COLUMBIA — Despite stricter dog breeders laws passed in 2011, Missouri still tops the Humane Society’s annual Horrible Hundred report.
The list details dog breeders from 16 states that have violated animal care laws. Missouri has 23 dog breeders listed in the report — more than any other state featured. The Humane Society released its report on May 4.
Missouri passed the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act in 2011, also known as Proposition B. The act contains regulations on space requirements for housing areas, “constant and unfettered” access to outdoor space, as well as requirements for safe drinking water and yearly veterinary care. Amendments were added in 2012 and more will be implemented by 2016.
The Humane Society's annual list was created using U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Welfare reports and other documents from state and federal inspections, said Kathleen Summers, director of the "puppy mills" campaign of the Humane Society of the United States.
“We look for conditions that are especially problematic and breeders who have a history of being on the list,” Summers said. “That’s the only thing that we’ve already looked at. Either you’re clean and comply with the laws or you don’t.”
Summers says the list is not comprehensive but details some of the worst breeders in each state.
“For every one we know about, there are probably five to six we don’t,” Summers said. “There are problem puppy mills where dogs’ wounds are not treated by a vet or dogs are left in the freezing cold. These are conditions we think the public should be aware of, so they can ask themselves ‘Is this the kind of facility I want to support with my money?’”
According to the Missouri Attorney General's website, a puppy mill is "substandard facility may be overcrowded, the animals underfed, asocial and in need of basic grooming and medical care."
Cathy Griesbauer owns and runs Country Pets in Montgomery City, Missouri, which has been featured three times on the Horrible Hundred list. It described the facility as "one of the most massive, substandard puppy mills in the country."
Griesbauer would not comment on the official USDA warning and multiple violations detailed in the report but said the Horrible Hundred list is an effort by the Humane Society to make business more difficult for dog breeders.
"I feel that it is a way to pressure in order to get you out of business," Griesbauer said.
Like many other dog breeders in Missouri, Griesbauer’s business has been affected by the regulations in the Cruelty Care Prevention Act.
“Before that took effect, there were many more breeders in the state of Missouri than what there are now," she said. "It has taken two-thirds of the breeders in the state out of business. So you tell me, has that been hard on the breeders in the state of Missouri?”
Other breeders on the list could not be reached for comment.
According to previous Missourian reporting in August 2014, more than 1,300 dogs have been rescued since the Canine Cruelty Prevention became law in April 2011.
Since 2010, the number of commercial breeders licensed with Missouri's Animal Care Program has dropped from about 1,400 to just over 800, a decline of more than 40 percent, according to data obtained from the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Twenty-seven months after the law was enacted, 37 businesses or individuals were referred to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.
In this same time period, more than $25,000 in civil fines were assessed and nine licenses revoked, ranging in length from three to 10 years. More recent numbers could not be obtained from the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
"The program has also made it a priority to ensure that facilities with violations are inspected more often, and facilities with substantial and ongoing violations are closed,” said Sarah Alsager, the public information officer with the Agriculture Department.
Summers said Missouri laws, though stricter than before, are still not strict enough.
“The inspectors are doing their jobs and documenting violations, but it’s still very hard to get them shut down," Summers said. "A place can have 400 to 500 dogs and have problems at almost every inspection and not get shut down."
There are two different types of licenses that dog breeders are required to attain. Any operation breeding more than 10 sexually intact females must have a license with the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
There’s also the USDA license, which is required if a breeder is selling dogs to a pet store.
Some dog breeders find a way around these requirements, Summers said.
“The problem is with those who sell over the Internet. Many are saying they don’t sell to a pet store, so they don’t have to get a USDA license, only the (Missouri) Department of Agriculture,” she said. “We need more accountability by making these records available online so they’re easy to check out.
Missouri could be doing more to shut down unlawful breeders, Summers said.
“They could be shutting down more places that aren’t complying with the laws,” she said. “If you can’t comply then you should go out of business.”
Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.