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Columbia Missourian

Proposition B would create stricter standards for dog breeding and little else

By Jessica Stephens
October 29, 2010 | 4:19 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Supporters and opponents of Proposition B, a ballot measure that adds stricter standards to current laws regulating dog breeders, have had a lot to say about the measure. Readers have made hundreds of comments about the issue at ColumbiaMissourian.com. Many of them are questioning the Humane Society of the United States' motivation behind sponsoring the ballot measure and expressing concern that it can be applied to animals besides dogs. Here, we've tried to clear up some of the issues that readers have brought up in both comments and letters to the editor.

Will Proposition B allow the Humane Society of the United States to regulate animal agriculture or does it only apply to dogs? Is the society trying to get rid of animal agriculture?

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The language in Proposition B refers only to standards of care for dogs who are bred for the purpose of selling their offspring as pets. The initiative defines "pet" as "any domesticated animal normally maintained in or near the household of the owner thereof."

David Martosko, chief editor for HumaneWatch.org, said Proposition B establishes two precedents that could lead to stricter regulations of animal agriculture later if Proposition B passes. First, he said, if the Proposition B definition of pet is used in later initiatives, livestock could be defined as pets. Second, the initiative allows the government to limit the number of animals a person can own, which he suggested could carry over into later initiatives.

The Missouri Farm Bureau is protesting Proposition B with an ad campaign suggesting that passage of the initiative would lead to similar restrictions on other animal industries, such as pork, beef, dairy and hunting. But Martosko said that the Humane Society of the United States has not yet taken a pet initiative and tried to apply it to livestock.

The society's website does list concerns about the treatment of farm animals among the issues it addresses, but Dale Bartlett, deputy manager of public policy for the society, said the organization's only focus in Missouri is on substandard breeding facilities.

"I can tell you we have no current plans to do anything on agriculture in Missouri," he said.

Would Proposition B replace or work in conjunction with existing laws?

The initiative contains the following statement: "The provisions of this section are in addition to, and not in lieu of, any other state and federal laws protecting animal welfare. This section shall not be construed to limit any state law or regulation protecting the welfare of animals, nor shall anything in this section prevent a local governing body from adopting and enforcing its own animal welfare laws and regulations in addition to this section."

Why are animal shelters exempt from Proposition B?

Barbara Schmitz, the Missouri state director of the Humane Society of the United States and the campaign manager for Missourians for Protection of Dogs/Yes on Prop B, said that animal shelters are exempt because they do not have the same profit motivation that professional breeders have. 

Tim Rickey, who does anti-cruelty work with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the difference in motivation can lead to inhumane treatment in breeding facilities.

"The goal is volume, to get as many puppies as you can from that dog over the span of her life," he said.

Rickey added that the fact that animal shelters are open to the public makes them more accountable, while private breeders can avoid scrutiny by not allowing others to see their facilities. He also said that dogs are kept at animal shelters for shorter periods of time than they are at breeding facilities.

What is the relationship between the Humane Society of the United States and the Central Missouri Humane Society?

The two are not affiliated. The Humane Society of the United States does not give money or take homeless animals from the local humane society. Alan Allert, the director of Central Missouri Humane Society, said about 90 percent of the animal shelter's funding comes from public donations and the rest comes from contracts with Columbia and Boone County animal control services.

The Humane Society of the United States website says that the organization was founded to give "a national voice to the fight against cruelty" after founders recognized that local humane societies were too busy with the daily tasks of running their shelters to focus on larger issues. Bartlett said Humane Society of the United States addresses big-picture items that local shelters can't handle.

"We're an advocacy organization," he said.