People who purchase new automobiles are protected by a so-called "lemon law".
Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-3rd, thinks purchasers of those cuddly little puppies you can find in your friendly neighborhood mall or from a guy named Bubba should also receive such protection.
So, Mr. Cardin has introduced a resolution in Congress that recommends providing financial reimbursement to purchasers of faulty puppies.
And, predictably, dog fanciers are howling. In the long run though, Mr. Cardin's resolution might have more bark than bite.
Last night, a group of 45 members of the Dog Owners Guild (D.O.G.), delegates from kennel clubs and other people met to hear Roger Caras, the new president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and to discuss Mr. Cardin's proposal.
The resolution "is filled with unrealistic provisions and needs to be rewritten," says Barbara Davis, legislative representative of D.O.G. Inc.
"One of its provisions is that in a time frame of two years, if a veterinarian certifies the dog has a serious congenital or hereditary disorder, a purchaser has the right to return it for a replacement, refund, or to collect from the seller up to three times the original purchase price in reimbursement for veterinary costs," says Miss Davis.
"And while it is good that someone is trying to do something about the puppy-mill problem, this bill . . . defines virtually every breeder in the nation as a puppy mill."
While animal rights groups are uniting to get the resolution passed, dog fanciers vow to fight it.
Mr. Caras disarmed the group at Catonsville Community College with humorous stories about his own numerous pets. But his listeners gasped when he told them that "you are all to blame for this bill, you have not supported efforts to reduce the dog population.
"Mr. Cardin should be stopped, his bill is rife with ignorance. But, it is . . . a rational response to the facts that we haven't faced. Everyone who is responsible for dogs is responsible for Cardin's bill. You need to get together, meet with Cardin, make a glossary that explains random breeding, pet shops, the puppy mills, back yard breeders and responsible dog fanciers and breeders.
"If you don't become responsible, you'll face a flood of anti-dog bills and within 15 years there won't be any breeds," says Mr. Caras. "How do we know that hip dysplasia is genetic? And, tell your veterinarian to spay and neuter dogs free for people who can't afford it."
Mr. Cardin calls his resolution the Puppy Protection Act and writes in its introduction that he "has worked with the Humane Society of the United States and veterinarians from around the nation and drafted a 'lemon law' for puppies purchased from pet stores or commercial breeders. . . ."
A resolution, however, does not carry the weight of law and enforcement would be questionable.
Tom Knott, American Kennel Club delegate, past K-9 trainer for the city police and director of the Dog Owners Training Club, said,"Without proper enforcement, it will create a very lucrative business for veterinarians who may be the only ones who are enforcing it."
Mr. Knott said that animal rights groups, such as the Humane Society of the United States and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), are using Mr. Cardin to promote the resolution thinking that all it will do is put the puppy mills out of business.
"And this is not what will happen. It is likely to create a zero population of dogs because in it everyone who maintains three or more unspayed bitches would be classified as a puppy mill.
"Plus, every unscrupulous veterinarian would make a fortune establishing claims that are vague and subjective against the breeders. And how many veterinarians can tell if a female has or has not been spayed. All of this, for a small responsible breeder, creates a large financial liability and it encourages expensive and early veterinary treatment at the breeders expense," says Mr. Knott.
Roger Caras says that a responsible breeder is "one who cares and who breeds one bitch no more than four times. And sees to it that a person purchasing a puppy does not buy the puppy but rather buys the dog it will become."