Animal rights activists protest pro animal ownership

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Two Charleston groups that advocate for humane treatment of animals are objecting to city officials speaking at a conference of carriage-horse operators that includes what they call a defender of puppy mills.

The Charleston Animal Society and Pet Helpers sent a joint letter to Mayor John Tecklenburg Thursday urging city officials not to participate with the meeting by The Carriage Operators of North America.

The group, which is based in Indiana, is holding a conference in Charleston this week. One of the speakers Friday is Mindy Patterson of Grover, Mo., founder of The Cavalry Group, whose motto is “protecting and defending animal enterprise.”

Friday’s agenda also includes a welcome by a Charleston official followed by a talk by Dan Riccio, who oversees the city’s carriage industry, a visible symbol of the city’s tourism business.

“City officials will be speaking at the same convention this week as a leading supporter of puppy mills and a proponent of anti-cruelty legislation that would make torturing or mutilating a dog, cat or horse a felony,” according to letter from Animal Society CEO Joe Elmore and Pet Helpers President Carol Linville.

A “puppy mill” generally refers to an operation that breeds and sells animals for profit with little or no concern for their welfare.

“The term ‘puppy mill is a lightning-rod phrase that immediately conjures an image of an unscrupulous breeding operation,” Patterson said by telephone Thursday. “If that is what a puppy mill is, we do not support unscrupulous operations. We support legal businesses, and that means licensed, regulated and inspected.”

She said it’s already a felony in all 50 states to mutilate a dog.

“I believe there any plenty of laws already in place,” she said. “We just need to enforce them.”

Riccio said a Palmetto Carriage Works representative asked him to give an overview of how the city manages and enforces carriage operations, and he put it on his schedule. He said he had no idea who else was on the agenda at the time but it wouldn’t have made a difference.

“It’s not uncommon to be a guest speaker,” he said.

As far as the welcome from a city official, a city spokesman said it’s common practice for somebody from the mayor’s office to welcome a conference.

The carriage operators group describes its mission as “promoting the humane welfare of carriage animals … assisting government agencies at the local, state and federal levels” and providing “open communications and education for members and the public on the operation and management of the carriage trade.”

The online agenda lists Patterson as “Mindy Patters,” which raised red flags for the animal advocates.

“Why is her full name masked on CONA’s website?” Elmore and Linville asked in the letter.

Dave Thurston of Greenfield, Ind., president of the carriage operators group, said listing her name as “Patters” must have been a misprint. He said the conference would not be open to the media. The location is not specified in the online schedule.

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