Post image for The Kudzu of the Dog Fancy

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Arrowroot, more commonly known as Kudzu, was introduced to the United States at the New Orleans Exposition in 1883.  The new “wonder plant” was heralded as a way to control slope erosion, provide high-protein fodder to cattle, and give homeowners a quick way to shade their homes – the operative word being “quick.”  One vine can grow a foot a day and spread over 60 feet in a single season. With gusto (and government funding), Americans put over 85 million seedlings into the ground, and by 1946, 3,000,000 acres of the stuff had been planted.

Now almost 70 years later, Kudzu is referred to as, “the vine that’s eating the south.”

Jonathon Van Buren's photograph of an "alleged" house underneath the Kudzu

Jonathon Van Buren’s photograph of an “alleged” house underneath the Kudzu

It “gobbles up” anything in its path, climbing over houses, coiling around electrical poles and trailing its tentacles over vehicles. Because its root system can grow 12 feet into the soil and weigh over 300 pounds, managing the Chinese native requires more – much more – than just yanking it out of the ground.

Kudzu was a shortsighted solution that grew into a much bigger problem than what it was intended to remedy at the time.

They couldn’t have been more than twenty years old, the couple that stood near us surveying a newspaper-vending box outside a restaurant.

“What’s all the fuss about?” the young lady asked her male companion as they read the headline. It had to do with the latest revelation about the National Security Agency’s surveillance of Americans.  My husband and I unintentionally leaned in to hear his answer (okay, we eavesdropped. Oh, the irony).  To his credit, the young man revealed a decent grasp of the situation. In less than a minute, he touched upon Edward Snowden, the unauthorized scrutiny of Americans, and the demand for Verizon call records** by the NSA and FBI. The young lady listened, then shrugged her shoulders and glibly said, “I don’t care, I don’t have anything to hide.”

Bless her young heart.  She had missed the point and failed to see the monster hiding under the bed.  Perhaps because I’m a more “seasoned” adult, I see things differently. Perhaps, too, because I’m a dog fancier, I feel more vulnerable to government scrutiny for reasons I’ll explain later.

No one has painted more vividly the outcome of such troubling transgressions than civil libertarian, historian and First Amendment expert, Nat Hentoff, who addressed a Harvard class a year ago. The now 88-year-old journalist told the students that if ordinary citizens don’t have basic privacy (which the Fourth Amendment secures by protecting against the search and seizure of private communications), they’ll feel increasingly threatened and concerned about what they say.  This kind of fear has the effect of constricting freedom of speech as Americans become paranoid about what they say lest it be misunderstood or misinterpreted. To paraphrase Mr. Hentoff, the inevitable result of government surveillance of its citizenry is self-censorship. “If we don’t have free speech,” Mr. Hentoff said, “then what can we do if the people who govern us have no respect for us, may indeed make life difficult for us, and in fact belittle us?”

Let’s review.

  • Sarah Conant, the former Humane Society of the United States litigation attorney, now works for the Department of Agriculture;
  • Lois Lerner, the embattled agency official at the center of the current IRS alleged scandal, is thought by many to have been protecting the HSUS against investigations into its tax status because she’s an active member of the organization – or at least was in 2010;
  • In 2013, the Miami Valley chapter of the Ohio Farmers Union endorsed the Humane Society of the United States’ Agriculture Advisory Council for Ohio;
  • If Sarah Speed had not lost her bid for Pennsylvania state house in 2012, she would have been an open door for animal rights policies in that state’s legislature because she was Pennsylvania’s state director of the HSUS.

As the HSUS continues to vigorously lobby its radical animal rights agenda at the federal, state, and local level of government, and as individuals sympathetic to their cause become government employees, how sure are any of us in the dog fancy that our elected officials aren’t encouraged to keep tabs on us? (And for anyone “on the fence” about the Humane Society of the United States, read this eye opener from The Center for Consumer Freedom.

Think I’m being paranoid?

In Oklahoma, the HSUS put a “bounty” on breeders without qualifying the difference between a substandard breeder, and a humane, ethical one.  The last time I looked, such a reward was illegal.

The Humane Society of the United States offered a $5,000 reward for tips resulting in the arrest and conviction of dog breeders. They made it oh-so-easy by offering a tip line phone number as well as providing an on-line form through which breeders could be reported.  Neighbors, mail carriers and meter readers, among others, were urged that if they “see something they don’t like, to call the hot line and make a report.” One breeder was quoted as saying, “I feel extremely stressed, living in fear every day that someone might be disgruntled for some reason and or another and report me to AC [animal control]. Then what? What can we do if they ever show up?”

