Proposition B passed in the November 2010 election with a 51.6 percent vote. It amended Missouri law to require large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with sufficient food, clean water, housing and space, necessary veterinary care, regular exercise and adequate rest between breeding cycles. The amendment further prohibits any breeder from having more than 50 breeding dogs for the purpose of selling their puppies as pets. The amendment also creates a misdemeanor crime of “puppy mill cruelty” for any violations.
As with many legislative issues, one can speak passionately and rationally on either side of this issue, but in truth the best solution lies somewhere between two polar positions.
The rationale for Prop B is reasonable. It is beyond question that Missouri has a real and serious problem with some irresponsible dog breeders. Further, the General Assembly failed to deal with it, leaving the citizens in a position to either accept the situation or take matters into their own hands. They did — in the form of an initiative petition in the last election.
As with virtually all voter petitions, Prop B, being written by only those on one side of the issue, is unbalanced and fatally flawed. Among its several problems, the most glaring is the lack of a funding mechanism. In today's economic climate no reasonable legislator can justify funding new animal protection over state services like education. Yet this is what we would have to do to actually activate Prop B.
The most radical view articulated by the opposition is that Prop B is a sinister plot against animal agriculture and therefore the will of the people might be ignored with impunity. The problem with this theory is that it ignores the twin realities — that there is actually a puppy mill problem and there is actually a citizen mandate to fix it.
Both sides have a stake in working this out. Prop B supporters want a workable law and they must be aware that in the last analysis there are the votes in the General Assembly for total repeal of the initiative.
Anti-Prop B folks must also be concerned. They acknowledge that there is a real puppy mill problem. They also realize that the voters, who in the last election were certainly less favorable to Prop B than those who will vote in 2012, will not take kindly to a total repeal or to any kind of sham law enacted in its place.
There is room for reasonable compromise. It will require that we get past the name calling, each respect the other side and be willing to accept middle ground even when we do not agree completely. Both sides have reason to get it right. A more reasonable law can help ensure that our many ethical breeders do not suffer from Missouri’s reputation as the puppy-mill state. It can also alleviate the legitimate animal cruelty concerns of the proponents.
To get it right, all interested parties must be willing, able and available to contribute to a reasonable solution.
Rep. Chris Kelly serves Boone County in the 24th Legislative District.