GUEST COLUMN: 'Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act' would restrict responsible owners

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:54 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 2, 2010

The "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act" is a ballot initiative petition that was circulated in Missouri and has been submitted to the Secretary of State's office for certification of the signatures. If the petition has enough approved signatures, which will be announced in early August, the petition will be on the ballot in November.

It's called the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act" but is that really what it's about? As a breeder of show dogs, or what is often termed the "hobby breeder," I have many issues with the professional dog-breeding industry. But the fact remains there is a large market for purebred dogs as companions in this country, and I am not sure doing away with the industry in its entirety is the wisest move. Make no mistake, the requirements of this proposed legislation are designed to eliminate the commercial breeder. The supporters of this legislation have decided that dogs should not be bred by large professional breeders. Who, I might ask, is supposed to provide this market need? Is American society going to miraculously no longer desire purebred dogs? Has anyone actually thought this through?

But my biggest concern is that this "Puppy Mill Cruelty" bill affects me, the show-dog breeder. For those supporters of this bill who claim it does not affect the nonprofessional breeder, think again. It defines a "large-scale" breeder as someone who has more than 10 unspayed female dogs. That might sound reasonable to the uninitiated, but I have females who might be bred only once or twice in their lives or never bred. To show them, I am required by American Kennel Club rules to keep them unspayed. So it is a false assumption that just because one has an unspayed female that she is a breeding animal. Although most show dog breeders do not intentionally breed pets, those puppies that do not meet the highly selective criteria are sold as pets, so we are therefore not exempt from this legislation. The show-dog community does everything in its power to ensure dogs we breed do not end up in shelters. Every national club and most regional clubs have rescue organizations that are funded at members' expense to find homes for the dogs that have lost their homes. Nearly all of us require puppies that are not being sold to screened show or breeding homes to be spayed or neutered. In addition, by virtue of breed club memberships, we are not allowed to knowingly sell to commercial breeders or brokers.

The proposal states that any female 6 months or older counts toward the total that determines whether a breeder is considered "large-scale." As a breeder committed to producing the healthiest possible dogs, I often run on puppies past 6 months to ascertain their breeding and show potential. To get an X-ray for a preliminary reading of hip dysplasia, my vet asks that I wait until they are at least 8 or 9 months old. So even if I have seven or eight unspayed females and have one litter a year, when I run on a litter of five promising female puppies, I will fall under the "large-scale" breeder definition while I house those puppies. I am being penalized for being very careful in selection — the very thing the unknowing public loves to criticize purebred-dog breeders for not doing!

Now let's look at the requirements. It states the dog must be provided an indoor environment that is no cooler than 45 degrees or hotter than 85 degrees. This means the dog must be kept in an air-conditioned and heated building. But it also states the dog must have "constant and unfettered" access to the outside. That means you must have an indoor/outdoor kennel. I have raised show dogs for 30 years and have never resorted to an indoor/outdoor kennel arrangement because I believe dogs should be taken to their outdoor runs individually. It is far too easy to not handle them regularly if they are kept in a kennel with indoor/outdoor runs. So now even though my method of keeping dogs requires almost constant staffing and a lot more work, and even though I feel my method of keeping my dogs is far more humane, I must now put them in a kennel building instead of a home environment. Thank you, animal welfare proponents!

I think all people must ask themselves if their dogs are kept in a manner which meets this proposed legislation's specifications. Numbers aside, if you ever leave your pet indoors without "constant and unfettered" access to outside, or if you leave your pet in an environment which is not heated and air conditioned you would be out of its definition of compliance. But this is what this bill strictly defines as humane animal husbandry. I would say most pet owners don't even meet this standard.

