Law would have required better care for dogs than for children, says farm bureau


Animal protection groups say large-scale commercial breeders neglect and abuse dogs / Photo: The Humane Society of the United States video (photo not necessarily from Missouri)

By Katerina Lorenzatos Makris

While in the past few years the Missouri Department of Agriculture has seized 5,500 dogs from neglectful commercial breeders, a representative of the state’s farm bureau said that not only is more regulation unnecessary, but that a 2010 law proposed to improve conditions for the animals would have set an anti-farming precedent and in some ways would have required that breeders take better care of dogs than of children.

Kelly Smith, Marketing and Commodities Director of the Missouri Farm Bureau, explained to attendees at last year’s Animal Agriculture Alliance (AAA) Summit why breeder and agriculture lobbies in the state fought Proposition B, which voters approved but that Gov. Jay Nixon eventually replaced with a weaker law in 2011.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other animal protection groups used “smoke and mirrors” to deceive voters into supporting Prop B, or the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act,” said Smith.

HSUS however, argued that the measure would have improved the lives of the tens of thousands of dogs—many severely neglected and ill ones among them—who are used to produce about a million puppies annually in the state’s 1,000-plus commercial breeding establishments.

Missouri, which animal welfare groups dub “the puppy mill capital of America,” produces about 30 percent of the puppies sold in the nation’s pet stores, in what Smith described as a “huge” $2.4 billion annual industry that “provides a lot of jobs and a lot of tax revenue to our state.”

Animal Issues Reporter’s Katerina Lorenzatos Makris, who covered the AAA Summit, presents Smith’s version of the Prop B tale in her multi-part series:

“Lessons learned in the ‘puppy mill capital of America’: The rise, fall and legacy of Missouri’s Prop B

Previous articles in this series:

Part 1: Missouri breeds 30% of puppies sold in U.S. pet stores, says farm bureau

Part 2: More than 5,500 dogs raided from Missouri dog breeders since start of ‘Operation Bark Alert’

Speech by Kelly Smith, Missouri Farm Bureau (Part 3):

So what were some of the concerns with Proposition B? The animal activists like to say, “Well, this a dog issue. Why is agriculture concerned about this? Why is livestock production agriculture concerned about this?”

Prop B would have limited each breeder to 50 adult animals

I think the first two things up there, maybe the first three things through there, were why the rest of agriculture was concerned. This [Prop B] set a limit on the number of animals that a person could own of 50 animals [sexually intact dogs over six months of age].

It would only take about a two-word change in the ballot initiative if it ever got on our statutes where it could affect the rest of livestock production. I don’t know about you all, but I think 50 chickens in one of those 300-, 500-foot long [barns] would look pretty silly. The same way if you are a cow/calf operation. So that was a concern right there was the number of animals. It was setting a precedent, basically, that was not good.

Would chickens have qualified as ‘pets’?

The other point that was a big one was the definition of a “pet.” If this issue was about dogs, then why was the definition of a pet in there, “any domesticated animal found near a home or [dwelling?]”?

Well, when you stop and think about this, what other types of animals are found near a home or dwelling anywhere in the rural United States? It could be chickens, it could be cattle, pigs, horses, all could be classified as a pet. That would have had to have been decided in our court system.

Farmers prefer to do their own veterinary care on animals

Veterinary care guidelines were a concern there too. As farmers, we all like to do as much of the work as we can.We do have veterinarians out, and we use medicines that are subscribed [sic] by our veterinarians, but we like to do as much of the work as we can, and in the same way with a dog breeder with that.

Proposition B put in veterinary care guidelines that were probably better for the dogs than we take care of our children with that. So that was a big concern.

Providing access to the outdoors would have made it hard to control temperatures

And then housing requirements. Basically, the housing requirements, like I say, no kennel could at that time or still can today could comply with that. Unfettered access to the outside. So that means they would have to be able to get outside any time they wanted to any hour of the day.

At the same time, you had to have unfettered access to the outside, you had to keep temperatures between 40 degrees and 85 degrees. That’s pretty hard to do when there’s unfettered access to the outside.

The other thing here  as far as an animal-care issue and what they should have been concerned about, when puppies are born, they require 90 degrees temperature to basically survive the first two or three days, to have the best optimum care.

Don’t you think that HSUS and other animal activists put 85 degrees in there knowing that the public really doesn’t know this, so we’re going to stick this in there. It’s going to sound great, but it’s not going to be the optimum temperature there.

Again, what I like to call “smoke, mirrors, and deception,” the things that they use out there. They tell you one story but they deliver completely something different, and the unknowing, unsuspecting public does not have a clue to these types of things.

Stacked cages would have been prohibited

No stacked cages. The animal activists led Missourians to believe that dogs were being raised in stacked cages, letting the filth from the top fall down on top to the ones below when we all know that stacked cages, there is a tray there that catches that and those are cleaned daily with that, but yet the public thought that the filth was falling down on these animals.

And the other thing they do, they slice and dice here, too. They went after dog breeders. They did not go after veterinarians, research facilities, and other folks, local shelters that do stack cages—it’s OK for them to use but not for a dog breeder. So again, smoke, mirrors, and deception; basically a two-tiered action through there.

Prop B would have made animal welfare violations criminal

The other thing that was a big concern, too, was the Missouri laws. Basically if you were not in compliance, it was a civil penalty and a fine, and Proposition B would change that whole ballgame. It took it from a civil penalty over to a crime and put it in our criminal code and was a misdemeanor.

So that’s just exactly what they wanted. They wanted to take something, the current way that we had been regulated, turn people that we trusted and basically change all of that, and we’ll talk about this here in a bit. The county sheriff would be the one that would administer the enforcement of some of these things.

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More AIR on this topic:

Missouri breeds 30% of puppies sold in U.S. pet stores, says farm bureau

More than 5,500 dogs raided from Missouri dog breeders since start of ‘Operation Bark Alert’

‘These guys are good—we don’t like them, but they are good at what they do’: farm bureau about Humane Society

Puppy mills make dogs ‘autistic,’ says study

Reporter asks USDA to review study on damaged mental health of puppy mill dogs

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 TravelerThe San Francisco ChronicleTravelers’ Tales, NBC’s, and (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).