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Saved from the evil cage!

Image by abbynormy via Flickr

 

This article seeks to look into Missouri’s Prop B, which will be on the ballot in November. Prop B is the Puppy Mill Bill and it has become a heated debate. I mention Amendment 2 which was the stem cell/cloning bill which barely passed in 2006 here in Missouri. One of the major arguments against the bill – and which I share – was that the bill’s summary conflicted with its complete language and therefore lied to the public; in other words it is not a pro-life law. One of the arguments against Prop B is that it is vague and could affect any and all livestock breeders across the state; in other words that the bill lies and has a subversive intent. My hope is to air the bill out.

Let us start with the the summary – which is what will be on the ballot – then the complete text.

Official Ballot Title:
Shall Missouri law be amended to:
• require large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with sufficient food, clean water, housing and space; necessary veterinary care; regular exercise and adequate rest between breeding cycles;
• prohibit any breeder from having more than 50 breeding dogs for the purpose of selling their puppies as pets; and
• create a misdemeanor crime of “puppy mill cruelty” for any violations?
It is estimated state governmental entities will incur costs of $654,768 (on-going costs of $521,356 and one-time costs of $133,412). Some local governmental entities may experience costs related to enforcement activities and savings related to reduced animal care activities.
Fair Ballot Language:
A “yes” vote will amend Missouri law to require large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with sufficient food, clean water, housing and space; necessary veterinary care; regular exercise and adequate rest between breeding cycles. The amendment further prohibits any breeder from having more than 50 breeding dogs for the purpose of selling their puppies as pets. The amendment also creates a misdemeanor crime of “puppy mill cruelty” for any violations.
A “no” vote will not change the current Missouri law regarding dog breeders.
If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.

