Update: Well, right on cue, Wayne Pacelle blogged about Prop B today as well. In the process he asked for money not once but twice to support the campaign.
He also provides links to the Better Business Bureau's Overview -- and the article lists four recommendations for solving the problem, none of which are addressed by Prop B (you can read the full 6 page report here). Pacelle also links to the Misssouri State Auditor's Reports - the latest of which clearly points out in the executive summary that 40% of the licensed breeding operations were not even inspected -- and the USDA Report that notes that the agency isn't doing it's job. There is absolutely nothing in Prop B, as written, that does anything to create more resources for inspections or enforcement -- which has been very clearly defined as the problem.
Campaign season is heating up -- and as predicted, the money is rolling in.
According to recently published media reports, the Missourian's for the Protection of Dogs -- the lobbying group set up to push for the new puppy mill bill in Missouri -- has raised over $1.7 million that they plan to spend on advertising to promote the law that will appear on the November ballot as Proposition B.
That $1.7 million includes $500,000 from HSUS (who had already chipped in $450,000 to get the signatures necessary to get the law on the ballot) and $200,000 from the ASPCA.
What is the biggest shame is that all of this money is going toward a ballot initiative that has very little "new" in it -- and the one new element, will likely cause more harm than good -- while doing nothing to address the real problem, which is not the need for new laws.
Universally, everyone who has studied this issues has come back with the same report -- including the MVMA, the Better Business Bureau, the USDA and the state auditor's office -- Missouri is currently not enforcing its current regulations. HSUS and the rest of the people promoting Prop B say that there are 3,000 commercial breeders in the state -- however, according to official records, only 1525 are license and only 60% of the licensed facilities were actually inspected at the time of the most recent state audit - -even though state law requires them to be inspected annually.
So if we, as a state, cannot even enforce licensing and inspection requirements - -how are we going to enforce more legislation?
Prop B is written to put more restrictions on commercial breeding operations in the state - and defines a commercial breeder as anyone with more than 10 breeding dogs. Prop B calls for specific regulations on food and water, housing and vet care for animals -- all of which is already covered under the Animal Welfare Act and the Animal Care Facilities Act which already governs these breeding operations. (In fact, the ACFA actually mandates that all animals are fed every 12 hours whereas Prop B makes it only mandatory to feed every 24 hours -- so it's actually downgrading feeding requirements).
The only "new" things in Prop B are the requirements are access to outside space, a limit to the number of times a dog can be bred for sufficient rest between cycles and a limit to no more than 50 breeding dogs allowed. I'm generally supportive of the first change -- and the second one too although it will be virtually impossible to enforce - but the 50 breeding dogs issue is very problematic and may likely cause way more harm than good.
I'm not a fan of arbitrary pet limit laws -- or any arbitrary law for that matter. Pet limits create an artificial limit on the number of animals someone can keep. The breeding dog limit does the same thing -- although on a much larger scale. The reality is that the concern should not be on the actual NUMBER of animals someone keeps -- but on the conditions that someone keeps them in. If someone has 200 breeding dogs - -but has a well-kept facility, with a lot of staff to be sure the animals are clean and well-cared for, the actual number of dogs isn't really that big of a deal. From what I gather, many of the nicer facilities in the state are very large facilities that make a lot of revenue and they are the ones that can afford the really nice facilities and staff.
However, with the new law, 50 would be the cutoff point -- and this could prove to be very problematic.
How so? Here are several scenerios -- all of which could play out in some way or another if this passes.
1) Say me and a business partner, Bob, run a breeding operation together that has 100 dogs. With the new law, we decide to divide up the dogs and split into two separate operations -- each with 50 dogs apiece. In doing so, we have now doubled the amount of paperwork involved in doing the inspections (which the state is already failing to meet all of the inspection requirements) involved in inspecting these 100 dogs. The increased work load will further inhibit the ability of inspectors to do their jobs...not make it better.
What if I have 100 dogs, and no business partner. What would I then do with my "excess" dogs so I can comply with the new law? Well, there are quite a few options, and none of them are particularly good for the animals.
2) One option would be to go to a broker and sell off my "excess" 50 dogs and have a ready-made breeding operation for someone to buy into, complete with my AKC papers and everything for the breeding dogs. This creates the same situaton as #1, more facilities to inspect and more work not getting done.
3) I could just kill the "excess" 50 dogs -- this is a very real possibility and one people should be sensitive to given the recent news of one puppy mill operator in New York gasing 93 dogs last week.
4) And the best case scenerio -- the one in which everyone supporting the bill is hoping for -- is that these operators would just cut down their number of dogs to 50, and I guess turn the rest of the dogs over to shelters. Given this scnerio, shelters throughout the midwest (many of which are already high-kill shelters) would be flooded with even more dogs -- leading to even more killing in the area shelters. In conversations with the folks at Missourians for the protection of dogs, right now ZERO of the $1.7 million that has been raised is set to be used to help save the lives of the dogs that are made homeless by the ordinance. And this is the best-case scenerio.
When Wayne Pacelle made his tour of Missouri last week promoting Proposition B, he showed pictures of the worst of the worst conditions and made it seem like all of these things were legal without the passing of Prop B -- which is untrue. All of things he was describing, dogs laying in feces, dogs allowed to be sickly and die, dogs living with broken bones and compound fractures -- all of those things are currently already illegal.
And this has been proven to be the case a lot recently. Over the past two weeks, more than 100 dogs have been rescued from horrible puppy mill conditions - -including 45 dogs in Greene County, 100 dogs in Camden County. Neither of these facilities was licensed according to reports. The Missourian's for the Protection of Dogs even acknowledges the busts with the current laws -- while using that as evidence for the need for more laws. Since January 2009, there have been more than 3900 dogs rescued from horrible breeding facilities This includes more than 100 that were rescued from a bust in June after repeat violations.
In spite of what you're hearing, the actual LAWS in Missouri are not that bad - and most of the conditions that people get really upset about with puppy mills are already illegal. However, if we are going to make a dent in solving the problem, we MUST focus on better enforcement of the laws that are currently in place. Now, animal welfare groups are prepared to spend up to $2 milion (or more) focusing on a law that may do more harm than good -- and that doesn't focus on the actual problem -- enforcement. If only all of that money were going to promote things that actually would be of value, paying for more enforcement, or on promoting Operation Bark Alert (which few people know anything about) we could really make a dent in the problem.
Sadly and frustratingly, that's not the direction they're going.
Shutting down a puppy mill -- PetDocsOnCall
FYI - Prop B -- from the Southeast Missourian