Prop B Calls for Strengthening Dog Breeding Regulations in Missouri
By Jacob McCleland, KRCU
Cape Girardeau, MO – Missouri voters will decide on November 2 to approve or deny Proposition B, which would strengthen dog breeding regulations in the state. The Humane Society of the United States says that lax dog breeding laws have created an environment that fosters abusive practices. As Jacob McCleland reports, opponents argue that Prop B would lead to more stringent regulations in animal agriculture.
It's a sunny afternoon as Larry Miller walks across his Cape Girardeau County ranch, flanked by his dogs Ruffles and Milly. Ruffles, grey and shaggy and 13 years old, doesn't get around as well as before, and Milly the wiener dog is an energetic 7 year old who lights up at the opportunity to feed the horses.
A third dog, Bob, scampers out from the shed as we approach Miller's corral.
It's obvious that Miller loves his dogs and they are more than happy to reciprocate that affection. A member of the Cattlemen's Association, Miller has spent his life raising and caring for animals, such as the half-dozen quarter horses he currently has at his ranch, and his 40 head of cattle.
As Miller's wife likes to say, he takes better care of his animals than he does of himself.
But when it comes to Proposition B, the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act," which will be on Missouri's ballot this November, Miller is firmly against it.
"Initially it probably won't affect my business whatsoever," Miller says. "Actually what they are doing with this initiative is get their foot in the door with animal agriculture here in the state of Missouri. This is just one step for them, and they can move on to bigger and better things."
Miller is referring to the Humane Society of the United States, or HSUS. The national Humane Society is a major sponsor of Prop B, launching an ad and public affairs campaign in the state.
Prop B will set limits on the number of breeding females that a dog breeder can have at any given time and set standards of care for dogs in breeding facilities.
Miller and other opponents of Prop B are concerned that the language is ambiguous and could open the door for future restrictions on how livestock are treated.
Roger Eakins, a livestock specialist with the University of Missouri Extension office, finds that the HSUS is simply meddling in Missouri farmers' affairs. He thinks that already existing statutes are strong enough.
"This is not lax. It covers everything, from health, breeding, inspections, cleanliness, sanitation," Eakins says. "So I don't know what they are calling lax. Maybe it's the basis behind what HSUS is actually trying to do."
McCleland: "And what is that? What is it they want to do?" Eakins: "They are on record as saying they want to do away with the pet industry and they want to do away with animal agriculture as it exists today."
"These crazy interpretations of the measure are just that. They are crazy non-legal interpretations."
That's Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Human Society of the United States. He says that Prop B is designed to only affect dog breeders and would have no impact on animal agriculture operations. It's critical that Missouri voters pass Prop B because the Show-Me State, Pacelle says, is the center of the puppy mill universe.
"3000 mills out of 10,000 total, producing perhaps 30 to 40 percent of all dogs moved in the pet trade," Pacelle says. "The laws are weak in Missouri and the industry has grown. Prop B is an attempt to establish more significant standards to have responsible breeding return to Missouri."
Prop B supporters say that the law would eliminate the substandard conditions in Missouri breeding facilities. It would require that breeders provide veterinary care for sick animals. Dogs would longer be housed in stacked cages, and would be given regular exercise, food, and water, according to Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation.
"These dogs are bred on their first heat," says Baker. "They are bred on every heat thereafter. They are just a wreck. After five or six years of age, many of them cannot produce pups anymore and they are taken out and shot. That's their only reward after a lifetime of breeding."
So what about the opponents' argument that Prop B's language is too vague? I took their argument to Dr. Jeremy Walling, a political science professor at Southeast Missouri State University.
Walling says, "I really can't see it as vague at all, honestly. When I read it, it seems to clearly be about puppy mills and the conditions in puppy mills and how to better treat animals that are in these puppy mills. It's hard for me to see for me to see as I read this anything that seems vague to me. It seems to be very specifically written and easy to understand, in fact."
Dr. Walling says that, yes, animals rights groups could possibly become more assertive in Missouri should Prop B pass. However, it will not open the flood gates for these organizations to run amok throughout the state.
"I think you could make that argument about any law that gets passed, that this is just the first step to whatever the next thing is. I don't see it in this," Walling says. "This seems to be pretty clearly and specifically written to address the puppy mill situation."
Missourians will have the opportunity to vote on Prop B on November 2. A yes vote would enact stronger regulation of the dog breeding industry; a no vote would leave the law untouched.