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« KCMO terminates shelter contract -- opening up new opportunities for KC Animals | Main | Courts force Midwest City, OK to end breed ban »

March 10, 2011

Comments

EmilyS

we just passed a new cruelty law that eliminated all number limitations and references to "hoarders" and "puppy mills". It does have a ridiculous "thought crime" provision (about "inability to understand..) but the best thing it does is define cruelty as being unsanitary conditions. And unsanitary conditions is something ever town/county can identify. Almost the very day after the signing, a "no kill rescue" (what the newspaper called it, which of course it wasn't; it was a hoarder's home...) was shut down when the local health dept official took 2 steps inside and said "no way now how". This very same hoarder was set free last year after giving up her 100+ victims because their conditions weren't cruel under the law. (and even in this new one, the animal control officer said the animals weren't in that bad shape)

Brent

The ability to define and easily understand/prove "unsanitary conditions" would be very valuable...

Brandi W.

I don't think Prop B was some great bill, but I truly think that there is a big difference between non-profit rescues and for profit puppy mills. I don't think rescues' registration fees should be raised; we aren't the ones making money off of the backs of our animals (in fact, we can't even break even). Instead, we are busy cleaning up the problem that the puppy mills and back yard breeders help create.

A small rescue like the one I volunteer with will be forced to cut back on the amount of animals we can pull if the fees are raised too much. But, I doubt many of the fine folks in Jeff City care, Missouri seems determined to remain completely backwards when it comes to lots of things, but especially when it comes to animal welfare.

Brent

Brandi,

I completely agree with you.

I realize they need to raise the fees in order to increase enforcement so they can stop people who are causing the biggest problems. I would hope that they can (and will)differentiate between breeders and rescues when they determine who pays what in fees. Getting the money is important -- and raising the "maximum" was essential, but I agree with you that I hope the breeders, not the rescues, have to carry the burden of the increases.

Debbie s.

The fees are what I have a problem with. I am not opposed to paying a fair amount but our little rescue paid 600 dollars for a license. This is far and above what any shelter in any other state pays for a similar license. We literally had to choose between surgery for a kitten or paying the suddenly imposed fee. Not to mention that we were assessed this fee at the end of the year. Had we been told last january we would be charged a fee based on how many animals we touch maybe we would have operated differently. And now we may be assessed even more next year! We are a non profit charitable organization, not a for profit breeding business. I suspect many small rescues will have to go out of business. The 800 animals we would have rescued and adopted will have to die I guess.

Brent

Debbie -- I want to reiterate - -the maximum amount has been raised, but that doesn't mean they have to charge anyone that maximum.

While I agree with your concern, because that could be pretty devastating to small rescue. This bill doesn't look malicious to me...so I'm hopeful that it will be enforced in a compassionate way. I realize that it has to be scary for a small rescue without a guarantee.

kmk

The attitudes of Brandi and Debbie S are the very reason shelters and rescues are now paying a fee - the legislators had enough of the "we're special" attitude. When the original ACFA law was passed shelters and rescues were exempted from the fees, and believe me, I fully supported that exemption. However, the animal rights activists just couldn't leave well enough alone and kept insisting on more and more restrictions for commercial breeders - but not for themselves, of course. Prop B was the final straw - it added criminal penalities to the statute but exempted shelters and rescues from that same criminal behavior! Other than medical marijuana we typically don't criminalize behavior and then exempt certain subsets of the population.

If the House passes the amendments to Prop B and Nixon signs the bill, everyone will truly be playing under the same set of rules, which is how it should have been all along.

Debbie S - so, the 800 animals you would have rescued and adopted will have to die? How about the dogs in commercial kennels in excess of the arbitrary Prop B limit of 50? What do you think will happen to them if Prop B stands? Is it okay for THEM to die?

Also, Debbie S, you write your "little rescue" paid $600 in fees. That means the rescue paid a $100 license fee and sold/bartered/traded/gave away at least 500 animals, but in the case of your rescue you wrote you saved 800 animals. I don't consider 800 animals a "little rescue". There are commercial kennels (and catteries) that don't come close to breeding and selling 800 puppies or kittens.

Currently, the worksheet on the Dept of Ag website sets a maximum fee at $500 but the modifications to Prop B will change that. Currently a shelter, rescue, or commercial kennel pays a $100 base license fee and $1.00 per dog (or cat) sold up to a maximum of $500. That limit is now raised to $2500, so shelters, rescues, and commercial breeders will pay for 2400 animals sold rather than 400 animals sold, if the rules for calculating sales remain the same.

