On Tuesday, Missourian's will vote on Proposition B -- a bill that will target Missouri's commercial breeding industry.
I've spoken a lot about the Proposition, and still think it's an ill-advised proposition that does nothing to solve the problem of lack of enforcement resources that have put us in the current mess we're in with abusive breeding operations. I'll be voting against Prop B -- but not because I support abusive breeding operations. I just see way too many loopholes in this law that give the potential to a) make the lack of enforcement issue even worse and b) to cause a lot of dogs to die in our shelters in the aftermath.
Earlier this week, I wrote a blog posting about people who are deliberately uninformed. I don't want you to be that person on election day, so I'm going to provide a few links that I think everyone should read before they go to the polls. And please don't take this as me saying that everyone who is voting for Prop B is deliberately uniformed. I think that it is possible to read all of the information, look at the good and the bad, and decide that the potential downside is worth a yes vote. It's not to me because I think we should really take the time to create a solution that actually solves the problem of too little enforcement and in a way that won't lead to the likely deaths of thousands of shelter dogs.
But I want everyone to be informed and make their own decisions. That's the best I can ask.
So with that, there are several things I think everyone should read before heading to the polls:
First of all, read the act itself. Note that regardless of what other "agreements" that someone says exist, nothing is guaranteed outside of what is written in the law. The law makes no mention of crackdowns on unlicensed breeding operations, no mentions of increased enforcement, and no mentions of a safety net that will keep all of the animals "saved" from these breeding operations from being killed.
Next, I think everyone should be familiar with what the current law says. Many things included in Prop B seem like "no brainers" -- and they are, which is why they exist in the current law, the Animal Care and Facilities Act. That act is 22 pages long and much more thorough than Prop B. And while it does make some significant changes to the Animal Care Facilities Act, not all of them are stricter guidelines for the animals. The MVMA put together a nice comparison chart of Prop B compared to the Animal Care Facilities Act that I think every person should read. It notes that the food and water requirements have gone from needed twice per day, to once. And that Prop B applies to only facilites with 10 or more breeding dogs, while the ACFA applies to all facilities with 3 or more breeding dogs.
I also think everyone should read the most read the most recent state auditor's report on the State Department of Ag's enforcement of the Animal Care Facilities Act. It paints a very clear picture of the lack of enforcement that has gone on in the state for the past decade -- even noting that only 60% of the licensed breeders were even inspected in 2007 even though state law requires it.
I still think that increasing enforcement is the primary issue - so that we can shut down more unlicensed facilities (HSUS estimates that there are 3,000 'puppy mills' in the state even though there are only 1525 licensed breeders) and to close down those that are currently treating animals poorly. The founding of Operation Bark Alert has helped -- as in 2009 (the first year of Operation Bark Alert) they closed down 164 breeding facilities and rescued 3500 dogs. In 2010, 180 commercial breeders have already closed down. More work is obviously needed -- but it appears as if enforcement resources is the issue, which unfortunately is never addressed in the current law.
Prop B continues to have strong support -- with a recent poll showing 69% of people are in favor of the law -- but I hope that people will read up a lot on the law before Tuesday's election so we can focus resources on solving the actual enforcement issues.
If you have time for more reading, here are a few other resources that you should check out.
The Columbia Missourian Editorial: Prop B is not the right answer to the problem -- noting that our existing laws are better than what is written in Prop B.
The Devil is in the Details -- from St. Louis Today
Prop B or not Prop B -- a pretty balanced article from the Independence/Blue Springs Examiner
Springfield, MO News Leader Editorial - Prop B Well-Intentioned but not in the State's Best Interests
Kansas City Star - Ballot Issue breeds contempt between dog breeders and aninmal rights activists -- instead of the two sides working together for the benefit of all pets, the wedge has been further driven between the groups.
The Columbia Missourian - A comparison of current and proposed dog breeding laws
The Vote Yes on Prop B people note that the state can't enforce a law that prevents unlawful dumping of dead animals by 'puppy mills' in the state and think that supports why Prop B should be passed -- but instead, continues to highlight the state's complete inability to enforce the current legislation.
HSUS vs Puppy Mills - from Dog Kinetics
Thinking Out Loud About Prop B - Winograd
Also of interest -- here's a list of where all of the donations of more than $250 have come from to support Prop B. You notice a lot of out-of-state folks (who I wonder are really very familiar with the situation here) and a lot of money coming in from the ASPCA, HSUS, Best Friends and a lot of HSUS employees (Wayne Pacelle donated $2000 personally for this). There is also $100,000 that was donated by the wife of one of the founders of Google. This list is as of October 18 -- a lot more has come in sense then. In total, about $4 million has come in to support the legislation, and it just makes me sad to think about how much good could have been done such a large sum of money if it had been used for free/low cost spay/nueters, for more inspections officers or for more promotion of Operation Bark Alert (which is never mentioned by the vote yes folks in spite of its success).