Will the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act Work?Published November 29, 2010
It was a tornado of a political storm during this election season in Missouri, thanks to Proposition B. Known in Missouri as the "Puppy Mill Legislation," Prop B was written to build in basic protections for dogs living in large-scale breeding facilities. Those protections included eliminating the wire cages so many of these dogs live on for their entire lives, making sure animals have climate controlled environments, and ensuring they receive regular veterinary check ups, as well as access to exercise areas. It also restricts the number of breeding dogs to 50 per facility and gives breeding dogs a rest between litters. The legislation was aimed not only at improving the quality of life for dogs in such facilities, but also at driving some of the largest and consistent violators out of business. Shutting Down Puppy Mills "I think it will encourage some of the non-compliant facilities to go out of business," said Kathleen Summers, manager of the puppy mills campaign for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Missouri was labeled "The Puppy Mill Capital of the U.S." after Pennsylvania voters passed tougher restrictions on dog breeding facilities in 2008 and slipped in the state's number of puppy mills. According to data from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, more than 100 breeding facilities closed in the state rather than upgrade their facilities to compliance, either before the law went into effect or shortly after. Missouri is currently has the largest number of licensed commercial breeders in the country, with over 3,000. Proposition B Narrowly Passes The legislation was supported by many national humane organizations such as the HSUS and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), as well as large rescues in the state such as the Missouri Humane Society, won by a narrow margin, just over 51 percent of the vote and by 60,000 votes in just 13 counties, which were mostly urban areas. Perhaps most surprising was that many animal lovers and rescues didn't support the measure. Animal lovers who didn't support the measure said they didn't like some of the wording to the law and felt it weakened existing law. One dog blogger in Kansas City argued that if authorities couldn't enforce current law, why make more unenforceable laws? Latichia Duffy, who founded and runs Half-Way Home Rescue in Collins, Missouri, in the heart of puppy mill country, said she had concerns about what would happen to the dogs if a breeder had to reduce their numbers to 50 or less. "I'm afraid with the passage of Proposition B, the number of dogs needing shelters and rescues will go sky high real fast," said Duffy. What About the Breeder Dogs? Summers said that not only the HSUS is setting aside funds to help rescue dogs coming from breeders that need to scale back or even shut down, but other national organizations are as well. As for the other arguments, Summers said, "No law will be perfect and people will always find a way around any law," said Summers. "It's too bad there was such a smear campaign and the opposition was able to create an atmosphere of confusion and fear." Still, Summers said she feels her organization did a good job educating the public and working with grass roots rescues in the rural areas where Proposition B didn't gain widespread support. The fight might not yet be over, however. Some state legislators have voiced an intent to amend or repeal the vote. "If they do that, they're going against the Democratic process," said Summers. "We will fight it, if that happens."
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