Facing a July 29 deadline, John and Judy Dollarhite of Nixa, Mo., responded Friday to officials at the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service with a “Substitute Stipulation Agreement” that, hopefully, will allow the couple to avoid fines of up to $4 million in fines for selling too many bunnies.
The substitute agreement, prepared on behalf of John Dollarhite by attorney Richard Anderson, was submitted almost a month after I reported on John Dollarhite being “not happy” with the USDA’s revised offer which came on the heels of substantial national attention — including coverage on Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com, The Rush Limbaugh Show and The Drudge Report — about their plight.
The substitute agreement was addressed to Sarah L. Conant, a USDA bureaucrat with a very long title — Chief, Animal Health and Welfare Enforcement Branch, Investigative and Enforcement Services — who was the focus of my June 27 post, Animal Rights Activism Fuels USDA Rabbit Chase.
Below is the “meat” of the cover letter that accompanied the substitute agreement:
Mr. Dollarhite has reviewed the proposed Stipulation Agreement of June 22, 2011, and is of the opinion that it does not adequately reflect the terms that had previously been discussed with him. Specifically, the Stipulation Agreement provided by the USDA asks Mr. Dollarhite to waive any future right to challenge the USDA’s jurisdiction over his alleged activities and it seeks to prohibit him from engaging in future activities that in no way violate the Animal Welfare Act or current regulations adopted pursuant to that Act. This is neither fair, nor acceptable. Mr. Dollarhite is absolutely willing to conform his future behavior to the restrictions imposed on all other citizens, but he will not sacrifice his right to be treated like his neighbors or to question the USDA’s authority in any legal proceeding that should arise as a result of his actions. Accordingly, Mr. Dollarhite proposes the attached Substitute Stipulation Agreement.
On the pages that followed, Anderson listed three terms to which John Dollarhite is willing to agree IF officials at APHIS agree not to institute an administrative enforcement action against him:
1. John Dollarhite agrees not to initiate any legal action challenging the jurisdiction of the USDA or the constitutionality of the Animal Welfare Act (7 U.S.C. 2131 et. seq.) (AWA) and the regulations promulgated thereunder (9 C.F.R. 1.1 et seq.); provided, he reserves his right to raise jurisdictional or constitutional arguments as affirmative defenses to any administrative or legal action against him initiated by government agencies or officials.
2. John Dollarhite agrees not to sell, own, or possess buy or sell breeding rabbits or other animals for the purpose of exhibition or resale under any circumstance under which a valid USDA license is required by the AWA regulations [9 C.F.R. 2.1(a)(I)] without first applying for, obtaining, and being issued the required license. “Breeding rabbits”, for purpose of this paragraph, are rabbits which have not been spayed or neutered. [Under current AWA regulations, Dollarhite may own and possess breeding rabbits not intended or used for exhibition or resale (for example, meat rabbits kept only for home consumption).]
3. John Dollarhite and any partnership, firm, corporation, or other legal entity that he controls or in which he has a substantial interest, financial or otherwise, shall not engage in activities governed by the AWA (7 V.S.C. 2131 et seq.) and regulations issued thereunder (9 C.F.R. 1.1 et seq.) as related to breeding rabbits, either directly or indirectly, on or off 1537 Osburn Lane, Nixa, Missouri 65714, without first applying for and obtaining an AWA license for the exhibition or resale of rabbits and shall not hereafter in any manner violate the terms of the Animal Welfare Act (7 U.S.C. Section 2131, et. seq.), or the AWA regulations (9 C.F.R. Sec. 1, et. seq.)
It remains to be seen whether or not Conant and her fellow animal rights activists at the USDA agree to the conditions of what is, in essence, John Dollarhite’s refusal to cede his Constitutional rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Stay tuned to see what happens next.