Imagine if the people who govern us have animal rights sympathies. Now imagine if those same people have access to our phone calls, our e-mails, and maybe even aerial surveillance from local law enforcement drones?  Does the word, “breeder” in our e-mail correspondences send up a red flag?  Who decides if the x-pen in our backyard protecting a litter of carefully and responsibly bred purebred dogs is the same as a wire cage used by substandard breeders?

None of us has anything to hide – unless, of course, our sport or hobby is at odds with someone who views our law abiding interests as abhorrent and to be punished.

Law-abiding. Now that’s another thing.

An independent audit found that the National Security Agency broke privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008. A dog fancier needs to break a regulation only once to have his or her life altered forever, and the rules are fluid if you’re not paying attention.

Ledy VanKavage, senior director of legislation for the ASPCA, believes that society’s changing attitudes toward dogs is increasingly playing a role in the amount of animal-related legislation being introduced.

  • The HSUS’s Government Affairs department has 20 employees focusing just on federal and state legislation, ballot measure campaigns, and grassroots organizing;
  • Fifty people in its Field Services section alone work on regional and local issues, including state legislation;
  • The group’s lobbying affiliate, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, has six full-time staffers who also do legislative and political work;
  • “The animal protection movement is becoming more politically organized and politically effective,” says Michael Markarian, HSUS’ executive vice president of external affairs. “In the first seven months of 2007 alone, 43 bills relating to dogs were signed into law.”  That’s almost six new laws a month targeting dog ownership alone.

With dog legislation being passed at a dizzying pace, laws about tethering, breeding, spaying/neutering, breed restrictions, seat belt laws, licensing, limit laws (or what constitutes “hoarding”), muzzle exemptions, the definition of a “dog retailer,” the definition of a “service dog?” pets as property versus owners as guardians, property zoning, “dangerous” dog behavior, the use of dogs while hunting and Internet sales, whew! it’s tough to keep up. Chances are good that at any given time, most of us could be breaking a law without even knowing it.  Do you know the animal laws for the area in which you live? What would your life look like if a grouchy neighbor, disgruntled employee, or an unbalanced sore loser from the show ring reported you on a fabricated charge of cruelty? And what would your life be like if a state or local government employee with an animal rights agenda who also has access to your personal communications is hell bent on your prosecution?

Perhaps now you can see how someone with nothing to hide could have something to hide.

As egregious as I find any invasion of privacy, I’m of the opinion that dog fanciers are at particular risk given the times in which we live; purebred dog breeding and ownership has become emotionally contentious and a legal minefield if you’re on the “wrong” side of the debate.

Invading our privacy in the name of security could be our shortsighted solution, one I fear could become a much bigger problem. Personally, I regard Edward Snowden as a hero not only because he “outted” abuses of power, but also because his actions thrust us into a national dialogue about privacy and why it’s sacred to Americans.  If we shrug off what the IRS, FBI and the National Security Agency have been doing, the relinquishment of privacy will become the Kudzu of our personal lives. It will creep along, stifle and consume anything in its path, and the freedom we’ve always enjoyed to make choices, pursue our legal interests and speak about them publicly would evaporate. Think about what such restrictions would mean to your ability to share news and discuss common interests with fellow dog fanciers on Twitter, Facebook, or your breed e-mail list.

I think about this every time I write in this space.

I don’t want to have to meet in secret and whisper about preserving my breed by breeding a litter. Do you?

For more perspective on this issue, visit Peggy Noonan’s recent WSJ article.

**According to Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, “One set of documents makes clear that the National Security Agency is collecting “metadata” about every phone call made to or from a phone number inside the United States. Under this program, the NSA requires telecommunications companies (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) to turn over information about their customers on a daily basis.”

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharyn Hutchens August 21, 2013 at 5:59 am

Excellent article! It needs to be circulated far beyond the dog fancy though!


Susi August 21, 2013 at 9:55 am

I appreciate that, Sharyn, and always think of you and Walt when I write about this topic. You two have been warning the rest of us FOR YEARS!


Jinnie August 21, 2013 at 10:13 am

Thanks for keeping thd flag raise.


Carrin August 21, 2013 at 1:16 pm

You knocked this one out of the park. STELLAR WORK.


Susi August 21, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Guffaw! Carrin, I’ll take “stellar” as a compliment ANY DAY!!! Thanks for making my day, no, week!


Carol McElheney August 21, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Reading this gave me an anxiety attack. I’m also listening to Alex Jones, who is talking about the NSA spying.


