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Bill Would Ban Video Of Farming Operations, Puppy Mills

By John Lauritsen, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- A bill at the Capitol would make it illegal to go undercover and investigate puppy mills. Animal rights activists say the bill, which has been introduced in the House and Senate, would protect animal abuse and take away freedom of speech.

But supporters of the bill say it protects property and allows the proper authorities to handle animal abuse situations.

Howard Goldman of the Humane Society of the United States says this bill does the opposite of what his organization is trying to accomplish.

The bill would not only make it illegal to do undercover investigations at puppy mills and livestock operations but it would also make it illegal to distribute the video to the media.

Goldman believes that is a freedom of speech violation.

"If we don't speak for the animals, no one else will. How would we know what goes on in many of these facilities unless we have whistle-blowing? This could be free speech violation," said Goldman.

State Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, introduced the bill in the Senate. As chair of the agriculture and rural economies committee, he said undercover investigating at pork producing plants and livestock facilities can cause contamination and food safety issues.

As far as puppy mills go, he said there are others more qualified to deal with animal abuse.

"They don't have to lie about a job, lie about their intentions and go undercover. They can go to the Board of Animal Health, the state veterinarians ... and go in and look at this facility. That's their job and that's what they are paid for," said Magnus.

But animal rights supporters say without going undercover, Minnesota dog breeder Kathy Bauck never would have been charged with animal cruelty. Nor, they say, would they have been able to expose abuse at a poultry plant in Willmar.

"They tossed sick and injured animals onto the floor. And who speaks up for the animals? How would we have known about this if an undercover investigator had not been present? That's what needs to be known," said Goldman.

State Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, who introduced the bill in the house, said that cases of dog breeders abusing animals are actually rare. He said because of undercover cameras, the videos you see give all dog breeders a bad name.

If the legislation passes, it could end up being a felony to go undercover in some cases. Iowa, Florida and Idaho are considering similar legislation as well.

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