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Section A. One new section is enacted, to be known as section 273.345, to read as follows:
273.345. 1. This section shall be known and may be cited as the ”Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.”
2. The purpose of this Act is to prohibit the cruel and inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills by requiring large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with basic food and water, adequate shelter from the elements, necessary veterinary care, adequate space to turn around and stretch his or her limbs, and regular exercise.
3. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person having custody or ownership of more than ten female covered dogs for the purpose of breeding those animals and selling any offspring for use as a pet shall provide each covered dog:
(1) Sufficient food and clean water;
(2) Necessary veterinary care;
(3) Sufficient housing, including protection from the elements;
(4) Sufficient space to turn and stretch freely, lie down, and fully extend his or her limbs;
(5) Regular exercise; and
(6) Adequate rest between breeding cycles.
4. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person may have custody of more than fifty covered dogs for the purpose of breeding those animals and selling any offspring for use as a pet.
5. For purposes of this section, and notwithstanding the provisions of section 273.325, the following terms have the following meanings:
(1) ”Covered dog” means any individual of the species of the domestic dog, Canis lupus familiaris, or resultant hybrids, that is over the age of six months and has intact sexual organs.
(2) ”Sufficient food and clean water” means access to appropriate nutritious food at least once a day sufficient to maintain good health; and continuous access to potable water that is not frozen, and is free of debris, feces, algae, and other contaminants.
(3) ”Necessary veterinary care” means, at minimum, examination at least once yearly by a licensed veterinarian; prompt treatment of any illness or injury by a licensed veterinarian; and, where needed, humane euthanasia by a licensed veterinarian using lawful techniques deemed “Acceptable” by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
(4) ”Sufficient housing, including protection from the elements” means constant and unfettered access to an indoor enclosure that has a solid floor; is not stacked or otherwise placed on top of or below another animal’s enclosure; is cleaned of waste at least once a day while the dog is outside the enclosure; and does not fall below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, or rise above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
(5) ”Sufficient space to turn and stretch freely, lie down, and fully extend his or her limbs” means having (1) sufficient indoor space for each dog to turn in a complete circle without any impediment (including a tether); (2) enough indoor space for each dog to lie down and fully extend his or her limbs and stretch freely without touching the side of an enclosure or another dog; (3) at least one foot of headroom above the head of the tallest dog in the enclosure; and (4) at least 12 square feet of indoor floor space per each dog up to 25 inches long; at least 20 square feet of indoor floor space per each dog between 25 and 35 inches long; and at least 30 square feet of indoor floor space per each dog for dogs 35 inches and longer (with the length of the dog measured from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail).
(6) ”Regular exercise” means constant and unfettered access to an outdoor exercise area that is composed of a solid, ground level surface with adequate drainage; provides some protection against sun, wind, rain, and snow; and provides each dog at least twice the square footage of the indoor floor space provided to that dog.
(7) ”Adequate rest between breeding cycles” means, at minimum, ensuring that dogs are not bred to produce more than two litters in any 18 month period.
(8) ”Person” means any individual, firm, partnership, joint venture, association, limited liability company, corporation, estate, trust, receiver, or syndicate.
(9) ”Pet” means any domesticated animal normally maintained in or near the household of the owner thereof.
(10) ”Retail pet store” means a person or retail establishment open to the public where dogs are bought, sold, exchanged, or offered for retail sale directly to the public to be kept as pets, but that does not engage in any breeding of dogs for the purpose of selling any offspring for use as a pet.
6. A person is guilty of the crime of puppy mill cruelty when he or she knowingly violates any provision of this section. The crime of puppy mill cruelty is a class C misdemeanor, unless the defendant has previously pled guilty to or been found guilty of a violation of this section, in which case each such violation is a class A misdemeanor. Each violation of this section shall constitute a separate offense. If any violation of this section meets the definition of animal abuse in section 578.012, the defendant may be charged and penalized under that section instead.
7. The provisions of this section are in addition to, and not in lieu of, any other state and federal laws protecting animal welfare. This section shall not be construed to limit any state law or regulation protecting the welfare of animals, nor shall anything in this section prevent a local governing body from adopting and enforcing its own animal welfare laws and regulations in addition to this section. This section shall not be construed to place any numerical limits on the number of dogs a person may own or control when such dogs are not used for breeding those animals and selling any offspring for use as a pet. This section shall not apply to a dog during examination, testing, operation, recuperation, or other individual treatment for veterinary purposes; during lawful scientific research; during transportation; during cleaning of a dog’s enclosure; during supervised outdoor exercise; or during any emergency that places a dog’s life in imminent danger. This section shall not apply to any retail pet store; animal shelter as defined in section 273.325; hobby or show breeders who have custody of no more than ten female covered dogs for the purpose of breeding those dogs and selling any offspring for use as a pet; or dog trainer who does not breed and sell any dogs for use as a pet. Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit hunting or the ability to breed, raise, or sell hunting dogs.
8. If any provision of this section, or the application thereof to any person or circumstances, is held invalid or unconstitutional, that invalidity or unconstitutionality shall not affect other provisions or applications of this section that can be given effect without the invalid or unconstitutional provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this section are severable.
9. The provisions herewith shall become operative one year after passage of this Act.

On the face of it, from a reading of the summary, the bill comes off pretty well. My family used to raise bulldogs years ago for show and sale, and at most we might have had ten adults and seventeen puppies (only once at one time). I cannot fathom nor understand the idea or reality of having 50 breeding dogs, but then we did it as a hobby, not a business per se, viewing each dog as a pet, not mere stock. The bill – at least the summary – appeals to a sense of good emotion and reason. Dogs are not cattle, pigs nor chickens. 50 would seem to set the bar high and “liberal”, though I know nothing about commercial puppy “farming”. 50 breeding dogs may be pretty standard.

The actual bill does have some troubling and vague aspects. One of the arguments made by many people in rural areas is a belief that this bill/law would extend to cattle and other livestock. However, the bill throughout notes it is focused on dogs and defines it as such in section 5(1). That said, perhaps some people see a contradiction or vague set up with 5(9).
My problem with the bill is its redundancy and potential for abuse (how ironic). Yes, Missouri has the/or is one of the largest number of puppy farms in the U.S., but they seem to be monitored fairly rigorously. It seems that every few months you hear of a puppy mill having been raided and rescues performed. There are already a number of laws on the books which law enforcement uses to monitor, regulate and prosecute puppy mills for abuses.