Susi August 21, 2013 at 3:54 pm

It doesn’t take much these days to plunge most of us into insecurity, if not outright anxiety. Carol. I try not to write about such things without offering solutions, but the only things I can come up with is to be aware, don’t tolerate this, and vote carefully. I think there are stinkers on both sides of the political aisle on this one, and I’m hopping mad.


TracyR August 21, 2013 at 6:48 pm
Susi August 22, 2013 at 9:56 am

Wow. A very sobering read, Tracy.


TracyR August 22, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Yep! People need to understand that the power of the Executive branch grows year over year, exponentially, via agencies’ “rule making”. Much of this is Congress’ fault, for abdicating their own responsibilities, but we must be aware that this crap IS ALREADY HAPPENING, and do everything we can to stop it.


judith fester August 21, 2013 at 7:16 pm

This article gave me goose bumps.
I am a victim. On or about September
12, 2012 I was INVADED by the local animal shelter director
and her posse of policeman (2), her dog catcher
and her two part-time veterinarians. They demanded
to be let into my home (without a warrant.) Could not
wait, no even though we were preparing to go out for
a doctor’s appointment early that afternoon. This invasion of
my privacy was prompted through a complaint by a person who
had been in my home 6 weeks earlier, a person of dubious character
who was wanting to buy kittens.

This was the most frightening, outrageous, debilitating situation I have ever
been in my life. My heart was in my throat and my stomach churned.

ANYONE at anytime can file a complaint to the local animal shelter,
the state regulating agency or to the state Attorney General; and YOU WILL BE

After your initial inspection ~ you will be re-inspected and subject to their laws
of regulation. YOUR FREEDOM IS LOST.

Read it and Weep. Thank you Suzy.
I am now out of cats, no longer breeding.
I would not be subject to their strong-arm tactics.

I also had a breeder friend who was turned in by his veterinarian
and another breeder had been turned in by a city inspector when
she had a hot water heater installed. The city has to inspect the
heater when installed, saw animals, and called the director of the shelter.

So they are out there in force, changing the local ordinances as we speak
to make you a law breaker.

They can take your animals and destroy them, as they deem appropriate,
Most shelter veterinarians don’t know much about pedigreed cats, the shelter
vets don’t even touch your animals, they wear plastic gloves. It is a joke.

Mine were all placed immediately to other breeders. I was allowed two weeks
to place all but 6 cats.



Susi August 22, 2013 at 9:56 am

Judith, your story is a nightmare. An absolute nightmare, and I’m so sorry “they” won at your expense. It’s a vivid example of a broken and abused system, and teaches, if nothing else, not to let anyone into our homes. More of “Us” simply have to run for elected office to restore balance to our government, but at a minimum, become hyper=vigilant about the people for whom we vote at election time. I think I’ll never forget your story and I appreciate that you shared it here.


judith fester August 22, 2013 at 10:56 am

It has been a year and only now am I able to talk about it ~
I am recovering. I lost my cats, and carry a heavy load of hatred
for the animal rights organizations, HSUS, Peta, local KILL shelters.

Please breeders be vigilant ~ know who is behind the candidate you are voting for
(you know the old saying money talks, ——– walks.)
know what your city ordinances are and laws relating to numbers of animals allowed,
careful who you let visit your home to see puppies. Put dogs and puppies up when a serviceman visits your home.

MOST OF ALL DO NOT STICK YOUR HEAD IN THE SAND AND THINK THIS WILL GO AWAY, it is only getting worse. They cannot defeat us in the state house, so they pursue other avenues of putting breeders out of business.

In the meantime the Director of the Shelter who confronted me and the Police are still running the animal shelter. All the consternation of the public has changed nothing

Thanks, Suzi


Susi August 22, 2013 at 11:02 am

Judith, there is no better way to drive home a point than to hear from someone touched by it. Thank you for sharing your horrendous experience here. I know how tough it must be to talk about something that for most animal lovers would be gut wrenching, but it’s SO important not to stay silent. Fanciers did that for years, and look where we are.


judith fester August 21, 2013 at 7:32 pm

I might add that this June one of the veterinarians who was in my house during inspection was fired because she disclosed that the director was gassing cats and dogs in an old makeshift container which was a freezer. After her criticism of the director revealed the mas gassing of animals the veterinarian was quickly escorted out by a policeman and fired; (mi There has been a great deal of consternation by the general public about the co2 gassing of domestic animals at the shelter, but it is allowed by Missouri law.

You see shelters are being enjoined by the Police Department, actually being owned by the Police so that they have a police escort available to gain access to the inside of your homes.
Who would not answer the door if police were involved ~ well you can pretend you are not home but they will be back with a warrant ~ in fact I understand they can get a warrant on the computer in 20 minutes.