Believe me, I totally support rescue and would have preferred to see shelters (like Wayside and the Missouri Humane Society) pay a $1.00 fee for every last animal that left their shelter - and that includes the ones that leave by way of the incinerator! Unfortunately, rescues got caught in the wake of the animal rights activists that just weren't smart enough to know they had a good thing going.

Brandi Washburn

kmk - I never said "we're special," I said we're different. Believe me, if we were making money off of these animals, it wouldn't be a problem to pay those fees. However, most times, we lose money on each animal we adopt out, and having to pay higher fees means that we will be able to help less animals, period. Higher fees for rescues = dead dogs and cats, and that is the bottom line here. Puppy mills are a major part of the problem here in Missouri, and rescues shouldn't have to pay to help clean up after them. The rules should be different for large scale breeders than for shelters - they are two completely different things; it is like comparing apples and oranges (and please notice that I didn't say that shelters and rescues shouldn't be regulated at all).

You do realize, I hope, that not all people involved in rescues are "animal rights activists" as you infer. My group didn't support or advocate for Prop B, and neither did many of the other groups that we have contact with. It is a ridiculous assumption that all rescue groups supported this and are now getting what is coming to them.

kmk

Brandi - That's it, keep tap-dancing on the minefield. Use the term "puppy mill" one more time and you might find yourself paying $2.00 per dog instead of $1.00 per dog to the Dept of Ag. The correct term is "commercial kennel". Do you call lawyers, "ambulance chasers"? Okay, not a good analogy, I realize -even one of my attorney friends told me there was some truth in there.

"We're different" is the same as "we're special". I never implied rescues got what was coming to them. I support rescue and I understand the financial implications; however, under the ACFA statute shelters and rescues meet the same definition, and some rescues are making a lot of money. They go to auctions, buy pregnant foo-foo dogs, and sell the pups for $600 to $800 each.

Wayside Waifs and the Missouri Humane Society sent letters to a major auction house offering to take excess "puppy mill dogs" off of their hands due to Prop B. The operator told them to show up with a photo ID and their required licenses and they were welcome to bid on them just like everyone else. Gee, why would a shelter want to take on more dogs? Hmmmm.....

Please prove that "puppy mills are a major part of the problem, here". What problem? Who said there's a problem? The vast majority of dogs confiscated come from unlicensed facilties or hoarding situations. If we follow the logic that "rescues shouldn't have to pay to clean up after the puppy millers", then I can think of all sorts of things I shouldn't be required to fund. I have no children, so why am I paying astronomical school taxes? I don't drive on the north side of my city, so they should cut all of my city taxes in half. I live in Jackson county but never go to the stadiums, so please eliminate that tax on me as well - just deduct it from my bill. Sorry, but ours is not a perfect "pay as you go" tax system.

The rules WERE different for shelters and rescues - that was my point. But some animal rights activists annoyed the wrong people at the capitol and the rest is history. Feel free to send flowers and thank you notes to HSUS, MAAL, the Humane Society of Missouri, etc. for getting you into this pickle. These are the very groups that claim to LOVE rescues.

The annual fee for a license is $100 and then everyone pays $1.00 for dog up to $2500, assuming for the sake of argument the modifications to Prop B are signed into law. There will also be an additional charge ($25) to fund Operation Bark Alert. Charge an extra $2.00 or so per dog that's adopted. And finally, God bless you for the work you do in rescue. My breed club recently held a fund raiser and donated $500 to the rescue.

Brandi Washburn

I don't know of any rescue in my area that makes all sorts of money (or any at all), kmk. Many of the dogs that come from "commercial kennels" take a lot of resources to get healthy enough for adoption. I know because my group ends up with some of the ones that "commercial kennel" operators dump at our local shelter (one example of how they are part of the problem). Now, I don't agree with rescues that go into dog auctions and line kennel operators wallets, but in my experience, those dogs can end up costing a lot of money in vet bills and a lot of time being rehabilitated. I'm certainly not saying that some groups aren't making money, but they are the exception, not the rule.

Quite frankly, shelters/rescues and "commercial kennels" are simply fundamentally different. They have very different goals. Just because the legislature has linked the two in the past under the ACFA, doesn't mean that they are the same thing nor does it mean that they should continue to be treated the same. You can call it "special" if you want; I don't agree that different = special.

