Missouri group fights dog breeding ballot measure

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 | 11:29 a.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — A judge in Cole County could determine the fate of Missouri's Proposition B, a measure set to go to voters in November that would establish new rules for dog breeding in a state that has drawn national attention for a high number of so-called "puppy mills."

The Humane Society of Missouri circulated petitions to get the proposal on the Nov. 2 ballot. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan last week certified the petitions as containing enough signatures.

An animal owners group questions wording on the ballot, calling it biased and unfair. A hearing was Monday. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem is expected to rule this week. If he agrees with the breeders, the judge could rewrite the ballot wording.

If that were to happen, the animal owners group plans to file another suit in an effort to keep the proposal off the ballot, noting that people who signed the petitions read the current wording.

Chuck Hatfield, the attorney for the animal owners group, said there is particular concern the phrase that says violation of the proposed act would be a misdemeanor called "puppy mill cruelty."

"The phrase 'puppy mill cruelty' is a campaign slogan that doesn't belong in the secretary of state's objective summary," Hatfield said.

He also believes the state has underestimated the enforcement cost.

Attorneys for the state say ballot wording adequately describes the initiative and its likely costs.

Assistant Attorney General Jeremiah Morgan said that by putting quotation marks around the words "puppy mill cruelty," Carnahan showed that the words came straight from the petition.

Proposition B would require anyone who has more than 10 breeding dogs to meet certain standards for housing, food and veterinary care. Owners would be limited to no more than 50 breeding dogs.

Supporters of the measure say Missouri needs to turn around its image as the home of so-called puppy mills — breeding facilities known for overcrowded and inhumane treatment.

Critics warn Proposition B would affect licensed dog breeders that follow the rules and could make it more expensive to buy pet dogs. Others fear the measure could be a precursor to additional regulations for animal agriculture.

The lawsuit was filed by Karen Strange, a lobbyist for the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners. She testified that her group's goal was to "protect against the animal rights movement" on behalf of all forms of agriculture, including pet breeders, poultry farmers, pork producers and exotic animal owners.

Strange projected that about half of the nearly 1,500 licensed dog breeders in Missouri would go out of business if Proposition B passes, largely because they can't afford the proposed dog housing regulations which roughly double the amount of indoor space required for each dog, prohibit stacked cages and outlaw wire flooring.

Strange said that would mean the state would lose the licensing fees those breeders pay. Breeders are charged a $100 base fee plus $1 per putty sold, with the total fee capped at $500 annually.

The state auditor estimated in the ballot title that the proposal would cost the state $654,768, mostly to pay for animal health inspections. But Strange contended that when lost licensing fees are accounted for, the state's cost would be closer to $1.1 million.

Among those who may go out of business is Kelly Brown, who testified she breeds about 250 French bulldogs and Yorkies in Newton County. She said her family needs the income to subsidize the rest of the farm.

"If I'm reduced down to 50 dogs, it won't provide the cash flow that our operation requires," Brown said.

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Jeri Wilson August 10, 2010 | 11:58 a.m.

I don't care about puppy mills owners "income" - go get a job,!
I am concerned about the dogs and the overpopulation of these dogs. I would go beyond puppy mills and stop all dog breeding for over five years to cut down on the overpopulation of abused, abandoned dogs, dogs just breed for money only, (I don’ care about the AKA papers either) and owners who go and get a dog only to give it up, let it starve to death, beat it, fight it, or give it to the human society to be their problem. There are already far too many dogs and cats in this world. We need better control of owners too. A license to own and classes would be a great start as well as breeders. These animals are not toys. They are thinking, feeling creatures and until people can learn to respect this then you don’t need puppy mills, especially over fifty!

(Report Comment)
Karen Bell August 11, 2010 | 11:18 a.m.

The professional breeders do not like or want substandard kennels any more than anyone else. The problem here is the proposed law. People need to read it in it's entirity and truly think about what it is proposing. It is totally unreasonable and is playing strictly on people's emotions. And why are shelters and rescue groups exempt? All of their dogs are kept in a kennel environment and I must add some not so good. I have been in people's houses to look at puppies where they just had these 2 pet dogs that they breed. They had not a clue about breeding dogs nor how to raise puppies not to mention the filthy conditions of their house. I will never purchase a puppy from an individual who raises just 1 or 2 them in their homes. Jeri is right about one thing - the people who buy puppies and become their new owners need to take responsibility for them. This is where most of your shelter dogs come from. It doesn't give me enough room on here to list out all of the problems with this proposed law but I can guarantee you it will not stop with the dog breeders. The American people seem to be slowly loosing a lot of their rights so this would be just one more if it should pass.

(Report Comment)
Joe Overlease August 11, 2010 | 6:06 p.m.

Perfect example Jeri...

The bill is targeted at law abiding licensed breeders. And they are not "Puppy Mills". The AWA already exists and addresses substandard facilities etc.

Just in case you have not noticed, "Jeri", the state has no money, however they are and have been doing a good job with the resources they have.

The myth of overpopulation is just that "a Myth" we do have an abundance of individuals who do not care for their animals, until we can make sure everyone is responsible when they buy a dog or cat there will be animals in the shelters. (The bill has nothing to do with the overpopulation myth)

Now "Jeri" pay attention here and try to grasp this with your expansive pea sized brain...Less than 20% of the dogs in shelters come from breeders who raise purebred dogs, so tell us Smarty pants where do the remaining 80.0% come from??

Jeri, get a grip and seek professional help soon please.

The bill is aimed at putting Missourians out of work, It is aimed at people who are law abiding citizens. It is aimed at a group of people that PETA and the HSUS people who want to defame and discredit some of the best animal husbandry people in the world.

Yes Jeri it is true Missouri has the best kennels and the best breeders an the best dog lines in the world, a fact that seems to have escaped your grasp.

Gee, I hate Idiots! Nuff said for now..
Please support Missouri Breeders

(Report Comment)
Ruby Fifer August 12, 2010 | 12:14 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 anothers 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. Thank you for reading- Ruby

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 14, 2010 | 11:01 p.m.

("Breeders are charged a $100 base fee plus $1 per putty sold...")

How much is that putty in the window?

(Report Comment)
nancy puleo September 26, 2010 | 4:49 p.m.

If you own an animal, breed animals, then you have the responsibility to help stop the overabundance of unwanted "pets". Instead of debating your position, find a solution. Just volunteer in a shelter for a year or two -- that will enlighten your soul and mind. This should start in the home, but in today's world ethics do not matter--so I would like to hear a solution from the people who produce these unwanted animals. I would prefer that anyone who has a pet to be responsible or be fined to the extent the animal will be provided a "forever" home with the monies.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 26, 2010 | 5:47 p.m.

("I would prefer that anyone who has a pet to be responsible or be fined to the extent the animal will be provided a "forever" home with the monies.")

And I would prefer that first time posting busy-bodies on how to punish what YOU consider an "irresponsible" pet owner keep their opinions to themselves. Obviously, because this dog issue plays on people's emotions towards how animals are treated, and HSUS and PETA have done their best to portray Missourians as animal haters and money hungry cretins, little chance that the sheeple of PETA and HSUS will stop their bahing...

(Report Comment)

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