Our constitutional rights are being eroded daily.


Jerry August 21, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Great article Susi. Every time I hear someone say they have nothing to hide so they do not mind that their privacy is being invaded I cringe. I think that everyone should be reminded that they only think they have nothing to hide. It all depends on the people in power who are making the rules at the moment. What happens if something you thought was perfectly acceptable and legal is suddenly not. Maybe it might be as inocent as eating cheese cake. You might laugh at that but people who owned pitbull type dogs in Denver never thought they had anything to fear until their dogs were suddenly illegal and had to be removed or die. The most inocent thing might be ok today and not tomorrow. So the next time someone tells you they have nothing to hide so they do not care about their privacy remind them of this. Privacy is something we all must be willing to fight for or lose. History has shown us this fact and we all know we must learn from history or be doomed to repeat those mistakes.


Susi August 22, 2013 at 9:52 am

Thanks for writing, Jerry, and I couldn’t agree with you more: the rules of the game seem to be dictated by the people who own the board. Living just outside Denver, I certainly won’t laugh at the Pit Bull debacle in Denver. It’s a travesty, and the photos taken of huge piles of dead dogs – all innocent but for being born Bullies – is enough to make anyone sick, short the legislators who figuratively speaking put them there.


TracyR August 22, 2013 at 7:14 pm

I hope people can step back and see the bigger picture. We all don’t have to agree with others’ choices, thoughts, and how they choose to live their lives….we simply need to *allow* for them to do so.

Whether it be non-politically-correct speech, political affiliation, dogs, guns, fois gras, or 64oz Cokes….we need to fight for EVERYONE’S FREEDOMS. They are all connected…you can’t pick and choose. The politician that will take away a thing you hate from someone else, will take away a thing from YOU that you love! Be sensitive to it like a sunburn.


Susi August 22, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Sing it, sister.


Diane August 22, 2013 at 9:10 pm

“I feel extremely stressed, living in fear every day that someone might be disgruntled for some reason and or another and report me to AC [animal control].” This about sums up my feelings Susi. It seems it’s extremely stressful to be a responsible breeder anymore. With dog limits, what is a breeder to do? My feeling is that the older dogs have worked hard in the show ring, then to the whelping box, they have EARNED a spot in my home for the rest of their lives. Why should I have to worry about dog limits, when the neighbor has lots of children that run around unattended, no limits there, the neighbor on the other side has 3 retrievers. I believe if the yard gets scooped a couple of times a month, they’re doing well. The dogs live outside 24/7, but they’re within the limits. Every time someone has to come to the house for a appraisal, insurance claim, cable guy, etc. I have to make sure that all but one or two dogs are in their crates and quiet, and makes me feel like a criminal. As one of your previous posters stated, we may not all agree how dogs should live, what a healthy diet is, how much exercise a person should get, but we all need to protect ALL freedoms before they’re gone. Once gone, they’ll be impossible to gain back.


Susi August 22, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Your last sentence is why I wrote the article, Diane. I guess we each do what we can, and I can write to sound the alarm for those who’ve not yet heard it. These are very divisive times in which we’re living, a complete lack of balance is becoming the new norm. We didn’t get here overnight, and it will take at least as long to regain balanced footing.I think we no longer stay silent for fear of offending. We have our facts straight, speak out in a measured, reasonable way, become more engaged in the political process, if not run for local offices ourselves, and we talk a blue streak to anyone and everyone. That’s how the AR people did it, and that’s how we’ll do it. I’m impressed with the foundation that the NAIA ( is building to take the lead on the dialogue, but it will take a bit more time and continued support.


TracyR August 23, 2013 at 1:09 pm

There have been prognosticators. From “Atlas Shrugged” 1950-something:

Dr. Ferris smiled. . . . . .”We’ve waited a long time to get something on you. You honest men are such a problem and such a headache. But we knew you’d slip sooner or later – and this is just what we wanted.”

“You seem to be pleased about it.”

“Don’t I have good reason to be?”

“But, after all, I did break one of your laws.”

“Well, what do you think they’re for?”

Dr. Ferris did not notice the sudden look on Rearden’s face, the look of a man hit by the first vision of that which he had sought to see. Dr. Ferris was past the stage of seeing; he was intent upon delivering the last blows to an animal caught in a trap.

“Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against – then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now, that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”


Susi August 26, 2013 at 5:36 pm

And now you’ve given me goosebumps by reminding me of a critically important passage from possibly my favorite book EVER, Atlas Shrugged. I can add nothing to it. Ayn Rand said it for me.


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