Brent

KMK, clearly there is a difference between rescues (not-for-profit groups) and commercial kennels (for profit groups). This difference is recognized in every other form of licensing and tax code in this country.

I'm all for everyone paying their fair share...but I also recognize that a not-for-profit's share should be very different than that of a business.

And certainly, the vast majority of the shelters and rescues in this state have no more in common with Wayside Waifs (which has a huge $$$ to animal ratio) than the majority of breeders have with the ones shown on the HSUS videos.

Now, that's from the financial side. As for the animal care side, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a shelter or rescue to provide at least the minimum standard of care that we expect from commercial breeders...

Shelley

Including the shelters and rescues in the fee raising was a punitive measure, to punish the shelters for supporting Proposition B.

It's not like they raise puppies for commercial sale. And it's not like the shelters couldn't have been made exempt, like municipal dog pounds were made exempt.

And you got the vet requirement wrong: it's two physical visits to the site a year, with a cursory visual inspection of the dog, not a true examination of each dog.

And then they "advise" the breeder rather than actually treat the dogs.

You also didn't understand the license fees. It's a base 100.00 per institution, as it's always been. Then it's $1.00 per dog "processed". In the case of breeders, that's per puppy sold.

For shelters, though, that's dogs cared for.

And the amount is the ceiling paid, not the base pay. It hardly impacts even the biggest breeders, but severely impacts the shelters that have to handle hundreds, even thousands of dogs a year.

As for the 50 limit, the legislature had no problem putting severe limits on the adult entertainment industry last year, or limits on any number of other businesses. If this provision could have been "challenged" than the breeders should have filed a suit in court--not buy off senators.

Note, though, this isn't the first state to put limits on numbers of dogs.

Note also that the problem with Bark Alert is that it is for unlicensed breeders only. Yet we have some of the worst licensed breeders in the country.

And don't blame the "animal activists" for this bill. Are the senators so petty, so meaningless that they decide issues based on how much a lobbyist sucks up to them?

That's as bad as saying Missouri voters are too stupid to vote.

This is big agribusiness money in operation. It's especially disgusting when you realize that four senators--Rupp, Schaaf, Dixon, and Callahan--went against the vote of the people in their districts. They've basically called the people who voted for them, stupid.

Brent

Shelley, I certainly don't think SB 113 is perfect....I do however think it is better than Prop B.

I told you 2 months ago that Prop B was going to get changed -- and that if we worked for compromises, we could actually end up with a better law. You called talk of compromise "foolish". So then, when it gets changed and you don't like the changes, they're all evil haters who have it out for you. Yet, you removed yourself from the negotiating table with refusing to compromise anything.

I didn't dive into the details of the licensing -- I noted that they raised the maximum....which is a good thing. And I actually explained the Veterninary thing accurately (and made no comment on it because I haven't decided exactly how I feel about that one yet).

Operation Bark Alert closed down nearly 400 unlicensed breeders in less than 2 years...sorry that isn't enough for you. Seriously, you're calling that a huge problem even though the state has upwards of 1500 unlicensed breeders? Come on.

Shelley

There has never been an attempt at "compromise" -- this is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

The "fixes" for Proposition B completely and thoroughly repeal every last bit of it. But the representatives lie to the public, pretending SB 113 is nothing more than a modification.

Operation Bark Alert closed down 160 commercial breeders, as noted in the Bark Alert web site. But again, this is unlicensed breeders--it does little for the bad licensed breeders.

And the new bill actually adds to the burdens on the Department of Agriculture, but when the DeptOfAg requested more inspectors (the new fee ceiling doesn't provide enough funding), they were told no. So much for the claims that all we need are more inspectors.

What's worse is the new bill actually makes it harder to close down bad breeders than what we have today. And Parson, who brings up the fact that he's a former sheriff every five minutes, knows this is what his bill does.

You seem to think that compromising on the health of these dogs is a good thing, I don't.

Shelley

The only true fix ever mentioned in any of the meetings on Prop B was the addition of female to the breeding cycle restriction. No Prop B supporter would have had a problem with the insertion of this text.

What they did instead was completely pull the requirement. That's not a fix, that's a repeal.

This is a lie to the people of Missouri. No matter how you felt about Proposition B, the legislators are lying to the people of Missouri, and ripping off our vote. That should anger every Missourian. Well except for the dog breeders, who think they can continue their crappy operations in the shadows.

