how in many previous times the governor has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ohio's outdoors community.

"We really appreciate the Governor making it clear that he will not allow any bill to become law unless it maintains critical protections for the sporting dog community," said Rob Sexton, the organization's vice president for government affairs.

Even so, a potential speed bump still exists. That pebble could become a rock, too. The Alliance has noted that the compromise calls for an executive order regarding the keeping of exotic animals but fails to define that term.

If it implies such animals as bears, lions and pythons then the Alliance has no problems. But if it includes such non-native species as the ring-necked pheasant - and which are a source of recreational hunting - then there could be another skirmish, Alliance officials have said previously.

Of equal concern as well is that few in the outdoors community believe they've seen the last of the HSUS. This group has long supported an end to recreational hunting and fishing as well as trapping.

Thus, many sportsmen believe, it is only a matter of time before another showdown arrives. And that duel could lead to a serious political challenge that will cost both sides dearly.

(Also filed as a local politics blog).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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