Missouri’s 2011 Puppy Mill Compromise

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Missouri’s 2011 Puppy Mill Compromise

[Ed. Note: "Dogs as agriculture, and politics as usual." The agricultural industry worked hard to defeat what had been a a wonderful victory when Missouri voters passed Proposition B in November of 2010: Voters in Missouri used their ballots to send a message to puppy mills by approving Prop B, a measure that will establish basic standards for the care of dogs in large-scale commercial breeding facilities. In addition to prohibiting a breeder from having more than 50 breeding dogs whose puppies will be offered for sale, Prop B will require puppy mills in the state of Missouri to provide each animal with adequate food, clean water, regular exercise, necessary veterinary care, and rest between breeding cycles. Missouri is known as the puppy mill capital of the United States with an estimated 3,000 commercial breeding.]

From Earth in Transition
April 2011

Governor brokers deal with breeders, humane society

It was politics as usual at the Missouri statehouse yesterday.

Last November, voters had approved Proposition B, which provided some modest restrictions on puppy mills and some basic requirements for the welfare of the dogs. Then, at the behest of the puppy mills, lawmakers voted to neuter Prop B.

That left it up to Governor Jay Nixon either to sign the new bill or to veto it. He took the political way through and brokered a compromise.

The outcome will be a bill that gives the puppy mills what they want most: the right to have as many dogs as they like at their facilities, the right to keep those dogs breeding non-stop without any rest period, the right to keep the ratio of staff to dogs as low as they want, and the right to stack the dogs in wire cages, one on top of another.

In exchange, the compromise throws some bones to the humane organizations, including slightly larger cages, the requirement that dogs be seen at least once a year by a veterinarian, and $1.1 million in state funds devoted to a better inspection system.

Without the deal, the puppy mills would have faced the possibility – albeit unlikely – of a veto that would seriously restrict their business practices, and the humane groups faced the option of having to launch a whole new uphill campaign from scratch.

So, while big national humane organizations opposed the deal, the Humane Society of Missouri and other local groups were willing to make the compromise. Part of their consideration was that while several of the national organizations had helped fund the campaign for Proposition B last fall, the grassroots groups felt that they were largely on their own when it came to hands-on campaigning, and they doubted their ability to mount a whole new campaign.

Overall, the dogs lose – especially the ones spending their lives at the bottom of those stacked wire cages, which are not the best place to be when nature calls in the cages above you.

For their part, the puppy mills get most of what they need to keep profiting from the dogs. The humane groups get some marginal improvements for the animals they’re trying to protect. The lawmakers get the approval of lobbyists and special interests. And the Governor gets to avoid the wrath of the players on either side.

One other lobbying group in the debate was the farming industry, which argued, somewhat hysterically, that any restriction on puppy mills would be the thin end of an animal-rights wedge that would soon try to bring an end to farming altogether in Missouri. So in his statement yesterday, the Governor wrote: “The agreement that was signed today upholds the intent of the voters, protects dogs and ensures that Missouri agriculture will continue to grow.”

Dogs as agriculture, and politics as usual.