Freedom of Choice in America – Unless You Want To Buy A Dog: Part II

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In Part 1 of this series, we introduced you to Kathy Mehalko, an animal rights activist in Rockford, Illinois. Mehalko’s activities have involved protests of at least one pet store and harassing dog breeders. In this part, we’ll look at some of Mehalko’s less than legal activities.

Not legally licensed

While Mehalko wraps herself in the cloak of an angelic rescuer, questions persist that she’s really breaking the law in her own state of Illinois by not being a licensed foster home for dogs and does not seem to  be connected with an valid Illinois-licensed rescue.

Mehalko has been involved with Angels 4 Animals and Rockford Animal Welfare, both in Rockford, Illiniois. Even the briefest look at her many Facebook pages will show that she bills herself as a foster person for a Wisconsin shelter – living in Illinois. Sorry, but that Wisconsin rescue is not licensed with the Illinois Department of Agriculture so it is not allowed under Illinois law. Not all states have laws regarding animal rescues and fostering, but Illinois does.

A person may foster four animals in Illinois. Mehalko has more than four dogs but it’s hard to say how many dogs are fosters and how many are her own. Since she is not licensed to foster dogs through an Illinois shelter, she has no Illinois permit and the state has no records of the dogs she fosters. There is no state oversight of what she’s doing or how the dogs are cared for. Plus, a minor matter, the state of Illinois is not receiving the fees required by law for the dogs that Mehalko is fostering.

It gets worse.

Stolen dogs from Mexico

Since spay/neuter programs in the United States have been so successful; and since there are now far fewer dog breeders in the U.S. than there used to be, shelters and rescues in many areas often find themselves in the position of not having dogs for adoption. They have been moving dogs from the south and midwest to areas lacking dogs but even those sources are running dry. Some shelters and rescues are now importing dogs from Puerto Rico and other countries to meet the demand. Countries like Mexico.

Again, questions continued to be raised as to Mehalko’s involvment with dogs being imported into Illinois from other countries, such as Mexico, with no known paperwork, no health records or behavioral records.  This lack of documentation not only poses the risk of questionable legality, but also puts the potential adopting families’ at risk from health and dangerous behavioral issues.  This is the ugly underbelly of animal rescue that no one wants to talk about.

A Promise of Love Rescue, in Beloit, Wisconsin, is run by a person named Paula Copper – a close personal friend of Kathy Mehalko’s. This particular rescue (along with others) accepts dogs that are brought in several times each year from central Mexico. One of the people transporting dogs from Mexico to the U.S. is Bobbi Fries. Ms. Fries takes trips in a white van that has no air conditioning in the back for the dogs. The dogs are often crammed in hot crates that are too small. The crates are not tied down. There is no paperwork identifying each dog. According to our estimates, the person transporting the dogs on these trips makes about $1,500 from the dogs she collects, plus donations, plus money she receives from the rescue groups that pay for her travel costs. There are typically 16-18 dogs in the van on these trips. She’s planning another Mexico run in May.

If you’re wondering what this rescue and Bobbi Fries have to do with Kathy Mehalko, the story is told about a couple of dogs brought back from Mexico in April 2016, including a dog named “Lulu.” According to Facebook posts by Bobbi Fries, the dog now known as “Lulu” was “kidnapped” from its home in Mexico in early 2016 and brought to her on one of her trips to Mexico to place in another home. The two people who stole the dog didn’t like the way the dog was being cared for so they took it into their own hands to do something about it. Fries accepted the stolen dog in April 2016 and brought it back to Rockford, Illinois. The dog’s name was changed multiple times before it finally became Lulu. The dog was adopted at the end of April 2016 by someone who is a volunteer for A Promise of Love rescue group.

Another dog brought back from Mexico on the same trip, known as “Amber,” was just 10 weeks old according to Paula Copper’s own posts on the A Promise of Love web site. In case you are unaware, it is illegal to import dogs into the U.S. for resale if they are less than six months old. (Yes, pet adoption is resale.) It’s also illegal to import dogs into the U.S. before they are old enough to receive their rabies vaccination (3 months) and have a 1-month quarantine period, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So the youngest a dog can be at the time of entry into the U.S., even if it is not for resale, is four months. Certainly not 10 weeks.  Where is the potentially illegally imported puppy named Amber now? According to Facebook posts, Kathy Mehalko has her.

There does not  seem to be likely that these dogs had the health certificates which would have been required to enter the United States. Yet according to Bobbi Fries own Facebook posts, she makes several trips to Mexico each year, traveling from Illinois to Mexico to New York, all the way to Canada and back to Illinois, dropping off dogs along the way.

What happened to our rights to pick the pet that is best for our family?

Kathy Mehalko, the person at the center of this rescue nightmare, is just one person. There are many other activists – other bullies – like her all over the United States – people harassing dog breeders, calling anyone who breeds a dog a “puppy mill,” and trying to intimidate local commissioners so they can stop dog breeding. Many other rescue groups and shelters are also resorting to importing dogs by questionable means from outside the country so they will have dogs available for adoption.

Where is our freedom to choose what kind of dog we want? Contrary to what people like Kathy Mehalko claim, dog breeders in the United States are regulated at every level of government. Don’t believe the propaganda put out by animal rights groups.

If you want a purebred dog, get one. If you want to buy a rescue dog, buy one. As free American citizens, we should have the right to determine what is the best pet choice for our family and lifestyle.  Our choice should not be made for us by ideological zealots or by over reaching politicians.  At the same time, we as consumers must be very prudent in evaluating whether an animal with questionable origins is a safe choice for our families.

Carlotta Cooper is vice president of Sportsmen’s and Animal Owners Voting Alliance and contributing writer for The Cavalry Group.

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