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MO: Voters To Decide To Implemet Stricter Breeder Regulations

Discussion in 'Dog Ordinances & Laws' started by Vicki, Oct 29, 2010.

  1. Vicki

    Vicki Administrator Administrator

    Missouri voters to decide Tuesday whether state should implement stricter regulations for large-scale breeders

    By Megan Spees/Staff Writer
    Published: Friday, October 29, 2010 2:37 PM CDT

    Missouri voters will decide the fate of dog breeders across the state Tuesday. But Proposition B, a ballot initiative that would impose new regulations on large-scale breeding businesses, is being watched carefully across state lines in Iowa, Illinois and beyond.

    The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act was added to the ballot as the result of a petition prompted by the Humane Society of Missouri, Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States.

    Barbara Schmitz, campaign manager of Missourians for the Protection of Dogs/YES! on Proposition B, said the initiative would “address some of the worst (animal) abuse we’ve seen†in large-scale breeding facilities. Voters will choose whether laws on dog breeding should be amended to require large-scale breeding businesses to provide each of their dogs with the proper amount of food, clean water, housing and space, necessary veterinary care, routine exercise and sufficient bed rest between breeding cycles.

    In addition, the bill bars breeders from keeping more than 50 breeding dogs for the purpose of selling their puppies as pets. Any violation of Proposition B would be considered a misdemeanor crime of puppy mill cruelty.

    “Volunteers across the state came together because they recognize there’s a problem here in Missouri and it’s time to deal with it,†Schmitz said.

    Schmitz’s best estimate as to the number of breeding dogs currently producing litters is around 200,000. Those litters are shipped all over the country. In New York City, 68 percent of the puppies sold in pet stores come from Missouri, Schmitz said.

    Pet breeding laws in Missouri “are obsolete and vague. They date back 18 years,†Schmitz said. “During that time, we have not seen an improvement at large dog (breeding) facilities.â€

    The Missouri Farm Bureau sees those laws differently. The laws in place require licensed breeders to undergo facility inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    However, “the Department of Agriculture’s budget has been cut over the last 10 years,†said Kelly Smith, director of marketing and commodities for the Missouri Farm Bureau. “With the recession we’ve been in, there’s been bigger budget cuts.

    “What really needs to happen here is that there needs to be more money put into the inspection program so that those people (inspectors) will be able to do their jobs.â€

    Although some groups in favor of Proposition B contend that about 3,000 breeders are operating in Missouri, Smith said the number actually stands at 1,450. A total of 2,800 facilities are inspected, but that includes pet stores, boarding kennels and pet shelters.

    Smith added that Proposition B targets licensed breeders and tightens regulations to the point that even “blue ribbon kennels†would be out of compliance with the law.

    “It’s not really about dog care. It’s about putting dog breeders out of business,†he said.

    In January 2009, the Missouri Department of Agriculture implemented Operation Bark Alert, a hotline number Missouri residents can call if they suspect that a kennel is unlicensed or is abusing its animals. Smith reported that since the hotline opened, 356 commercial breeders in the state have been put out of business as of Monday and more than 3,700 dogs have been confiscated or surrendered. The Missouri Department of Agriculture turns these dogs over to pet shelters.

    Smith noted that the state’s inspection program, which is funded by breeding license fees, could be hard-hit if Proposition B passes.

    Breeding animals are confined to tiny cages, many of which have wire flooring that causes paw injuries, and often receive inadequate or no veterinary care and exercise. Many of these animals also are exposed to extreme temperatures on a constant basis.

    West Hancock (Ill.) Animal Rescue volunteer Anissa Sadeghi believes the outcome of Proposition B “absolutely will affect all of us†involved in animal breeding and care.

    “I think I’ll be watching the Proposition B vote more closely than any presidential election in the past, because it’s that important to me,†Sadeghi said.

    Many people are breeding dogs as a way to earn extra money, she noted. But as families tighten their budgets, the demand for puppies is decreasing.

    “You would think that common sense would prevail. If the demand has shriveled, so has production,†she said.

    But that doesn’t appear to be the case. When breeders can’t sell the dogs fast enough, they start giving them away — often to families who decide they can’t afford to take care of a dog. An estimated 4 million to 6 million dogs are euthanized every year, Sadeghi said, and “taxpayers are footing the bill for it.â€

    “You can only produce so many of them (puppies) before it becomes someone else’s problem,†she added.

    Some opponents of Proposition B argue that it is a step toward regulating all animal breeding. Sadeghi disagrees, arguing that livestock breeding and raising pets are two different industries.

    “Cattle don’t produce companion animals, they produce a by-product,†Sadeghi said. “Laws regarding dogs are different than laws regarding cattle.

    “Commercial breeders (say they) raise loving, family-oriented companion animals but are keeping them like livestock in two-foot-by-two-foot hutches stacked on top of each other.â€

    Such living conditions, which often include little to no human contact, result in health and behavioral problems in the puppies that are produced, not to mention the breeding dogs themselves. Sadeghi recently rescued a puppy mill breeding dog that was missing teeth, and “the teeth that were left were so bad that the sinus cavities were rotted.†She said the damage occurred because the dog was improperly fed and watered.

    “Some facilities are cutting a lot of corners and the dogs are paying the price,†Schmitz said.

    Missourians for the Protection of Dogs/YES! on Proposition B also is asking the Department of Natural Resources to investigate widespread illegal dumping of dead breeding dogs and puppies.

    “There is a widespread problem with puppy mills killing dogs when they are no longer able to produce large litters, or just letting them languish and die without a report,†Schmitz said. “Proposition B would help address this problem by requiring individual veterinary care for sick dogs and, where appropriate, humane euthanasia by a licnsed veterinarian.â€

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