Proposition B stirs range of responses

Wednesday, November 3, 2010 | 6:10 p.m. CDT; updated 12:32 p.m. CDT, Friday, November 5, 2010

COLUMBIA — In an election with such a small margin of victory, emotions ran high.

Missouri's Proposition B won by a slim margin of 51 percent across the state, but in Boone County the measure was defeated with 44.6 percent of the vote supporting it. The citizen-sponsored bill will add new regulations for dog breeders in Missouri.

"Oh, we're elated, this is a big victory for the dogs," said Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation.

Baker said the law will change "survival standards" to "humane standards" by closing loopholes in water and temperature regulations that exist in current legislation.

But some have less faith in the changes.

Scott Fray, a veterinarian at Cooper County Animal Hospital, said the bill had good intentions but included some wording that wasn't well thought out.

"The part about constant, unfettered access to the outdoors is probably something that breeders won't follow to the letter," Fray said. "It could be cruel."

Although Fray said he was disappointed with the bill's passage, he was glad the issue of inadequate breeding conditions was in the public eye. He said he also hoped to see fewer puppies born into poor conditions before being adopted.

The law's content isn't the only reason some people are upset. Vivian Wilson, who owns Flat Creek Kennel with her husband, Kenneth, said she stopped watching the election coverage when the majority of votes tallied opposed the measure. But that changed once votes from Missouri's two most populated cities were counted.

"It's sad that Kansas City and St. Louis can decide our future," she said.

The sentiment was shared by Cindy Elliott, a hobby breeder who said she takes pride in the fact that she keeps her three dogs in her home, not in a kennel.

"City people do not know what's going on, they don't see," Elliott said. "They aren't in the midst of things."

Elliott said she also took issue with the government intervention.

"The government is putting the squeeze on people, telling people what they can and cannot do, it's micromanagement," Elliott said. "It's everyone's right, everyone's place to make sure animals are taken care of, not just the people in charge."

Barbara Schmitz is the Missouri state director of the Humane Society of the United States and campaign manager for Missourians for the Protection of Dogs/YES! on Prop B. She emphasized that the most significant impact of the bill would be the relief dogs will feel because of the new regulations, citing the proposed changes in cage size, temperature and veterinary care.

"I believe dogs should be treated like family pets, not breeding machines or cash crops," Schmitz said.

She said proponents of Proposition B plan to offer an educational process for breeders to help them meet the new standards while also working with law enforcement to find those who don't.

Breeders have one year to meet the new standards that will take effect Nov. 2, 2011.

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