Letter, Opinion

House bill will cause suffering

Dear Editor,

What is the acceptable level of misery? The question was posed by Senator Dick McCormick when addressing the Vermont Senate about the anguish cats and dogs will feel if H.218 is signed into law. Reducing cages sizes used at Vermont puppy mills, and removing the requirement for a house for dogs that “guard livestock” will most certainly create suffering and death. Dogs die in the blazing sun and freeze to death in our frigid winters without protection. Dogs, like any mammal, are susceptible to frostbite, hypothermia, and can suffer a horrible death.

What is the acceptable level of misery? The answer is none.

Improving the lives of dogs and cats that spend their entire lives caged should be a priority by those in a position to affect change. H.218, sponsored by Rep. John Bartholomew, Hartland, will condemn many animals to increased suffering.

Vermont statutes regarding cage sizes were upgraded 10 years ago from very restrictive USDA regulations. These regulations are used for cage requirements for laboratory research on cats and dogs that have a short life once their “purpose” has ended.

Currently, in Vermont law, cage sizes are larger for animals kept confined 24/7, for their entire reproductive life. To live a life in a cage is cruel and torturous, mentally and physically. Until this bill is signed, a dog below 25 pounds has a 3- by 4-foot cage, a 26 to 35-pound dog has a 4- by 4-foot cage, 36 to 50-pound dog has a 4- by 5-foot cage, a 51 to 99-pound dog has a 5- by 5-foot cage, and over 100 pounds a 6- by 5-foot cage. These sizes, at the very least, allow a dog to stretch, eat, drink, sleep and walk a few steps without living in urine and feces.

In Rep. Bartholomew’s bill, his new cage sizes decrease space to nearly half the size of every cage mentioned above. Consider the life of your beloved animal living in a cage, if at all. Again, this is living in a cage all day, all night long.

Rep. Bartholomew’s defends his position saying, “My credentials to comment on animal housing issues are extensive.” Bartholomew spent his entire career in animal research. His resume doesn’t indicate a private practice where he would have provided care for a beloved companion animal. On the contrary.

Bartholomew represented to the House & Senate that the our laws were unenforceable. Not true. Using the current statutes, VVSA and our sheriff went to a puppy mill in Baltimore. The owner was required to double cage sizes for many of his dogs. A civil citation was issued. Dozens of dogs lived in cages – that was, and still is, their life spent reproducing. A recent visitor to this puppy mill described the dogs as “stir crazy,” talked about them “circling non-stop, barking, and begging for human contact.” Many people have asked why we have laws that allow dogs and cats to be caged for life at all. Good question.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) who asks for financial contributions to fight against puppy mills, and some Vermont humane societies, supported this bill that endorses these mills by voting for this bill as written. Consider to whom you entrust your faith in working on behalf of animals, and to whom you give support.

Ask Governor Scott not to sign H.218 unless these sections are removed. Messages can be left at:1-828-3333 or email: governor.vermont.gov/contact-us/message. This bill should go back to the table to be re-worked. Animals should not be sacrificed merely to get a bill passed. It’s not too late. Please speak on behalf of those that can’t.

Thank you to Windsor Senators Dick McCormack and Alice Nitka for their support in trying to remove the parts of this bill that will harm cats and dogs.

Sue Skaskiw, Rutland

Skaskiw is the executive director at VT Volunteer Services for Animals Humane Society.

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