Is this really legislation to honestly deal with "puppy mill cruelty," or is this legislation to prevent dogs from being bred at all? The show-dog breeder is the only bastion who prevents quality purebred dogs from extinction. We do so at inordinate personal expense to ourselves, inordinate research and inordinate effort. There are many dog breeds that have accompanied mankind through the centuries, and they are as much a part of our human culture as any artifacts. I don't believe all animal-welfare and animal-rights folks are intentionally trying to make the dog an extinct animal. But passing this law will go a long way to making that a reality. After all the professional breeders are put out of business and after all the hobby breeders are outlawed, the rare dog will be the one who is whelped under the back porch of someone who takes no responsibility for his or her dogs - or the hunting dogs. I wonder, are hunting dogs exempted because their care is so exemplary or because the supporters of this legislation just don't want to tangle with the NRA at this point?

In a study of commercial breeding kennels done by the Better Business Bureau, they point out the main problem in Missouri is the funding to make all the necessary inspections of professional breeders as well as acting effectively to penalize those who are out of compliance. It is obvious Missouri government agencies are not doing their job. Organizations proposing more legislation need to be responsible in the laws they propose. This is a very sloppy response and therefore an irresponsible proposal.

Jon Kimes has been involved with breeding and exhibiting dogs for more than 30 years, including having bred or owned more than 110 champions. He has been a licensed dog judge for 15 years and has served on the board of directors and as a committee chair for several national breeding clubs.


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Terry Ward July 28, 2010 | 12:30 p.m.

The 'limit', as Mr. Kimes neglected to mention, is 50 dogs. Not eight, as he so cleverly implied.
And if Mr. Kimes and his cronies cared more about the welfare of show dogs and less about their own individual self-interests, they would band together and use their considerable power to help expose and expel the abusive breeders SO THESE REGULATIONS WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN NECESSARY IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!!
Think, people.
Look behind the hype and the misinformation and the agenda-ridden extremists ON BOTH SIDES of this issue.
Has common sense left the building forever?

(Report Comment)
Jon Kimes July 28, 2010 | 4:08 p.m.

What I wrote was, "It defines a "large-scale" breeder as someone who has more than 10 unspayed female dogs." I never referenced the 50 dog limit which is not critical to my argument. I don't know about common sense, but perhaps reading comprehension has left the building. I do agree, however, that most entities in these discussions do have hidden agendas. While I do feel puppy mills should be addressed, the sacrifice that the responsible breeder is being asked to make indicates to me this isn't good lawmaking. If the spray of bullets hits innocent by-standers I think the approach should be reconsidered.

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Patricia TenEyck July 28, 2010 | 7:20 p.m.

I wonder why someone who shows dogs and says he is working on improving the breed - whichever one it is he is interested in, seems to have no concern beyond his own "hobby." There are thousands of dogs living in horrific conditions in puppy mills in this country, and yet you are only concerned with the dozen or so you keep? Puppy mills do nothing to improve the dog breeds, in fact they are notorius in-breeders causing extensive health concerns for almost all of the dogs coming off of their properties. Aren't you interested in keeping your breed standards as high as possible? Or, does that not allow you to win at dog shows? All I have to do is walk through any of the 5 shelters/humane societies near my home to see a variety of purebred dogs - from Tibetan terriers, to German Shepherds, to Labs and Golden Retreivers. Name your breed, and within my state I would be that there is at least one abandoned in a shelter. But you seem much more concerned with your little "hobby" then with the tens of thousands of healthy dogs destroyed every year becasue no one wants them. And yes, the majority of those dogs being destroyed are purebred.
I have long been an advocate that counties should charge licensing fees well beyond the cost of a spay or neuter for unaltered dogs and cats. I also believe the county should require a license to breed a dog - every time you plan on breeding. And, if you have an unplanned litter with no license, you should pay a fine - for each puppy produced. Only by hitting people in their pocketbooks can you effect behaviour. True breeders would be able to figure these costs into their charges for their puppies - but those breeding hundreds of dogs every year would not be willing to pay these fees. The more often they were fined, the less they would make the quicker they would get out of the puppy mill business.
I am a volunteer foster home with two dog rescue organizations, one is a purebred dog rescue, the other is a senior dog rescue. Both are overwhelmed with dogs. Currently I have three foster dogs in my home from the senior dog rescue - each of the three is a purebred - a beagle, an ancient German Shepherd and a gorgeous glossy black lab. All were abandoned in foreclosed homes. If we treat living creatures purely as a commercial property/product - as puppy mills do - then it is easy to throw away the product when it is no longer 'new.'
How many dogs need to suffer and die in horrendous situations just because you do not want to have any requirements attached to your hobby. I bet you call yourself a dog lover, too.

