You may recall that Governor-of-the-moment Ted Strickland brokered a deal last summer between the U.S. Humane Society and its opponents at the Ohio Farm Bureau that helped dodge a contentious ballot initiative for 2011. The pact called for humane euthanasia, elimination of restrictive pens, and removal of sick animals from the meat supply, in addition to tougher rules against puppy mills. [See “Having a Cow,” June 16, 2010; and “Breeding Contempt,” July 21, 2010.]
The agreement saved both sides from an expensive campaign, but advocates worry that the fight might soon be on again. Newly elected John Kasich, who will take over the governor’s chair in January, has already shown a disinclination to work with groups he doesn’t agree with. The assumption among insiders is that Kasich will side with happy businessmen over happy cows.
Karen Minton, director of the Ohio Humane Society, says that some parts of the agreement have a December 31 deadline, meaning that Strickland can make them happen before he’s booted from office.
That’s not to say Kasich couldn’t have them reversed.
“We have not yet sat down with John Kasich, so I don’t know his thoughts,” says Minton. “I think it would be imprudent to undo a historic agreement, when you got the Farm Bureau and the Humane Society to sit down together.”
Even less certain are the portions of the agreement that outlaw puppy mills.
The problem boils down to a face-off between two competing bills in the legislature. Opponents of the original bill said it made too many concessions to dog breeders in order to gain traction, including the removal of a controversial ban on dog auctions. So a more stringent bill was introduced, resulting in a standstill.
“The question is whether a not-so-good enforcement law is better than no law at all,” explains Sharon Harvey, head of the Animal Protective League in Cleveland. “It’s tremendously unfortunate that the two bills have split the animal welfare community.”
Harvey adds that the two sides plan more talks for the coming year. By then, Ohio’s puppy mill industry will likely be even bigger, thanks to our friends in Missouri. Voters there narrowly approved stricter controls on breeding, which means fresh new business for Ohio.
“We can’t be the last state to do something on this,” Harvey says.