Sections 5(2) and 6 would seem to be open to interpretation and abuse. Who determines what appropriate amounts of food or good health are? What is the standard to base it? The same goes for water; is 100% purity demanded at all times? As soon as a dog drinks from a water source, that water is effectively contaminated, especially if they’ve just come in from an open yard. Furthermore, breaking any portion of this bill would label the offender guilty of animal abuse/cruelty and breaking the law as a whole. That however would turn it over to the interpretation of a judge in sentencing.

I realize that any time any business has laws and regulations governing it, there is the potential for abuse by bureaucratic officials to subjectively apply the laws, but this bill would seem to codify the potential for loose interpretation by an inspector at his/her whim.

All it would take is for an inspector who doesn’t like a particular breeder to visit a kennel and find one dirty water dish – never mind that the bowl may have been cleaned and refreshed that morning as every morning – and cite the business for a violation and thus subject to full legal action. An extreme view and estimation, but it’s certainly in the realm of possibility.

Here are two sites discussing the two “views” on the bill:
KWMU
St. Louis Post Dispatch

This brings up a question about who is behind the bill, HSUS or the Humane Society of the United States. I must note that my initial response upon hearing the name was to immediately and directly connect it to local Humane Societies. Apparently nothing could be further from the truth. The two are not connected by anything except name. That said, considering what I’ve learned about HSUS, it will no doubt give the local Humane Societies a bad name – guilt by mere name association. People on both sides of the issue should make a specific point to clarify that HSUS and HSMO are not related nor connected and that HSMO does not stand behind nor accept HSUS’ platforms.

A complaint against the abuses by some breeders seems to be lax law enforcement. Well, that’s when you go after the government to do their job. You don’t create more laws, you enforce the ones you already have. It’s a similar issue with illegal immigration and guns.

I agree that we should take care of animals and not needlessly or purposefully abuse them, we are stewards and caretakers of this world and everything in it, but I find the law partially vague, open for abuse and overall, redundant. As to HSUS’ involvement, that alone gives me serious pause to support it, especially if the accusations are true that this is part of a larger plan.

For futher perusal -

Yes on B
No on B
The Humane Society of Missouri

“The Dave Glover Show” on local radio station 97.1 FM (Talk) recently had an on-air debate between two people concerning Prop B, for and against. I have heard it was pretty good, though I’ve not been able to hear it. Check their “audio on demand” for Monday, Oct. 11th, 2nd hour to listen to it.

A commenter from an article at the Missourian who states he’s a veterinarian gave a brief synopsis of the on-air debate: Anita Andrews of The Alliance for Truth confronted Barbara Schmitz on air in St. Louis about Prop B.
Barbara evaded the question about why HSUS, shelters, and rescues were not going to be included under Prop B. After the debate, the hosts ripped Ms. Schmitz on her obvious evasion of the question.
For those of you who would like to listen:
http://www.971talk.com/glover/podcast.aspx
click on the date 10-11-10 hr2 when it is done click 10-11-10 hr 3. This should educate everyone on what HSUS is really all about. This is the Show Me State! We had a room full of people when we played it. Some we really undecided until they heard the broadcast.”
If you go back and review the bill above, shelters and rescues are not mentioned at all.

As I noted to someone recently who was supportive of the bill because it sounded nice; just because a bill/law sounds nice doesn’t mean it’s a good or necessary law.

It’s up to you the voting public to determine whether or not this law is acceptable and needed. If it passes, only time will tell whether or not it is truly good or necessary. Certainly a bill could be brought forth to repeal it, but repealing laws are typically more difficult than getting them passed.

As I noted in the beginning of this piece, Amendment 2 (2006) barely passed and the vote was pretty well split Kansas City/St. Louis for, everywhere else against. I suspect we’ll see voting along similar lines for this bill next month.

– Bolding mine.

– Update to add link. I’m getting a fair amount of hits on this post, so if you’re interested or needing further voting day information, I’ve compiled s go-to list for Missouri voters, clerks of court, county seat, Mo Sec. State, etc. Here.