Coco the boxer was purchased by Sue Campbell of Palatine, Ill., from an Illinois pet store in 2009 when she was 12 weeks old. After several months of treatment for numerous conditions, including severe pneumonia and a high fever, she passed away.
Buddy the golden retriever was purchased from a Maryland pet store in April 2008 by Steve Abramson of Potomac, Md. Buddy was later diagnosed with what the veterinarian called "the worst case of hip dysplasia I have ever seen."
Sadie, a King Charles cavalier spaniel, was purchased from a pet store in North Carolina. Her new mom, Nicole Zarella of Charlotte, N.C., said "I bonded with Sadie right away, and took her home with me. I had to have that cute little dog in the window. I felt like she needed a good home. What I didn't know is that she would end up being sick and dying at the age of 13 months."
Coco, Buddy, and Sadie all had one thing in common: They came from Missouri's puppy mills. All of these dogs, and countless others with equally tragic stories, were bred in the type of massive puppy-production facilities that have earned our state the disgraceful reputation as the puppy mill capital of America.
Proposition B on the November statewide ballot, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, would improve the lives of dogs and help turn around this reputation. Prop B would require all large-scale breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with such basics as sufficient food and clean water, necessary veterinary care, adequate housing, and adequate space and exercise.
Missouri is home to an estimated 3,000 puppy mills, breeding hundreds of thousands of puppies — far more than any other state in the country. Dogs in puppy mills typically receive little to no medical care, live in filthy conditions with no exercise, socialization, or human interaction, and are confined inside cramped wire cages for life. They spend their entire lives churning out litter after litter of puppies, which are then sold in pet stores, online and directly to consumers without regard for the puppies' health, genetic history or future welfare.
While the puppies are shipped across the country, the mother and father dogs are left behind, often warehoused in tiny, stacked cages all their lives, sometimes without even enough room to stretch their limbs, exercise or engage in meaningful socialization. Dogs living at puppy mills almost never know the pleasure of a treat, a toy, a bed or even the feeling of grass under their feet.
Current state laws are plainly insufficient to prevent puppy mill abuses. In fact, many Missouri puppy mills have had their federal breeding licenses revoked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act, yet continue to operate under a Missouri state-issued license that allows them to sell their puppies directly to the public, typically over the Internet. The Better Business Bureaus of St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield recently issued a joint report on the problems consumers face when they purchase dogs from Missouri's puppy mills.
A vote of yes on Prop B is a vote to ensure that dogs in Missouri's mass breeding facilities are treated more humanely. It will prohibit the harmful practices of using stacked cages, which encourages overcrowding, and of using wire flooring, which causes discomfort and often injures the dogs' feet. It will also limit a commercial breeder to 50 adult breeding dogs, eliminating the risk of a breeding facility becoming overcrowded and spiraling out of control. A review of federal and state inspection reports reveals that the biggest facilities are typically the worst offenders.
It's just common sense that dogs should be treated like family pets, not like a cash crop. This November, join Missouri voters who are saying YES! on Prop B to enact a common-sense law that will protect dogs from puppy mill cruelty. For more information, visit YesOnPropB.com.
Barbara Schmitz is the campaign manager for Missourians for the Protection of Dogs/YES! on Prop B and the Missouri state director for the Humane Society of the United States.