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Missouri’s Puppy Mill Compromise

Governor brokers deal with breeders, humane society

Zoe Staff Report

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.

What do you say?What do you think of this compromise? Is it better to accept a deal like this or to try to mount a whole new campaign and risk losing out completely? Have you been involved in any puppy mill campaigns in your state? Let us know in a comment below or on Facebook.

What you can do? While Missouri and Pennsylvania have more puppy mills than most states, there are breeding facilities everywhere. All the major national organizations have campaigns of one kind of another to restrict the activities of puppy mills. Two that you may not know about are In Defense of Animals and Last Chance for Animals, which has a complete list of things you can do to help. And one thing we can all do is always adopt our animals from shelters and rescue groups. When you buy a pet from a store, you are sponsoring the puppy mill they came from.