COLUMBIA — In a speech Monday evening, the president of the Humane Society of the United States made an emotional appeal for the passage of the controversial Proposition B.
Nearly 100 people crowded into Cafe Berlin to hear the speech by Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. Proposition B — formally known as the Missouri Dog Breeding Regulation Initiative — is an initiative that supporters claim would end inhumane treatment of dogs by large-scale breeders in Missouri. It would require commercial breeders who own more than 10 dogs to follow specific care, feeding and shelter guidelines.
Opponents of the initiative — some of whom protested outside the cafe during Pacelle's speech — maintain that it would be harmful to legitimate breeders and would pose financial and regulatory problems for the state.
The crowd inside Cafe Berlin included volunteers, members of the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other supporters of the initiative.
"It's a sad circumstance of our society that there are people who are willing to take advantage of other creatures," Pacelle said. "We have core tenets of conduct. And one of these tenets is that cruelty is a vice, and we should do something about it."
Pacelle said the number of breeders in Missouri makes Proposition B a uniquely important issue.
"There has never — never — been a more important dog protection measure on any ballot or in any state legislature, ever in the history of this country," he said.
Although Pacelle characterized the protesters as being "people from puppy mills," the dozen or so sign-wavers outside Cafe Berlin said they were mostly the owners or employees of licensed Missouri dog breeders. In his speech, Pacelle focused on the importance of shutting down unlicensed breeders.
There was a marked difference in tone between the supporters and the protesters: Pacelle's appeal was broad and inspiring, and the protesters' problems were detailed and specific. Where he spoke about ending cruelty, the protesters talked about kennel materials and renovation costs.
"Whoever wrote this measure has never raised an animal," said Hubert Lavy, 68, of Silex.
Lavy owns Tenderheart Kennels, and under the new regulations he said he would be looking at $50,000 in renovation costs.
He also criticized specific provisions of the initiative, including the requirement for all dogs to be housed on a concrete floor. Lavy said the wire crates where he keeps the newborns prevent them from coming into contact with bodily fluids that could cause illness.
Missouri residents will vote on the initiative in November.