A dog is man’s best friend, right? Even in their socially defined unconditional love, dogs are at the heart of an upcoming ballot initiative.
A dog is man’s best friend, right?
Even in their socially defined unconditional love, dogs are at the heart of an upcoming ballot initiative. On Nov. 2, Missouri voters will be asked to decide Proposition B, also known as the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, which aims to strengthen and to further define existing laws of dog treatment within the state’s breeding facilities.
If approved, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act would take effect in November 2011. The proposed law would require the following conditions:
• Dogs must have “adequate rest between breeding cycles,” and may only produce up to two litters every 18 months.
• Dogs that are the size of a beagle must have 12 to 20 square feet of indoor space, plus access to a larger outside run. Large dogs must have 30 square feet of indoor space.
• Dogs must receive regular exercise, which is defined as “constant and unfettered” access to an outdoor exercise area with a solid, ground level surface. The area must have adequate drainage, the legislation states, along with protection against weather and at least twice the square footage of the indoor floor space a dog receives.
• Pet breeders have a limit of 50 intact breeding dogs.
• Cage stacking and wire floors are prohibited.
• Dogs must have access to clean water at all times.
• Licensed veterinarians must examine the animals at least once year. Only licensed veterinarians may perform humane euthanasia that meets the American Veterinary Medical Association standards.
• At minimum, dogs must be housed in temperatures between 45 and 85 degrees.
• Those found guilty of violating the statute will face a class C misdemeanor. Those who were previously found guilty of violating the statute will be charged with a class A misdemeanor.
The proposed legislation does not affect the limitation of hunting dogs or the ability to breed, raise or sell hunting dogs. It also would not apply to retail pet stores; to animal shelters as defined by state statute; to hobby or show breeders who have custody of up to 10 female dogs and who breed those dogs to sell offspring for use as a pet; or to dog trainers who do not breed and sell dogs for use as a pet.
What already exists
Missouri is often referred to as the “puppy mill capital” of the United States, despite the lacking of a legal definition of “puppy mill,” according to the Better Business Bureau.
According to a report from the Better Business Bureau sponsored by locations in St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield, Mo., the largest wholesalers of puppies exist in southwestern Missouri, and dog breeders proliferate in Missouri and neighboring states.
The BBB in March recommended that the Missouri and U.S. departments of agriculture pursue penalties against repeat offenders most aggressively and that consumers consider adopting a spayed or neutered pet from shelters.
Page 2 of 3 - Some regulations already exist in Missouri to ensure humane care in animal facilities. The Animal Care Facilities Act, which took effect in August 1992, aims to promote proper animal care in licensed facilities in Missouri. Twelve field staff members are employed with the ACFA Program, which exists within the Animal Health Division of the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
In 2009, the program launched Operation Bark Alert, allowing citizens to report kennels with questionable practices or an unknown license status. According to its website, Operation Bark Alert officials acted on more than 200 online tips in its first year, which resulted in 40 separate rescues and surrenders.
According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s website, animal care inspectors visit every location in question based on tips from the public. Visit www.mda.mo.gov/animals/ACFA to learn more about Operation Bark Alert and how to report a questionable circumstance.
Independence resident Connie Mayta, a member of People for Animal Welfare Society Inc., said she supports Proposition B because of its limitations on the number of breeding dogs, the allowance of room for dogs to move around and the limitations on the number of litters each dog may produce. PAWS Inc. provides reduced-cost spay and neuter services through Kansas City area veterinarians to pet dogs and cats.
“Of course, the good breeders who are already doing all of this stuff, it’s not going to affect them in the least,” Mayta said. “This is aimed at people who exploit the animals for money and don’t care about their welfare. Their welfare is what we care about.”
No More Homeless Pets in Kansas City, a nonprofit organization committed to a lifelong, caring home for every pet in the Kansas City area and whose work extends into Eastern Jackson County, has endorsed Proposition B. Gail Longstaff, the organization’s president, said the lack of care in puppy mills detrimentally affects the breeding animals, the puppies and the community. Too often, Longstaff said, the animals within puppy mills experience medical issues “and they ultimately get dumped on the shelter systems that already have too many animals.”
“There are far too many animals that are dying in our shelter system, and the supply is exceeding the demand,” she said. “It kind of comes down to a situation that every major social movement in this country has had to have the rights ended up guaranteed by law.”
Longstaff said she recognizes the opposition viewpoints, especially the argument that passing the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act won’t help because of a lack of resources.
“If you don’t have something to try to enforce it in the first place, how are you gaining ground?” Longstaff said. “I’ve seen the horrors of the animals coming out of those puppy mill situations, and it needs to stop. If they are going to do their product, they need to do it properly. I don’t think the profit should be made on the misery of those animals.”
Page 3 of 3 - The Humane Society of the United States, calling itself the country’s largest animal protection organization, supports Proposition B because it provides easily understandable criminal penalties for mistreatment without eliminating existing laws. Supporters also say the initiative will increase enforcement and will clarify existing puppy mill regulations, providing consistent guidelines for inspectors.
The Jackson County Legislature also recently endorsed Proposition B.
The Missouri Federation of Animal Owners, the American Kennel Club, Humane Watch and the Alliance for Truth are among the organizations that oppose Proposition B, arguing the legislation is based on ignorance on the Humane Society of the United States’ objectives and hidden agenda and that such legislation would harm small businesses in Missouri.
Belton, Mo., resident John Mellinger serves as the legislative contact for the Heart of America – Kansas City Kennel Club. Mellinger has raised and has shown dogs for about 30 years and said he only breeds Yorkshire terriers for a supply of show dogs. According to Mellinger, who opposes Proposition B, the organizations behind Proposition B “are really doing very, very little for the dogs,” calling the ballot initiative “a play for making money.”
Though he acknowledges a problem exists in Missouri with puppy mills, Mellinger said existing state laws are sufficient.
“There are always some bad apples in life. It’s not an out-of-hand problem,” Mellinger said. “Problems do exist – I’m not going to deny that – but they are laying the groundwork for something that’s mostly money. The biggest problem right now is what they are trying to do, in my best estimation.”
Even those who oppose Proposition B, including the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association, recognize the strong existence of puppy mills in Missouri. The MVMA opposes unlicensed, unregulated puppy breeders throughout the state and says it is seeking solutions. Missouri has “good existing laws,” the association states, arguing those laws need enforcement.
“Cases of neglect and bad conditions have come mainly from unlicensed breeders who are not overseen by state inspection,” the statement reads. “Passing blanket initiatives without careful consideration of the facts and ignoring existing law is not in the best interest of the dogs we are trying to protect.”
Visit the Missouri secretary of state’s website, www.sos.mo.gov, and click on “2010 General Election” under “Site Updates” for more information on the November election. Select “Ballot Issues” to read Proposition B and other ballot issues in their entirety.