COLUMBIA — Animal welfare inspection reports in Missouri can read like a horror story. Take the case of this breeder who ran a commercial facility in Lawrence County:
- Defendant provided her dogs with dirty, muddy, non-potable water.
- Defendant failed to equip her housing facilities with wastewater or water drainage systems such that one 3-week-old American Eskimo puppy was observed covered in mud, shivering.
- Defendant failed to meet the minimum standards for sanitary flooring by failing to clean her dog pens such that feces had accumulated over time to the point where one could not tell the difference between feces and flooring.
- Defendant failed to provide necessary veterinary care to a female blue parti-colored Cocker Spaniel whose left eye was barely visible and oozing liquid and an 11-week-old Cocker Spaniel with a bite wound on its left side.
- Defendant failed to provide adequate veterinary care to a male Sheltie that was emaciated and missing most of its body hair after two months of observed infirmity.
- Defendant admitted she routinely relied on gunshot as a means of euthanasia. She shot the Sheltie . . . as a form of euthanasia because it was a “cheaper option.”
- All facilities using elevated flooring must provide solid resting areas.
- All licensed facilities are subject to enforcement provisions for violations that go uncorrected or unaddressed.
- Animals with serious illness or injury must receive prompt treatment by a licensed veterinarian.
- Facilities subject to the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act must provide continuous access to potable water that is not frozen.
- New facilities and new construction subject to the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act are prohibited from the use of wire strand flooring.
Added in 2012
- All outdoor runs in all licensed facilities must meet enhanced requirements for drainage and shade.
- Facilities subject to the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act must meet the approximately doubled space requirement as defined in code.
- Facilities subject to the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act must implement veterinary care programs that include a hands-on examination.
- Facilities subject to the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act must implement a two-year retention schedule of record keeping.
- Facilities subject to the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act must allow constant and unfettered access to outdoor runs, with exceptions.
To be added by 2016
- Facilities subject to the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act must implement the approximately tripled space requirement as defined in code.
- Specific exemptions for constant and unfettered access will terminate.
Source: Missouri Department of Agriculture
Operation Bark Alert: Use this online reporting system to notify the Missouri Department of Agriculture of “an unlicensed breeder in Missouri putting the health and welfare of animals at risk.” The Animal Care Facilities Act program can also be reached directly at 573-751-3076.
Canine Cruelty Complaints: You can file a complaint online with the Attorney General’s Agriculture & Environment Division or by calling the Canine Cruelty Prevention Hotline at 1-800-392-8222.
Animal Cruelty Task Force: The ACTF is based out of St. Louis and can be reached at its Online Report Abuse Form or by calling 314-647-4400.
Under the Animal Care Facilities Act and the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act, the breeder was fined $2,500 and lost her license for six years.
Animals raised in these types of facilities can suffer from a multitude of physical and psychological problems: blindness, deafness, cataracts, glaucoma, heart and kidney disease, epilepsy, Parvovirus, ticks, fleas, mange, heartworms and intestinal parasites, as well as anxiety, fear and anger issues.
These ailments are then passed on to consumers in the form of veterinary bills and animal behavioral specialist fees.
There is an emotional toll as well, “especially with children who have to experience the heartbreak of nursing a sick puppy back to health — or worse,” said Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, a St. Louis-based group that lobbies for humane treatment of animals.
There are ways to avoid these situations.
“Always, always, always rescue a dog from a shelter,” said Jessica Blome, a former assistant attorney general in Missouri and now a staff attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund in California.
If you cannot find the breed of animal you want at a shelter and seek out a breeder, choose wisely and make an informed decision.
“If that breeder is asking you more questions than you are asking, then you found a good breeder,” Baker said.
Be cautious and look for telltale warning signs as well.
“Ask to see the facilities, the mom or dad,” said Debbie Hill, vice president of operations for the Humane Society of Missouri.
“If a breeder asks to meet at Walmart or a gas station, that should immediately raise red flags,” she said.
Another problem to be wary of is illegal breeders.
“Illegal breeders often sell dogs through flea markets, classifieds and over the Internet,” said Amanda Good, Missouri state director for the Humane Society of the United States.
“They may also sell dogs through the back door, so to speak, to licensed breeders and brokers who then pass the puppies off as animals who were bred on the licensee’s premises.”
Animal welfare laws are in place to help state officials combat the problem of “puppy mills.” Missouri residents can also fight back by contacting Operation Bark Alert, the Canine Cruelty Prevention Unit or the Animal Cruelty Task Force, and alerting authorities to possible cases of illegal or substandard breeding.
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.