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Jon Kimes July 29, 2010 | 2:35 p.m.

I never stated I have no concern for the general population of dogs. It seems to be a theme with the supporters of this legislative proposal to ignore the issues with it and accuse anyone who finds fault with the proposal as "not caring" about the problem it tries to address. But poorly defined laws are not an excuse as a solution. If this proposal wanted to truly target "puppy mills" then why couldn't it have very simply defined that as someone who "breeds more than 100 puppies a year" or some such number? Isn't that truly a definition of a large-scale breeder? Defending this flawed proposal by stating "well, you obviously don't care about dogs," is just as sloppy and carelessly crafted as this proposal. Since the prelude of this legislation is not upheld by the definitions it uses (since owning 11 or more unspayed bitches does not make you a puppy miller) I would think the people who really cared about enacting the legislation would have put in a little more effort. Don't you think a non-professional breeder could have this law struck down in court?

If you trace the heritage of the unwanted puppies and stray dogs who end up in shelters, I very much doubt they come from people who adhere to existing animal laws. These are careless people who aren't going to pay additional fees. Unless the laws are enforced (as I state in my final paragraph) you will never address the core issue.

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Ruby Fifer August 12, 2010 | 4:10 p.m.

Across the country our consitutional rights are slowly being removed. The consitution of America affords each citizen the right to life liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Most of us understand that an individuals rights cease when they begin to infringe on another individuals rights. HSUS, PETA, and all other "animal rights" groups have been and continue to infringe on MY rights and the rights of many other law abidng citizens. They are able to do so with the ill or uninformed assistance from Joe & Jeri public... I have and raise wonderful dogs. I care for my dogs & they are cared for beyond what any "humane laws" require. It is sad that not all dogs are kept in proper condition. Any attempts to take my dogs away WILL NOT IN ANY WAY make life better for any dogs or puppies that are in substandard kennels, hoarding situations, backyards, or just under the care and ownership of any other idiot. Stop selling to impulse buyers such as in a pet store situation & we will see a decrease in the number of owner surrenders very quickly. NO reputable breeder ever wants to see their dogs, or pups go into a shelter situation. Just as no reputable breeder will turn any pups over to a broker for resale OR put his/her pups in a petstore for sale... Thank you for reading- Ruby

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Angie Noland August 15, 2010 | 1:11 a.m.

Have you people ever wondered what is going to happen to ALL those POOR dogs these LICENSED BREEDERS have to get rid of?? Say if a Breeder has 100 dogs and has to get rid of 50???? Were are those 50 dogs going to go. Everyone cries about how many so called PUPPY MILLS are in the State of Missouri even though they are State and USDA Licensed Kennels.Who's going to rescue all those dang dogs when the Missouri breeders now don't have any rescue people when they need one. People need to understand Missouri breeders do want to place some dogs in retirement homes for FREE and give them to the Rescues for FREE when they can find a Rescue but the dang Rescues that do pick up a few from kennels here state that OH THEY COME FROM A PUPPY MILL then they want to charge say $400 for this little dog that they got for free when these Rescues have more money than most breeders because they get DONATIONS do the GOOD breeders get DONATIONS?? LOOK AT ALL THE DOGS. SAY Missouri has 1500 Licensed breeders and each breeder has to get rid of say just 20 dogs that's 30,000 dogs what happens to them ????

