COLUMBIA — In November, Missourians will get a chance to vote on Proposition B, the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.”
For most of us, “puppy mill” conjures images of shivering, emaciated, matted dogs standing in their own filth, terrified of people, bereft of the most basic necessities, socialization and care. None of us want puppy mills in Missouri, and for those of us involved in dogs — as I have been for over 25 years as a trainer, exhibitor, local and national club member and instructor — it’s a passion and a vocation to try to eliminate them. So why would I oppose this bill?
There are several reasons.
Our existing laws are better. Misssouri’s Animal Care Facilities Act is more clear, detailed, specific and typically more stringent than Proposition B.
Prop. B covers only breeders. ACFA covers “any person or organization operating an animal shelter, boarding kennel, commercial kennel, contract kennel, pet shop, pound or dog pound, or acting as a dealer, commercial breeder, intermediate handler or exhibitor in Missouri.” Violating Prop. B will be a Class C Misdemeanor. ACFA starts right out with a Class A Misdemeanor, which is up to a year in jail and up to $20,000 fine. To see a detailed side-by-side comparison, go to www.totaldobe.com/propb_acfa.pdf.
Proposition B punishes legitimate breeders. Prop. B caps the total of intact dogs to be owned by any breeder at 50, the inference being that no one can adequately care for more than 50 dogs. I mean, that’s a lot, right? Who has the time and energy to take care of all those animals? But the bill's sponsor, the Humane Society of the United States, is confining its proposed legislation to breeders. What about kennels, rescues, shelters, humane societies and pet shops? If you’re going to say that 50 is too many dogs, it should apply to them, too, right? So this really isn’t about numbers of dogs, it’s about punishing breeders.
Proposition B redefines “pet.” Prop. B defines a pet as “any domesticated animal normally maintained in or near the household of the owner thereof.” So according to Prop. B, all domesticated animals, including livestock, are pets. My fear is that the wording is a large foot in the door toward the purported HSUS’ animal rights agenda of ending all use of domestic livestock. Wayne Pacelle, president of the HSUS, was quoted as stating, “We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding. ... One generation and out. We have no problems with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding. (Pacelle has stated that this quote, taken 14 years ago before he was with the HSUS, has been taken out of context and is not accurate.)” — Animal People News, May 1993. (More information about the HSUS and its enrollment in the Animal Rights Movement can be found at www.naiaonline.org, activistcash.com and www.humanewatch.org.)
Proposition B is an unfunded mandate, estimated to cost around $650,000 the first year. We can’t fund our existing law. We don’t have the funds for this one either.
What is the answer?
Unfortunately we do have a problem with bad breeding operations in Missouri. How can we better enforce existing laws and statutes?
We need more inspectors. We have 12 inspectors to cover more than 3,000 facilities. They are hopelessly overwhelmed.
We need to educate judges. Too often when these cases do come to trial, charges are dismissed or plea bargained. We need to prosecute violators to the full extent of the law.
We need to educate Missourians on why eliminating bad breeders is worth spending state money on.
In addition to many agricultural and rural interest groups, The Columbia Kennel Club, the Show Me Canines dog club and the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association have all taken positions in opposition to this bill. Proposition B will not solve our problem with substandard dog breeding facilities in Missouri. Please vote no on Proposition B.
Robin Nuttall got her first doberman in 1981. Since that time she has shown dobermans, and now miniature pinschers, in obedience, conformation, rally obedience and agility, dabbling with earthdog, lure coursing, dock diving, tracking and schutzhund along the way. She currently lives in Columbia with two champion min pins and one doberman who all conspire pretty successfully to run her life.