Except one thing Prop B has done: it's made people aware of the problems. And now every time a bad breeder is discovered, these senators are going to "own" every sick, injured, miserable, and dying dog.

Brent

Actually, I found the two state Senators I talked to very open to compromises....maybe the fact that you entered the equation as "there can be no compromises" made it harder?

Read Operation Bark Alert's Page again. That's 160 in 2009. Another 200+ in 2010.

Actually, my understanding on SB 113 (from a Senator who voted against it) that allowing the Attorney General to go in and close down facilities is a huge step forward over having to rely on local officials who may just dismiss it as "that's just Bob, that's what he does).

I also kind of like that now a Veterinarian has to set foot in a facility twice a year -- which, along with a state inspector and a USDA inspector (if they show up) means they have to be visited 4 times a year.

Honestly, the biggest things that were lost were the solid flooring and the 50 dog limit...and what was gained was increased fees and funding for operation bark alert. We could debate on the solid flooring piece, we've already discussed how problematic the 50 dog limit was (both legally and in the "what happens to the rest of the dogs" sort of way) and the increased fees are a positive.

And yet, you refer to this as 'nothing more than a modification of a repeal". Really?

Brent

Here's the thing, if the veterinary community comes to the conclusion that rest between breeding cycles is the best, it's addressed in SB 113. The reality is that even the Veterinary community is split on this one...

And in all honesty, the legislators I've talked to have been very honest about it (outside of the media soundbites). That said, I'm sure some are lying; but you know what, the large animal rights groups are too -- which is why I'm talking to a lot of people on both sides and reading the bills for myself (which I encourage everyone to do).

Sue

So, a vet walks through a facility a couple times a year and that's all that's required to ensure the dogs are in good health? Yep, that sounds like an improvement over Prop B for sure. So long as they raised the fees, that the bill guts protection of health care, removes a still-too-high 50 breeding dog limit, all is okie dokie. Gotcha.

Brent

Sue, I will again refer you to the reports from the State Auditor and the Better Business Bureau (all links are embedded in the post). If you read through their recommendations, virtually all of them are addressed in this bill. Higher fines for repeat offenders. State involvement in closing down repeat offenders (vs reliance on local enforcement). Higher fees for more enforcement. And it preserves the single biggest tool we've had for shutting down illegal operations with Operation Bark Alert.

We can debate the Veterinary care thing if you want. I'm all ears if someone wants to have a rational discussion about it. But my point is that SB 113 isn't a joke, or a repeal, or a gut, or any of the other things Shelley, HSUS and a select few others have said it is. It actually does address many of the problems that we faced with puppy mills in the state.

The 50 dog limit was never going to stay in this law...it is wrought with problems on many levels. It has nothing to do with actual animal care, and everything to do with trying to limit a business that some of the animal rights groups don't like.

kmk

Oh good grief, Shelley, are you still here? Aren't you at packed and gone already? Good night, move across the river to Illinois, which is full of people that want to criminalize EVERYTHING. That farmland is very expensive and there are very few breeders. Now the AG is going to allow the names of all firearms owners to be published in newspapers. You'll fit right in and you'll like it there. I promise.

Don't shoot the messenger, folks.

I just wish the ARs would come clean and tell the truth. They supported Prop B not because they care about dogs, but because they wanted to shut down the industry AND ALL ANIMAL AGRICULTURE. Let me quote from Prop B for the uninformed, misinformed, and those that don't speak English:

"(9) ”Pet” means any DOMESTICATED ANIMAL (emphasis mine) normally maintained in or near the household of the owner thereof".

Now did they really think that would fly? Give me a break!

If rescues are going to shelters and rescuing unhealthy dogs, wherever the dogs came from, they're doing it voluntarily.

The last time I checked no one was holding a gun to anyone's head. By the way, how in the heck are these breeders getting dogs into shelters? Good Lord, around here the shelters will barely take an animal from a taxpayer, and forget private shelters. they've achieved no-kill by not allowing anything in the shelters.

MAAL is down to one lobbyist (which is probably why the rescues ended up paying fees under ACFA) and Missourians for the Protection of Dogs has two. HSUS has two, but after the hearing on Thursday on SB113/SB95 they may be down to one because one of the lobbyists managed to make Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D- U City) so angry she went on a LONG rant prior to voting against SB113/SB95, and not because she thought it was right - she voted for her constituents, but she got her anger on the record. That lobbyist might not have a job anymore.

