Animal enterprise terrorism: tips to protect yourself

11 Jul

Some concern about the potential for illegal search and seizures has popped up in the fancy of late, perhaps stirred up by recent events. “Rescue raids” conducted by rogue SPCAs and other animal rescue groups are not as big a problem among cavy fanciers as among dog and cat enthusiasts, but they do happen from time to time.

Animal rights is a current, trendy movement in America, there can be no denying that. While they are fully entitled to their opinions on animal husbandry, activism crosses a line into extremism when animals in good condition are forcibly removed from private property and resold for profit. In fact, the FBI outlawed such raids under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act in 2006. Despite federal law, some breeders still become the subject of raids and smear campaigns that solicit donations from a sympathetic public taught that breeders are the enemy of animal welfare. Real rescue organizations have also been targeted, as have everyday pet owners.

For fanciers who own multiple animals, it never hurts to protect yourself. I’m not a lawyer, but I spent the last week reading over several case studies on animal enterprise terrorism, taking note of what the animal owners could have done differently that would have improved their odds of winning the case. Here are some tips that may prove helpful, based on what I found.

Know your local laws

Many cities have ordinances controlling the type and number of animals you may keep within city limits. If you aren’t already familiar with the rules in your area, look them up; many cities post lists of ordinances online for easy search and access. Many cities have no limitations that apply to small animal ownership, but it’s worth knowing if your city is one of the few that limit animal ownership in generic terms. It’s also worth noting that some cities will allow those who own multiple animals to apply for special licenses or exceptions.

Always comply with local law. If there are limits on the number of animals you may own, remain below them. If you can apply for an exception, do so. If you do not like the laws in your area, you might consider moving. This may seem onerous, but at the end of the day, if you are subject to a raid and you are reported as violating the law while actually violating the law, you will lose your case.

Maintain licenses, registrations and documentation

Documentation will always help build your operation’s legitimacy. Register your caviary with national organizations. If you can apply for local animal enterprise licenses, do so. If you sell animals, consider obtaining a business license. Though many breeders encourage running a quiet, off-the-books operation, my personal opinion is that it is better to operate in the public light, with proper documents displayed or readily available so that they can be brought to your defense at a moment’s notice. Again, these things may make your animal ownership public, but they also protect you.

Keep your animals in peak condition at all times

This should probably go without saying. If you are abusing your animals, you may be fairly prosecuted for abusing your animals. Be sure your cavies have access to food and water at all times. House them in proper accommodations, sized appropriately, with climate controls and regular cleaning and upkeep. Cavies should be groomed, bathed and in good health.

Clean your home, discard clutter

It’s easy to build a mental health case alleging that you are a hoarder if your home looks like you might be a hoarder. So keep you home, including the area where you keep your cavies, as clean as possible at all times. Destroy any pests that may intrude, clean up any mold that might appear, and stave off bad smells, especially ammonia smells, which can indicate conditions that may cause your cavies to develop respiratory infections. Throw away old feed, expired medications and any excess supplies you no longer use. Keep the supplies you do need in good condition and store them in an orderly manner.

Please note: I don’t mean to suggest that anyone’s house is messy. I just observed that some cases brought against animal owners as a result of raids used the home’s disrepair as a proof the animals were being neglected and needed to be removed.

Maintain relations with your local veterinarian

I know many cavy fanciers distrust veterinarians, and often for good reason — guinea pigs are significantly more fragile than a dog or a cat, and some vets fail to understand this. The results of a trip to a vet who is not prepared to work with cavies are often fatal. However, if you can find a good vet who is willing to work with you, his or her testimony that you keep your animals in good condition on a regular basis (or that the one animal that did happen to be in poor condition was in fact ill and in treatment) could be hugely beneficial.

Select adoptees with care

Be aware that some extremists have taken to conducting undercover investigations by posing as buyers who want to adopt your animals.

Know your rights

No one may enter and search your home without a personal invitation from the owner or a warrant. If someone arrives and asks to search the premises, your automatic response should be to ask to see the warrant, which should be signed by a judge. If they cannot produce one, you do not need to allow them entry into your home. If you choose, you may speak with them outside, with the door closed, but you aren’t required to so much as speak with them — and even if they do have a warrant, you still have a right to silence.

Note that if you are a renter, your landlord can give permission to search the area. However, renters’ laws often stipulate that your landlord must notify you before they may enter your unit. Roommates and other members of your household may also give permission, so be sure to educate them on who may or may not enter. If you hire house sitters, talk to them as well. Many raids have been organized to take place while animal owners were away at conventions.

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2 Responses to “Animal enterprise terrorism: tips to protect yourself”

  1. Debbie Voyles July 14, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    This is a good article with information we in the cavy fancy should be aware of. I’m going to take a good look at my caviary and try to see what an animal rights group would think.

    • EmaPen July 18, 2013 at 9:20 am #

      I’m glad you found it helpful! Feel free to share links with others if you feel so inclined.

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