Puppy love thrives at NC Executive Mansion

dranii@newsobserver.comNovember 16, 2013 

— Adam Johnson and his 5-year-old son hit the road about 7 a.m. Saturday and drove 90 minutes to the N.C. Executive Mansion, then waited two hours outside the gates of the governor’s four-story, red-brick home.

Chalk it up to a case of puppy love.

Johnson, 29, a machinist from Lexington, and his son, Mason, were determined to be first in line for the dog adoption event sponsored by Gov. Pat McCrory and first lady Ann McCrory.

Johnson had his eye on an English bulldog he had seen online. It was one of 28 dogs available for adoption that were arrayed on the lawn of the Executive Mansion on Saturday morning – the smaller dogs and puppies in cages, the larger ones on leashes.

“I just always wanted one since I was a little boy,” Johnson said. “Our school mascot (at Trinity High School in Trinity) was an English bulldog.”

Although sponsoring a dog adoption has all the earmarks of a cynical public relations ploy – talk about warm and fuzzy images – there was a serious policy message at its core. The McCrorys used it to highlight a bill pending in the legislature that would set minimum standards for large, commercial dog-breeding facilities.

Known as “the puppy mill bill,” it would require breeders with 10 or more female dogs to provide daily exercise, fresh food and water, veterinary care and, if necessary, euthanasia that is “performed humanely.” The bill passed the state House in May with bipartisan support but languished in the Senate.

Many of the dogs available for adoption on Saturday were “rescue dogs,” including some taken from a Pender County puppy mill that recently was busted. Dogs also were provided by the Wake County SPCA, Humane Society of Charlotte and Guilford County Shelter.

In June, Ann McCrory talked up the legislation in her first news conference as first lady. She took up the mantle again Saturday in her remarks to the crowd gathered on the lawn as she cradled a sandy-colored Pomeranian. And, although she has a reputation for being media shy, McCrory also stuck around and talked to reporters afterward.

“Our goal here today is, of course, to raise awareness in terms of basic care and standards for these wonderful little puppies and certainly to get rid of puppy mills,” she said.

“It is amazing to me that in this day and time, this still happens,” she added, referring to the abuses that can occur in puppy mills.

“You don’t have puppies on top of puppies in cages where their feet are getting seriously attached to the cage bottom,” she said, “not to mention the urine and excrement they are living in that causes all sorts of diseases.”

“We’re just asking for basic standards of water and food and care and warmth,” said Gov. McCrory.

The governor also noted that, although the puppy mill bill stalled in the Senate during the legislature’s recent long session, “Ann Gordon McCrory plans to unstall it in the short session.”

Later, Ann McCrory addressed criticism that the bill is vaguely worded and that it could lead to more restrictive laws down the road.

“This is not meant to be a gateway or a step to regulate the hogs and the turkeys, the animals that are important ... to our state from an agricultural standpoint,” she said.

And the wording in the bill, she said, is straightforward. “I wouldn’t know how to alter the language to make it any clearer,” she said.

The McCrorys have a rescue dog of their own, Moe.

Sen. Neal Hunt, a Republican from Raleigh, was also on hand Saturday. He said he sees no reason to amend the bill.

“What we really need is some institutional backing, like the veterinarians’ association or something like that,” he said.

Tiffanee Lipscomb, 30, a phlebotomist who lives in Durham, arrived with her son, Donnell, 12, in search of a second dog.

“My dog, Bella, needs a friend,” Donnell said.

Lipscomb was hoping to nab a Yorkshire terrier, but the dogs were available first-come, first-served, and someone else got there first. So she let her son choose, and they ended up with a white toy poodle, Rascal.

“I’m happy because he’s happy,” Lipscomb said of her son.

As for Johnson and his yearning for an English bulldog, it remains to be seen how that works out.

Johnson loved the dog. But it turns out that the dog suffers from allergies, so much so that Johnson must await a home visit from the Guilford County Shelter before knowing whether his dogs Jazz and Molly will soon have a new companion.

“It’s almost like adopting a kid,” Johnson said. “They want to make sure you have a good home and good environment for that dog.”

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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