ROSE NOLEN: Strong legislation needed to prevent puppy mills

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

Last week, the existence of puppy mills got to me in a very personal way.

I’m opposed to cruelty of any kind to animals as a matter of principle, and the very idea of puppy mills offends me. They trash up Missouri and give us all a bad name. As a citizen of the state that was once credited with “feeding the nation,” I’m embarrassed by this.


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But last week, a little dog who had become a friend of mine passed away, and it got personal.

Missy was a Yorkie who escaped from a puppy mill and was found wandering in a farmer’s field. She was taken to the animal shelter. A veterinarian confirmed that she had been in a puppy mill because of a number tattooed in her ear. She was not the kind of puppy most people want to adopt. She was not cute. The ear infections from which she suffered throughout her life had caused her neck to be twisted permanently. Because of the infections, she was often disoriented and would lose her sense of direction. It was not unusual for her to walk into walls.

So who wants a dog like that, some would ask. Well, if you looked into Missy’s sad little eyes and felt her heartbeat, it would only be a matter of time before she won your heart. That’s how it happened. Somehow at the animal shelter my friend and Missy found a connection, and he brought her home. She needed care, and he is a caretaker.

Although she required a lot of medical attention, the one thing we learned about Missy was that she had a strong determination to fight for life. She had what it took to survive the puppy mill, but the damage inflicted upon her made it impossible for her to have a normal life.

I’m sure there are probably puppy mills located somewhere near me, but I don’t know where they are. We live in a free country, and as long as people obey the laws, they have the right to engage in whatever business they choose. I don’t believe that everyone who buys and sells animals is guilty of animal cruelty, but I want strong legislation passed that prevents that kind of abuse.

I realize that not everyone is an animal lover. I’m no longer surprised by the number of people I meet who never had a pet as a childhood friend. And I know a lot of people who refuse to allow animals inside their homes. I don’t think of those kind of people as necessarily cruel to animals.

People who would house animals in inhumane conditions and deprive them of food and medicine so they can sell them at a profit are the kind of people who operate puppy mills. Those who oppose strong legislation to protect animals from abuse usually have a financial motive. Corporate farmers especially are not anxious to have government regulating their businesses.

Others are opposed to strong legislation because they argue that it's not as if animals are people. Well, that’s true, but they are living creatures and, as such, deserve respect. Surely, as higher beings, it’s our duty to protect members of the animal kingdom.

For animal lovers, losing a pet is like losing a member of one’s family. It’s not a matter of getting another dog or cat anymore than one can replace a sibling with someone else. The loss leaves an empty space in one’s heart, and it takes a long time for the emptiness to subside.

Fortunately, we have several “rescue” organizations in our community who take in damaged animals like Missy and try to restore them to good health before adopting them out. Unfortunately, they are never without animals that need help.

I know for sure that I wouldn’t want to live in a world without animals. It is in a relationship with an animal that you learn to love unconditionally, and that’s a one- way ticket to a successful life.

Goodbye, Missy. The best of all was, you were loved.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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Ellis Smith June 28, 2011 | 6:32 a.m.

It's important to remember that no law is ever going to be more effective than its actual enforcement. That transcends puppies, kitties, humans or whatever.

Again I'll list a prior remark that in pre-revolutionary France there was a law mandating the death penalty for stealing bread! Fortunately for poor and starving French citizens of that time the law was poorly enforced. Bread thefts are said to have actually increased.

Unless means are provided to enforce - both regularly and consistently - a law it can become no more than a "feel good" exercise (in this case making people but not animals feel better).

Since French society has been mentioned, maybe we ought to heed the words of Count Joesph Marie de Maistre:

"Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle merite."

[Every country has the government it deserves.]

Maybe it's time we as individuals stop whining about what others have done to or haven't done for America and look within ourselves.

(Report Comment)
James Krewson June 28, 2011 | 8:16 a.m.

I have a deal for you...I will support puppy mill legislation when you decide to support legislation to protect babies from being aborted both inside and outside the womb. Do we have a deal?

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking June 28, 2011 | 9:16 a.m.

We already have strong legislation to protect breeding dogs. We just have to enforce it better.


(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire June 28, 2011 | 10:02 a.m.

Yeah James. I'll support yours just as soon as you have some legislation preventing people from handing perfectly good children over to people like you for adoption.

(Report Comment)
Robin Nuttall June 28, 2011 | 10:36 a.m.

Rose, I'm right there with you. However, we already have the strongest laws in the Nation regulating breeders in Missouri. What has fallen through the cracks are the funds and personnel to enforce those laws.

Not everyone who breeds dogs is a cruel, inhumane "puppy miller." Most are not. Most animal owners (of any animal) understand that cruelty is not only evil but it affects the bottom line; unhappy sick animals do not produce happy healthy ones.

Hopefully our new legislation will help increase enforcement. But even now, money is still a huge problem. What if money was pulled from childhood or higher education to fund animal inspectors? Or pulled from the WIC program? Or from our ongoing effort to improve the many failing bridges in the state? What? Don't want to see that happen? Then where is the money to come from?

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire June 28, 2011 | 11:00 a.m.

"However, we already have the strongest laws in the Nation regulating breeders in Missouri."

What are you trying to do Robin? First people got online to get some e trades. You might still go there to get some e bay. But I don't know anyone who gets online to get e coli.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire June 28, 2011 | 3:17 p.m.

And this is for those of you who liked what your legislature did and tried to do this year...

(Report Comment)

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