- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A North Carolina state senator apologized Tuesday for negative comments he made about Gov. Pat McCrory, his wife and others during a recorded discussion with constituents about legislation to regulate dog breeding.

Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, was quoted in the recording using coarse language while criticizing the House for passing a bill last spring that set minimum treatment standards for dogs that are used for breeding and their offspring sold as pets. He also blasted the governor and first lady Ann McCrory for lobbying for the measure.

In a news release, Rabon said he had “reached out” Tuesday to apologize to the McCrorys, House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, and Minority Leader Larry Hall, D-Durham.

“While I spoke out of frustration in the heat of the moment, it does not excuse what I said or how I said it,” Rabon said in the release. “My comments were both inappropriate and offensive, and I am sincerely sorry.”

Rabon, a veterinarian, said he believed the meeting with constituents “was an off-the-record conversation about the prospects for a puppy mill bill in the upcoming legislative session.”

Another Republican, Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, said the conversation had been secretly recorded. He announced Monday the bill would not be heard in the Senate this year because he alleged the constituents were using the recording as “political extortion” to get the House bill passed in the Senate.

The constituents, who included members of animal rescue groups, said the recording device was in plain sight in the hand of one of the attendees. Cheri McLain, the leader of Rescue Animals Community Effort in Shallotte, said there was no extortion involved. Rather, she said Tuesday, the recording was disclosed because she “just felt like people should know how (Rabon) feels about things.”

In the recording, according to media reports, Rabon says the House bill was only a feel-good measure and the House passed the bill because “they got political heat. They said we can no longer sit on this.” He also said the governor and first lady improperly advocated for the bill in the House.

“The executive branch had absolutely, absolutely no business sticking its nose in the legislature on that sort of issue,” Rabon said in the recording.

Rabon said in the audio he said he would offer his own bill in due course. He said he could get a tougher bill passed.

A spokesman for McCrory didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to an email seeking a response to the apology. McCrory said Monday he was disappointed in Rabon’s comments and hoped the Senate would reconsider hearing the bill when the legislature reconvenes in May.

In separate statements Tuesday, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Humane Society of the United States also urged the Senate to pass dog-breeding regulations this year

Despite word from Senate Republican leaders Monday that a dog-breeding bill was dead for the year, Rabon said Tuesday in his release he would “continue to work to protect the welfare of dogs and make sure they are treated humanely.”

McLain wrote later by email she was glad to see Rabon’s apology but said it would be simple to pass the House bill in the Senate “and get at the very least minimal standards of care in place.”

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