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Debra Shine September 21, 2010 | 7:56 a.m.

I would guess If the HSUS has anything to do with it, that most of those 30,000 dogs will be put to sleep. People need to visit these links; They explain a lot of what folks need to know.

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Jennifer Peterson September 24, 2010 | 10:24 a.m.

About 20% of all dogs in shelters right now are purebred so your argument is pretty weak. Where will people get purebred's you ask? Purebred rescues... shelters... any true dog lover would support any measure to shut down puppy mills. They are concentration cams for dogs and Missouri is the worst state when it comes to this disgusting practice. If you love animals and want to see the madness end, VOTE YES ON PROP B.

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Doctor m Rosset October 15, 2010 | 2:39 a.m.

Jennifer lies as the data shows that less than 9% can even be properly identified. Most of these volunteers just look for some similarity to a breed. If it has short legs then it must be a corgi, or if it has white and yellow markings it must be a collie. I am so tired of the HSUS zealots writing and speaking lies to the public.
I have gone to many work shops put on by these so called HSUS rescue and humane groups. In every case we are told to get a number into the new laws as these numbers can be lowered the next time around without having to be voted on again. They want the numbers to become zero and they make no bones about saying so. Also they tell all work shop attendees to not mention that these laws and this idea of stopping all breeding originates with HSUS. They also tell us its all right to lie to get what they want because they are more moral than the rest of the citizens of this country. These are arrogant people who believe that they have the right to take away your rights. VOTE NO PROP B

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Patty aguirre November 23, 2010 | 12:38 a.m.

I am a dog lover who has been active in dog rescue and spay/neuter programs. Our pure breed rescues have all had huge vet bills and behavior issues. Our male had been abandoned at a shelter and was near death when we picked him up. He skin and bones with terrible diarrhea. His problems were beyond their vet, and he was near death. Our female rescue was dumped on rescue when a backyard breeder realized vet bills exceeded profit. We have spent thousands on their vet care. She has temperament issues as well. We do not regret any of the extra cost or time working with her behavior. That is part of accepting responsibility for someone else's bad breeding.
Yes, you can get pure breed dogs at the shelters, but they often have been dumped there due to medical or behavior problems. The breeders who spend the time and money to produce healthy dogs with stable temperament have contracts to require dogs come back to them. I am a passionate advocate of rescue groups and shelter adoptions. However, there are many times a person needs a responsible breeder. Not only do hunters need healthy dogs with the genetic background to be good hunters, many have specific types of dogs they need. Police need dogs with stable temperaments to train to protect the lives of people. Blind people need puppies bred by people who work toward the best type of puppy to train. The list goes on.
I was recently diagnosed with MS. There is a long long list waiting for a trained service dog. Deciding to train my own dog, I chose a breed that would suit my situation. I could not use my rescue dog to train because her temperament would disqualify her immediately when you read the requirements of a service dog. She also has no interest in learning the type of tasks I need her to do. I needed a breed known to be easy to train to be a mobility assistance dog that was healthy with a good temperament. You cannot get a shelter or rescue dog with known parents of good temperament who had their hips/eyes checked before breeding. If a mixed breed, it may not be tall enough to help me balance.
Puppy mills are horrible and should not exist anywhere. But legislation should be carefully constructed to target only puppy mills while protecting responsible breeders who produce healthy sound puppy for people who have a specific job that needs to be done.
My service dog puppy came from a wonderful breeder. The puppies are raised in the home, and her children help socialize. I signed a contract to return the dog if ever couldn’t keep him. It distresses me when I read the unfair comments that put all breeders in the same category and vilify anyone who has a need to purchase a pure breed puppy instead of only accepting a shelter dog or a rescue I want everyone of these unfortunate dogs to have a home, but there are some situations in which a person needs to acquire a specific type dog that is bred to be as healthy as possible to do a specific job.

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