Missouri breeds 30% of puppies sold in U.S. pet stores, says farm bureauPosted: August 12, 2012
By Katerina Lorenzatos Makris
“Puppy mill capital of America,” is what The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) calls Missouri.
It was on that battleground last year that mega-group HSUS along with other animal welfare organizations lost their war to establish a law that they say would have improved the lives of the tens of thousands of dogs used to produce about a million puppies annually in the state’s 1,000-plus commercial breeding establishments.
Prop B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, was actually passed by 51.6 percent of Missouri voters. However, to the satisfaction of dog breeding and farming lobbies and the outrage of animal activists, Gov. Jay Nixon overturned and replaced it with a different law that many call a severely gutted version of the one that voters had approved.
At the 2011 Animal Agriculture Alliance (AAA) ‘United We Eat’ Summit in Arlington, Virginia a few weeks later, Missouri Farm Bureau Marketing and Commodities Director Kelly Smith provided his take on the Prop B story.
Animal Issues Reporter’s Katerina Lorenzatos Makris, who covered the AAA Summit, uses Smith’s version of the Prop B tale to begin this multi-part series:
Lessons learned in the ‘puppy mill capital of America’: The rise, fall and legacy of Missouri’s Prop B
Speech by Kelly Smith, Missouri Farm Bureau (Part 1)
Thank you very much [for the panel moderator’s introduction]. It’s a pleasure to be with you. We have a very important topic to discuss over the next couple of days. My charge in being here is to discuss what’s been happening in Missouri over the last year and a half as far as what we call the Proposition B, which was the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. And that’s kind of a whole different ballgame than fighting an issue over livestock agriculture. I’d like to try to tie the two in for you as we move forward here over the next few minutes.
So what is our story in Missouri? Missouri is a livestock state. Agriculture is the number one industry in our state. And 55 percent of our income comes from animal agriculture. We’re in the top ten in basically almost all of the livestock production categories that are there. Agriculture is spread all over our state, from the north to south and the east and west.
Over the last few years we have been watching what’s been going on around the United States and other states that animal activists and HSUS [The Humane Society of the United States] and other folks have been conveying in trying to take away the rights of farmers to raise the food for America.
‘We try not to use the words ‘puppy mill’ in Missouri’
So, how did our issue get started in Missouri? Missouri is a ballot initiative state, that’s both a blessing and a curse. You can represent the people of Missouri if our state legislature does not act. But then also, and in many cases, such as with the Proposition B, and we’ve talked about it being “puppy mill,” and that’s what HSUS would like us to say, but we try not to use the words “puppy mill” in Missouri, because that’s basically a derogatory term to a dog breeder, and so we try not to use those terms there.
But as the issue is going on in Ohio and what they dealt with there, Missouri was basically recognizing that we were on a short list of states that animal activists might be ready to move into after they finished trying to work in Ohio. We fully expected them to come into Missouri, since we are a livestock state, with a livestock ballot initiative.
And so in November they did come in, in 2009 came in with a ballot initiative that was not targeted at animal agriculture. It was targeted at the dog breeders in our state. So you might ask, “Why did they pick on dog breeders in the state of Missouri when we are a livestock state there?”
‘We consider dog breeders animal agriculture in Missouri’
Missouri’s kennel industry is the “big dog” of dog breeders across our nation, no pun intended there. We have over 2,400 licensed breeders, and we have unlicensed breeders as well, and that’s basically part of the problem that we face there.
But the good guys… are the licensed breeders. Number one in the nation as far as number of breeders that we have there. And basically besides being number one in breeders, we have two to three of the largest puppy brokers to the pet stores across the nation there, too.
Besides having the most breeders, Missouri probably providesapproximately 30 percent of all of the puppies that are in a puppy store across the nation come from Missouri. So that’s why the animal activists picked on Missouri. That is because if they could take down the kennel industry in Missouri, they could take down the kennel industry in any other state because they got the big one.
And again, in their usual fashion, they tried to slice off a little corner of the piece of cake there with a group that they thought nobody else would support, especially in a livestock state.
The kennel industry is huge. It’s a $2.4 billion dollar industry in Missouri, provides a lot of jobs and a lot of tax revenue to our state. It is also one of the most highly regulated industries as far as animal agriculture is concerned. And we consider dog breeders animal agriculture in Missouri.
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Katerina Lorenzatos Makris is a career journalist, author, and editor. Credits include hundreds of articles for regional wire services and for outlets such as National Geographic Traveler, The San Francisco Chronicle, Travelers’ Tales, NBC’s Petside.com, and Examiner.com (Animal Policy Examiner), a teleplay for CBS-TV, a short story for The Bark magazine, and 17 novels for Avon, E.P. Dutton, Simon and Schuster, and other major publishers.
Together with coauthor Shelley Frost, Katerina wrote a step-by-step guide for hands-on, in-the-trenches dog rescue, Your Adopted Dog: Everything You Need to Know About Rescuing and Caring for a Best Friend in Need (The Lyons Press).