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.