By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
Many people who know me, know that my wife, Veronica, and I are into animal rescue – mostly dogs, of course. We have a grumble of pugs at our house, all of them rescues.
One, Keller, is blind and was used up in a puppy mill in the Cullman area. We, of course, assume much of that because Keller was picked up as a stray by animal control and would have been euthanized if our friend Wendy Michelle Montealegre hadn’t pulled her the day she was supposed to be put down.
We picked her up in Birmingham and took her directly to our vet, Dr. Lindsey Petras at Grants Mill Animal Hospital. Keller, an approximately 10-year-old black pug, had never been spayed, and when Dr. Petras did the surgery, she said Keller’s uterus was completely used up. Both of Keller’s eyes have ulcerated corneas. She’s completely blind in one eye and mostly blind in the other, and though we’re treating her eyes for pain, there’s no bringing the vision back at this stage.
But that’s what puppy mills do. They use up animals and, if they don’t have them killed directly after they’re all used up, the puppy mill owners “set them free,” where they’ll be picked up and killed by a shelter if they’re not pulled, or die from starvation, or get run over by a car.
Keller was lucky in that sense.
I say this to make it clear we love animals. But we’re not on the fringe of the animal-rights world.
Neither my wife nor I are against responsible hunting. Oh, we won’t eat at Jimmy John’s because the sandwich store owner likes to trophy hunt. He kills rare big-animal species so he has a dead animal’s head to put on his wall.
There’s nothing that upsets us about responsible hunting, though. I’ve been deer hunting, and I shot and killed – and for a year, ate – a 130-pound doe – my only deer kill ever.
I killed that deer at a friend’s hunting camp. It was a profound experience for me. And I probably won’t go deer hunting again, but not because I oppose hunting. I think responsible hunters eat what they kill or share the meat with friends or food banks. That’s all well and good.
What I don’t want to see is a proposal by Rep. Jack Williams, R-Wilmer, to allow deer baiting. That is not responsible hunting.
Putting food out to attract deer is cheating, and it’s currently against the law in Alabama.
Williams has pre-filed a bill that will allow such baiting. To be fair to Williams, he said he wants the baiting bill because of feral hogs. “We’re just overrun with them on my place,” Williams told Alabama Political Reporter’s Chip Brownlee. But Williams said you can’t bait for big, wild hogs without deer also partaking in the feast. Therefore, deer baiting would be allowed.
That’s not a good enough reason to turn responsible hunters into little more than cheaters. I know deer hunters who wouldn’t hunt over a baited field, even if it were legal. Still, a lot of hunters, mostly the lazy ones, will.
That, in turn, could hurt the state’s population of whitetail deer. And just because some states around Alabama allow baiting, it doesn’t make it right for Alabama.
Some states around Alabama have lotteries and casino gambling. We certainly don’t, because up to this point, it’s been determined by voters and others to not be right for Alabama.
Instead of deer/hog-baiting legislation, Williams and other lawmakers should get behind a bill to outlaw puppy mills and irresponsible backyard breeders.
Responsible hunters don’t want to game the system, so all they have to do is stake out a field loaded with food for deer.
But responsible pet owners do want to keep little dogs like Keller from being used up just to produce $400 puppies for an owner who won’t give his animals the proper veterinary care. No doubt, Keller’s previous irresponsible owner didn’t care about Keller’s ulcerated corneas because the cornea is not a reproductive organ.
So, Keller is blind because of intentional negligence, then she was set out on her own in an area she didn’t know, only to be picked up by animal control and taken to a shelter where she surely would have been killed if it weren’t for Wendy. Thank goodness Alabama has a mandatory seven-day hold on stray pets at shelters, or Keller wouldn’t be with us today.
Alabama, generally, isn’t a good animal state, either to our wild animals or our domestic pets. We need to be better, not worse.
Outlawing puppy mills makes us better. Allowing fields to be baited for lazy hunters makes us worse.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]