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GUEST COLUMN: It's not about puppies

Thursday, August 19, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:05 a.m. CDT, Thursday, August 19, 2010

I always felt comfortable at the University of Missouri until last semester when the Humane Society of the United States sent petitioners to Lowry Mall, a major gathering spot for students.

I was heading to class through Lowry Mall when a petitioner asked me if I liked dogs and cats. "Yes," I replied. He then proceeded to ask me if I liked the poor animals getting abused and, if not, I should sign the sheet to help stop it.

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I declined, explaining if I signed the petition it means I support an organization whose ultimate goal is to abolish animal agriculture. The man did not understand and began to raise his voice and make a scene. I stayed calm and chose to walk away from the situation. I felt uncomfortable on my own campus.

I'm an ag girl. I grew up on a cow/calf operation in small town USA and came to the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources to pursue an agricultural journalism degree.

I advocate for agriculture, believe in its practices  and know the referendum disguised to help pets is the first step for the Humane Society of the United States to get into Missouri with the ultimate goal of eliminating livestock production.

The discomfort I felt stayed with me when I passed through Lowry Mall to and from classes. From time-to-time I saw the petitioner get the same response I gave him, but more often others did not question what they were signing.

According to the Columbia Missourian, the man was getting paid 75 cents a signature. It said the Humane Society of the United States  hired paid signature gatherers from outside the state to work with more than 2,000 volunteers.

Farmers and ranchers care about the well-being of their animals. Laws and regulations are already in practice to assure the care animals receive. As a beef producer, I know the importance of taking care of animals.

While the information the Humane Society of the United States used to encourage people to sign the petition was inaccurate, voters will determine the fate of the initiative in the November general election.

Check with your state senators and representatives about the current laws in Missouri already protecting livestock. Urge them to fully fund the Department of Agriculture's efforts to enforce the laws already established.

Aimee Gutshall is an MU student and a summer intern for the Missouri Farm Bureau.


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Comments

Andrew Hansen August 19, 2010 | 8:54 a.m.

Enforce the current laws before making new additional laws? That is crazy talk!

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock August 19, 2010 | 4:23 p.m.

Hillery you need to change your profile name to include your last name or the Missourian will delete it.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 19, 2010 | 4:31 p.m.

Allan, what are the odds Hillary never comes back to debate the issue? I'm smelling hit and run.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 19, 2010 | 4:39 p.m.

Assuming Hillary does come back though, what specific actions or conditions outlawed by the act on the ballot are not covered by the "the definition of animal abuse in section 578.012" as mentioned in the bill text?

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock August 19, 2010 | 4:52 p.m.

Good question John.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance August 19, 2010 | 10:51 p.m.

Yes, Hillary they want your full name here so the commenters can look up your tax info, casenet, and voter registration information.

(Report Comment)
Laura Johnston August 20, 2010 | 7:28 a.m.

Yes, Tim, we do want full names from commenters. We've removed some of the early comments in this thread because it violated our policy.
Thank you for helping us remind others about that policy. You can read it: http://www.columbiamissourian.com/p/miss...

Laura Johnston, ColumbiaMissourian.com

(Report Comment)
Holly Henry August 20, 2010 | 9:17 a.m.

Ms. Gutshall,

If you intend to be a journalist, you should understand that your first responsibility is to INFORM your readers. All I understand from your column is that you don't like the American Humane Society's proposed legislation because you think it's bad for agriculture, that the petitioners were being paid, and that most students didn't read the petition.

If you're going to advocate for agriculture, it would be more effective to spend less time discussing your background and personal discomfort with the circulation of the petition on MU's campus and more time explaining what the proposed legislation says and how it seeks to "abolish livestock production." As a reader, I'm not inclined to take your word for it simply because you're "an ag girl." At bare minimum, a link to the proposed legislation is warranted.

Best regards,
Holly Henry

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 20, 2010 | 9:35 a.m.

Holly, I don't think Aimee is a reporter, looks like just an op-ed to me.

(Report Comment)
Michael Abair August 20, 2010 | 11:07 a.m.

I'm curious about the required methods for collecting signatures for a petition. Surely a signature collector must have a written copy, with exact wording, of the petition for someone to review. This seems like a minimum requirement so that the person asked to support/sign the peitition knows exactly what they are supporting. Are these signature collectors not making a copy of the petition available or or they not required to provide one?

(Report Comment)
Samantha Freeman August 20, 2010 | 2:19 p.m.

As a recent political reporter from Jefferson City and agricultural journalism major, I am very happy with the opinion piece that Ms. Gutshall has put together. It truly has the facts behind this initiative. She did a great job pointing out and informing readers that funding of current programs is really the problem. I am happy that an "ag girl" is standing up for agriculture.

