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SAOVA Alert

Need Veto Help on First in the Nation Statewide Dogowner Database Requirement

Provided by Bob Kane, President, Virginia Hunting Dog Owners' Association

~What to do now~

Dear Friends,

Virginians need your help to defeat the nation's first statewide dog owner database. HB339 passed the Richmond General Assembly last week and awaits Governor Tim Kaine's approval or veto. The bill's patron acknowledges that its primary goal is to provide "inducements" for pet sterilization. Don't let HB339 become Virginia law. If it does, your state may shortly face similar legislation.

Public pressure stripped HB339 provisions which set a single higher licensing cost throughout most of Virginia, required universal intact v sterilized tag differential costs, special fines for intact dog owner leash law violations coupled with forced sterilization and the use of public monies for non-audited private spay-neuter programs. Despite these original elements, the bill is on the verge of becoming law and will serve as the cornerstone for future animal rightist lobbying.

HB339 still contains the requirement that veterinarian in the state who gives a rabies vaccination supply detailed pet owner and animal information to city and country treasurers for incorporation in a billing database. Such data "shall include at a minimum the signature of the veterinarian, the animal owner's name and address, the species of the animal, the sex, the age, the color, the primary breed, the secondary breed, whether or not the animal is spayed or neutered, the vaccination number, and expiration date." Species of animal is a residual from the introduced bill version's scope which included cats as well as dogs. Virginia requires cats be given rabies vaccinations and eleven jurisdiction license felines. Cats were removed from HB339's database late in the legislative process, but are very likely to be included next year, if the bill becomes law. The other very likely next step is mandatory microchipping of every dog receiving a rabies vaccination to "facilitate the identification of dog owners and the return of lost (sic) dogs."

What's the big problem with HB339?
HB339 provides a detailed pet owner electronic database for manipulation and scrutiny by anyone and everyone. Virginia's code explicitly requires this information be publicly available and is reinforced by the state's Freedom of Information Act. **Pet licensing and rabies vaccinations will decline, without question.** Pet owners who don't want their privacy invaded will stop getting pets vaccinated against rabies, if their veterinarians report every detail about them. HB339's invasion of citizen privacy is bad public policy that will endanger the public's health. The latest human rabies death in Virginia was in March 2003; the one before that was in 1999. Such deaths and treatment requirements will increase if HB339 becomes law and fewer pets are vaccinated.

Where do the Virginia veterinarians stand on HB339?
How does revealing client information square with professional codes of conduct? The Texas and Florida Veterinary Medical Associations vigorously opposed similar bills, which were defeated. In contrast, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) supported HB339. VVMA was so desperate to get its members exempted from HB339's provision that every veterinarian be required to sell animal tags that it grabbed at the alternative of just supplying treasurers with owner-dog data and letting them do the billing, as well as maintaining the database. As a further inducement to support the revised bill, what would have normally been Class 4 misdemeanor penalties for a veterinarian's failure to comply with the information-furnishing requirement was reduced to $10 per incident fines.

What VVMA appears to have missed is the fact that the new database is the perfect mechanism for one DVM to solicit another's clients. Sort by zip code, breed type, spayed, or unspayed and a ready solicitation list will drop out.

How valid are pet owners' privacy concerns?
The fact that animal rightist zealots (AR) and neighborhood do-gooders will harass citizens over having too many dogs or not sterilizing them can't be brushed aside. This is a priority bill for the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) http://www.hsus.org/legislation_laws/state_legislation/state-legislation-list.html?state=virginia   See how certain AR groups already use available federal data on commercial breeders http://www.aesop-project.org/Maps/overview.htm#breeders   or review media harassment reports of selected dog owners, animal thefts and hunting dog "liberations."

Owners of pit bulls, Rotweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds and their crosses have a special concern. No insurance company doing business in this state, or in most others, will sell homeowner coverage to anyone that it knows owns certain "blacklisted" dogs. Those blacklisted dogs vary by company, but normally include, at a minimum, pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans and their mixes. HB339 requires, under the threat of fine, veterinary reporting of every dog rabies vaccinated, including the animal owner's name and address, the species of the animal, .... the primary breed, the secondary breed, whether or not the animal is spayed or neutered, [emphasis added]. Insurance companies have a significant financial incentive to identify owners of blacklisted dogs in their policy pools. Such owners are universally considered higher risks, regardless of the dog's true nature, and such coverage will be terminated at policy renewal, if not before. Identifying such current or applicant policyholders from the information contained in HB339's database would be a very simple matter.

Please help kill Virginia HB339!!
It's in your interest. We need hundreds of emails, letters and phone calls to Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, asking him to veto HB339. The message is simple. **VETO HB339** HB339 will increase the risk of rabies in Virginia and violate pet owner privacy. Pet owners outside of Virginia should tell the Governor that they won't visit a state with such a dangerous, anti-pet owner law. Tell the governor and your friends in Virginia that Jamestown 2007, Virginia dog events and every other state tourist attraction are off your list.

To email the governor, use the form at http://www.governor.virginia.gov/AboutTheGovernor/contactGovernor.cfm   Ask for a subject-specific response.

Letters and faxes should request the same, subject-specific response.
Governor Timothy M. Kaine
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Fax: (804) 371-6351

Telephone the governor's office at (804) 786-2211 between 8:30 AM -5:30 PM EST on weekdays. Interrupt the recorded message by pressing zero (0) and tell the operator you want Governor Kaine to **Veto HB339** and why.

If you have the time, do all three, email, write and telephone. Also write the Washington Post letters@washpost.com  and Richmond Times Dispatch newspapers, stating your opposition to HB339.

Please forward and cross post widely. HB339 has the potential to adversely effect every U.S. dog and cat owner. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Bob Kane, President
Virginia Hunting Dog Owners' Association
http://vhdoa.uplandbirddog.com/
Sportsmen's and Animal Owners' Voting Alliance -
Working to identify and elect supportive legislators
** NO PAWS **


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