By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
While supporters of the Alabama Puppy Mill Project were optimistic they could get a bill to regulate the State’s backyard breeders and puppy mills through the Legislature this year, I was doubtful from the start.
That’s because too many of our lawmakers respond to lobbyists for the status quo rather than try to take Alabama toward a progressive direction.
Other states have bills that regulate puppy mills, which are, at their basic level, animal cruelty machines. Alabama does a poor job of protecting animals, and especially companion animals. Some lawmakers just don’t care: “It’s only a dog,” after all. Some simply want to win re-election, and while the bill to regulate puppy mills was popular with many Alabamians, some lawmakers are simply concerned about getting four more years. Sadly, the folks who oppose any regulation on puppy mills have much more money to give when re-election time comes than the good and decent people who just are trying to protect animals from being bred out and treated cruelly.
Even though I wasn’t much encouraged that Atti’s Bill, as it was known, would pass, I really was hoping I’d be wrong – as wrong as I was when I predicted that no way would decent Americans elect Donald Trump president.
Last week, a Senate committee, in a 5-4 vote, decided not to move the puppy mill bill forward.
For those who care, here are the five Senators who voted against the bill:
Senator Clay Scofield – Blount, DeKalb, Madison and Marshall
Senator Shay Shelnutt – Jefferson, Blount, St. Clair, and Talladega 1-334-242-7794 [email protected]
Senator Paul Bussman – Cullman, Lawrence, Marion, and Winston 1-334-242-7855 [email protected]
Senator Paul Sanford – Madison County 1-334-242-7867 [email protected]
Senator Phil Williams – Cherokee, DeKalb, Etowah, and St. Clair 1-334-242-7857 [email protected]
Cullman’s Bussman has long been a foe to bills to help animals. He was the ringleader in killing bills that would protect Alabama’s nonprofit, low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter clinics from operating.
These Senators should be closely watched by animal lovers and other decent people when election time comes. Thing is, these men think our memories are short. Most are so far removed from their own voters, they believe they can do what they wish, and still win another term.
Frankly, their re-election success often confirms that belief.
That these animal abusers wouldn’t even let the bill out of committee for a vote on the Senate floor shows that they were afraid it might pass the full Senate. We won’t know this year, will we?
Supporters of Atti’s Bill believed they had the votes to at least get the measure out of committee. But that didn’t happen, and one main reason is cowardice.
As Birmingham-based lawyer and political blogger Johnny Norris reported on Animal Advocates of Alabama (an animal advocacy blog that my wife and I operate) last week, “Greater Birmingham Humane Society Executive Director Allison Black (Cornelius) spoke passionately about how Senators who professed support for the bill suddenly switched their votes yesterday, including Arthur Orr (R.-Decatur), who said he would vote for it but mysteriously disappeared from the committee room just before the vote.”
Orr gave his word, then walked out of the Governmental Affairs Committee meeting before the vote. No surprise there, either, but Orr’s action is the same as a vote against this bill. Put him on the shoot-list, too.
The good news: The folks who run the Alabama Puppy Mill Project and oppose puppy mills, led by lawyer Angie Hubbard Ingram and Lisa Thompson, both of the Cavalier Rescue of Alabama; by GBHS’ Cornelius; and by Roverchase owner, Abigail Witthauer, among others, will be back.
I’ve watched all of the women work on their various projects over the years. They are tough, and they won’t give up. And I’d hate to be a lawmaker who had their bullseye on his back.
Shame on these Senators, and others, who fail to see the value of protecting companion animals, and all animals, and shame on them as they refuse to help Alabama become a State others look up to instead of one that continues to be the national laughingstock.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]