This conflict here isn't about the direct wording in the initiative. It's about the indirect effects and letting a group from Washington D.C. come into Missouri and get away with passing an initiative like this. This ballot intitiative will hurt dog breeders. It will not help the intended target-puppies. This ballot initiative will be the starting point of HSUS bringing an anti-agriculture initiative to Missouri. If you check into the history of HSUS in other states, this is a common path they have walked down. Agriculture groups and reporters are not crazy when they say that agriculture will be affected by this.

1)It is the Humane Society of the United States that proposed the ballot inititative through the Missourians for the Protection of Dogs organization, NOT the American Humane Association. They are two completely different entities. HSUS primarily lobbys for legislation and proposes ballot initiatives.
2)Here's a link to the Secretary of State website where you can find the ballot initiative wording. http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2010peti...
3)I was also attacked this past semester. The man I talked to was from Arkansas and hired by HSUS. They were paid $0.75 per signature. I pretended to know nothing about this initiative and they told me anything they could think of to get me to sign it. It didn't matter if it was true or false. I was provided a copy of the initiative on a clipboard. But it didn't include a list of unintended consequences.
4)With the new language dog breeders would be limited to 50 dogs per owners and would be required to increase the amount of living space per dog. 50 dogs isn't enough to keep the breeders in business. Adequate water, food and space are already mandated. The current regulations are listed in the Missouri Revised Statutes: http://www.moga.mo.gov/STATUTES/C273.HTM... and more specifically here: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C200-299... question is: if we limit the numbe r of dogs per dog breeder what is stopping us from limiting the amount of pigs per farmer?
5)The Missouri Department of Agriculture is already working hard to put together programs to take care of animal abuse. The problem is funding and implementation, not the legislation. Licensed dog breeders shouldn't be attacked because there is a breakdown in funding.

Emotional pictures only go so far...and I will be voting NO on Prop. B.

Sami Jo Freeman

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 20, 2010 | 4:01 p.m.

Michael, I've never seen a petitioner not have a copy of the proposed law being pushed by the petition, but you can darn well bet at least 90% of the people who sign these things never actually read the language.

(Report Comment)
Hillary Twining August 21, 2010 | 3:15 p.m.

Prop B, also known as the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, is absolutely about puppies and the dogs from which they're bred. The claim that this ballot initiative will impact animal agriculture has no basis in fact. Prop B only covers dogs sold commercially as pets -- no other species of animal. Please read the full text of the initiative at the link provided by Samantha; it should clear up some misconceptions. Missouri’s Animal Care Facilities Act program is outdated and does not reflect the views of the American public on how dogs should be treated. For example, it doesn't put any limit on the size of mass breeding facilities, and allows hundreds of dogs to be confined to small, stacked, wire cages with minimal exercise and inadequate vet care. Improved funding and enforcement are important, but they alone don’t solve the current situation because the existing law is anemic. Recent reports from the federal Office of Inspector General and the St. Louis Better Business Bureau offer a much more detailed overview of problems that have long plagued the puppy mill industry; see http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/33002-4-... and http://stlouis.bbb.org/storage/142/docum....

Hillary Twining
HSUS

(Report Comment)
Joe Vancil August 24, 2010 | 1:44 p.m.

Hillary,

If you deem that enforcement of *EXISTING* law is inadequate, what makes you think that enforcement will be improved by enacting new law? If enforcement is currently a problem, it would seem that addressing that should be the first priority.

While by no means am I a dog-lover, cruelty to any animal is a bad thing. At the same time, in an era of activist courts, where "legal precedent" is stretched to the absurd, it's hard for me to be in favor of *ANY* law that "only" applies to a specific case. That's the going cry of those who legislate through the judiciary, and to be quite honest, I'm sick of that. And when we start arguing what constitutes cruelty, then there are several agribusinesses that are going to have a different definition than, as you put it, "the views of the American public." And that language also bothers me. This isn't federal law. What a person outside of Missouri thinks doesn't matter one iota to me when talking about MISSOURI law. And I think you'll find the average Missourian has their head screwed on a lot straighter than the average American.

This looks to me like the same thing we've seen before: someone coming in from outside of Missouri, and telling us what we should and shouldn't do, and how we should and shouldn't feel. I object to forcing Missourians to "see it from someone else's view."

I'll be voting AGAINST Prop B - even if I might support its goal.

(Report Comment)
Holly Henry August 26, 2010 | 4:07 p.m.