Whatever. I have some advice - when you're in a hole, STOP DIGGING.

kmk

One more thing - re: the senators that voted for SB113/SB95 -
Senator Callhan sits on the Agriculture committee so he heard the reasonable arguments from Senators whose constituents would be affected. I guess he wasn't as excited to kill dogs, destroy the rural tax base, and send taxpayers to the welfare line as Wayne Pacelle was. I supported Callahan when he ran for a city council position 20+ years ago. Good for him!

Senator Schaaf represents several counties north of KCMO,including Buchanan County, which includes St. Joseph, which has most of the population and is the reason Prop B barely passed in his district. But the vast majority of his district is rural. St. Joe is trying to pass their own (much worse) municipal version of Prop B. Hopefully this sends a message to those nitwits.

Senator Dixon represents the city of Springfield proper (not Greene County), which passed Prop B by a nose. If the ARs hadn't made Dixon angry he might have voted the other way. Congratulations and thank you!

And Senator Rupp is a mystery to me. I was shocked. If anyone has the skinny on that, please post it here. I still don't have an answer on that one.

Shelley

Brent, the person's hired veterinarian has to site visit twice a year. Is there something about that statement that maybe stands out for you?

These are the same veterinarians who said the Schindlers were fine dog breeders--while still receiving pages of USDA violations. Gross violations.

The problem with the rules is it puts too much into the hands of the vets, who have a conflict of interest between caring for the dogs and earning an income. Parson made a point of consistency in the bill, yet veterinarians differ, dramatically in what they consider "sufficient" care for the dogs.

Take the exercise plan. One of the heads of the dog breeders group in Missouri is co-owner of a dog factory farm that has 569 adult dogs, last inspection. Now, you tell me how they're going to exercise 569 dogs a day? And you tell me how an inspector, who has only a couple of hours to visit the place, can ensure these dogs are exercised?

The old laws were totally dependent on the "honor system", as is SB 113--but guess what? This just doesn't work.

That would the be the same as putting oil well owners on the honor system. Oh...wait...

The USDA already issues fines. As the audit of the USDA found, the fines do little or nothing to stop the problems--most breeders just consider fines the cost of doing business.

As for kmc, I live here.

The senators behavior in the meetings was atrocious. Chapelle-Nodal did vote according to her precinct, but it's not up to lobbyist to cater to her ego, or to inform her about bills. We expect these senators to inform themselves--they each have two paid assistants.

Any senator dependent on lobbyists for information should resign their position.

There is no excuse for the four senators to go against the vote of the people in their districts. Dixon was using this as an excuse, and as a way to undercut HSUS.

Agribusiness is so scared of HSUS now, they'll do anything to undercut this organization. What was it Forrest Lucas said at a meeting with Parson? All he cares about with Proposition B is to "bloody the nose" of HSUS -- he didn't even care about Prop B. He certainly doesn't care about the dogs.

But oh, notice the anti-Prop B people neglect to mention about the cattlemen's association money, the Missouri Farm Bureau money, et al -- instead of it going to fight Proposition B, it went into campaign contributions for...guess who...the very senators who voted for SB 113.

At least HSUS operates in the light, not in closed rooms, out of the public eye.

Shelley

kmc

kill dogs...destroy the rural tax base, yeah right.

These same breeders who love these dogs are going to out and kill them without a backwards glance, is that it?

Rural tax base? The Department of Agriculture doesn't even list dog breeding under its literature about agriculture in the state. Don't believe me? Go look.

And enough with the "pet definition" -- I'm so tired of this really stupid excuse.

Stop assuming Missourians are stupid.

Brent

The veterinarian situation doesn't change if they do the full inspection or the walk through. If the vet isn't going to be first and foremost looking out for the welfare of the dogs, then the whole system breaks down regardless of how they go about it.

I've got my issues with how both sides of Prop B handled the campaigns. And don't necessarily disagree with you about and anti-prop B people. As for HSUS operating in the light, it should be noted that they set up a separate organization -- Missourians for the Protection of Dogs -- with an HSUS-hire lobbyist as its head -- to run the campaign through. While most everyone knew who was funding Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, it hardly screams of "operating in the light".

Brent

But the "pet definition" piece is really important Shelley. Not because there is an assumption that Missourians are stupid -- but because courts interpret laws as they are written. Not based on the "intent" of the law -- but based on what is written down, on the actual page. And if its wrong on the page, the courts will interpret it that way.

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