@Samantha, you said:

"As a recent political reporter from Jefferson City and agricultural journalism major, I am very happy with the opinion piece that Ms. Gutshall has put together. It truly has the facts behind this initiative. She did a great job pointing out and informing readers that funding of current programs is really the problem. I am happy that an 'ag girl' is standing up for agriculture."

Presumably, this is in response to my post, and presumably, you assume that I stand in favor of whatever it is that Ms. Gutshall is opposing here. I couldn't even begin to tell you where I stand on whatever issue this is because Ms. Gutshall did not provide enough information to me as a reader for me to identify the legislation she is opposing. That alone is my complaint. Please demonstrate to me where "facts behind this initiative" appear in this article and where the instances are of "pointing out and informing readers that funding of current programs is really the problem" because, as a reader, I'm not seeing them. I suspect that both you and Ms. Gutshall are so close to whatever issue it is that you are opining about on these pages that you are not even seeing how much basic information was left out of this column.

Best regards,
Holly Henry

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 22, 2010 | 8:33 p.m.

("Don't be fooled on Prop B")
http://www.semissourian.com/story/167314...

Joplin Globe editorial oppossed to Proposition B:
http://www.joplinglobe.com/editorial/x15...

(Report Comment)
Ruth Keezer October 28, 2010 | 9:48 a.m.

I am still waiting to see the perfect model kennel that HSUS must have built and their scientific production, health, and economic studies of the drastic changes required by Proposition B. How can HSUS arbitrarily demand that decades of improvements in flooring unilaterally be declared illegal without significant (or ANY) relevant documentation? What is the benefit of small dogs being raised at ground level on solid surfaces with constant unfettered access to outside? Will the dogs be happier or healthier being exposed to fleas, ticks, snakes, and other critters that bite them or suck their blood at ground level?
My dogs like being kept safe, dry, and comfortable in elevated pens with perforated flooring (allowing waste product to drop through the 'holes' unto the pans/washdowns below). The 'unfettered access' would allow mama dogs to whelp outside in the snow instead of in the carefully prepared protected whelping box. A dog's thought process does not allow for wise decision-making, which is why we protect them and make the proper choices for them. Prop B would leave it up to the dog; not a good idea.
Why limit dog breeders to 50 dogs? If they are being properly cared for, there is no legitimate reason to restrict a family's income potential.
Again, if anyone knows where this perfect kennel is that HSUS built as an example of how dogs are supposed to be raised, please let me know! I am anxious to get a tour of this wonderful facility. Can't wait to see what a Maltese looks like under the care of HSUS after a week 'on the ground'.
If HSUS refuses to allow tours of an ideal facility they built, you KNOW they have something to HIDE!! I am voting NO on Prop B!!

(Report Comment)
Shelley Powers October 28, 2010 | 10:53 a.m.

Agriculture is about food, fiber, and by-product. It was a mistake to integrate dog breeding into agriculture, but that was the only department available (USDA) at the time.

Ever since, anytime we try to get any rules covering the care and safety of dogs, and cats, people from the agricultural community come running in screaming, "They're trying to take away our cows!"

What's sad, though, is that the author tells us to contact our state reps to get more funding for existing laws, when it is the agricultural lobby that lobbied against additional funding--and clarification of the laws, and even stricter enforcement--for decades.

What Ms. Gutshall wants, and what too many in the agricultural community want, is for us to not tell them what to do, on the one hand, while holding the other out for government subsidies and loans. I don't think you have to have a class in logic to see the disconnect in this reasoning.

Proposition B is about the dogs, nothing more, nothing less.

(Report Comment)
Shelley Powers October 28, 2010 | 11:12 a.m.

Joe Vancil,

you don't like laws that apply to a specific case? The best laws we have are those that are specific. It is the specificity that prevents overreaching when it comes to enforcement of the laws.

If you look through the USDA reports, and I imagine the same is said of the Missouri inspection reports, you'll see violation after violation, year after year.

The reason why neither the Missouri DeptAg or the USDA can do much about it now, is that the USDA requires violations three years in a row, the Missouri DeptAg only seems to address violations when they persist years, or are so egregious that they cannot ignore how bad the breeder really is.

This bill makes one key change: a clear violation is a class C misdemeanor. This gives the laws real teeth to enforce the laws, which now are considered nothing more than an annoyance to the worst breeders.

More importantly, the existing laws are too vague or almost impossible to enforce. For instance, laws now state breeders have to provide an exercise plan and say they apply it. The inspectors can not verify this, as they're not at the breeders 24x7. With the new law, kennels have to provide a large enough outdoor run so the dogs can get exercise and fresh air, and the dogs have to have unfettered access. This is easily enforceable.

This is a good bill, with carefully written provisions, and interfacing well with existing federal and state laws.

(Report Comment)

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