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« Weekly Roundup - Week Ending 1/23/11 | Main | Nine year old South Carolina girl dead form dog attack »

January 24, 2011

Comments

Jen

What is Munzlinger's motivation, do we know? It certainly seems like he's got it in for the small rescues and shelters in the state. And my understanding is that Pacelle and the HSUS are as much a rescue as PETA is these days. Do they not want the competition for donation dollars, or did they catch too much flak from Missouri's rescue community?

Brent

Munzlinger is by trade a farmer and is from a very agricultural part of the state. It's not much of a secret that agriculture and HSUS are at odds. I also believe that there are several commercial breeding operations in his district and he likely knows them well (based on them being big players in his district more than him having a true affiliation with them). My guess is that this is a bit of a 'gotcha' back to the rescue community that supported Prop B (and at the same time, leveraging some of the unfair elements of the law against the rescues themselves).

As for HSUS, I'm not sure they really care all that much about rescue and whether the animals are saved or not....and I do think they would sacrifice the well-being of the shelters in order to shut down the breeding operations if forced to choose between the two.

YesBiscuit!

Numbers is not where it's at. Never has been. Cruelty and neglect can and do occur with dogs of various numbers - the most common that I come across is ONE.

Brent

Couldn't agree more. The number, at best, is arbitrary in nature and I personally only care about how well the animal is kept, vs how many are kept. Unfortunately, it's become easier for law enforcement officers to count to a number vs enforce actual cruelty. This is the same whether it's a state wide 'puppy mill' law or a local pet limit law....and ironically, the majority of the people I've ever met that are over their local pet limit are members of the rescue community -- most of whom take great care of their pets.

Roberta Beach

I am this close to quitting rescue, adopting the dogs who I am not fostering and leaving. The work and sacrifice of small rescues is so not appreciated and now punished by MO and legislators like Munzlinger. So, they can do it themselves - the jerks.

Brent

I hear ya Roberta. On the one hand, I realize why Munzlinger is throwing some of the ridiculous pieces of Prop B back at the rescue community that, for the most part, supported it (I realize you were not a blind acceptor -- just speaking generally). But it's equally frustrating the folks who are 100% dedicated to trying to prevent any progress from happening in the care for animals in these facilities -- and the lack of understanding for the bad situations it puts the rescue groups in.

Unfortunately, in the proverbial "gotcha" game, the animals end up in the middle and the ones that are most punished.

Eric Goebelbecker

Is this a "gotcha" over Prop B or an attempt to kill any regulation by refusing to differentiate between rescues/shelters and breeders?

MichelleD

IMO Eric - its probably a combo. But at the end of the day - if this legislation is good for breeders why shouldn't it be applied to rescues? Its about the care of the dogs right?

And looking at it the other way - is prop b really about shutting down sub-standard breeders or is about shutting down ALL breeders. I sat in a meeting with MAAL and heard them state their goal was to shut down all puppy mills - and they think all commercial breeders are puppy mills judging by the name of the bill. I think they completely sunk their cause by the 50 dog limit. That didn't have a chance in hell in standing up in court.

To me, both ends of the opponent/proponent spectrum just want their end goal (no legislation v no breeding).

Obviously H$U$ doesn't give a rats ass about the dogs or rescues here - Prop B WILL NOT STAND as is. It is going to be changed and since they don't want to be part of finding a solution they very well may sink us all.

Eric Goebelbecker

Well some provisions are arguably not applicable to rescues and shleters are they? If a breeder has more than 10 females over 6 months old it's for a vastly difference reason than a shelter or a rescue, ins't it? (I'm not saying I agree with the 10 female provision - just making a point.)

I was more than willing to accept that this fallout from Prop B was predictable and inevitable until that tiny little point at the end - when we find out that Munzlinger has done this before. Sounds to me like he'd love to see shelters and rescues limited in how many animals they could save - it would mean a better market for his supporters.

Brent

Eric, I'm certainly not going to come on here and defend Munzlinger - and confess that I don't know him and have never talked to him, so any "motive" would be pure conjecture on my part and this well could be a purely "gotcha" thing from him.

That said, there would be legitimate, logical reasons for both of his pieces of legislation.

For the one that's already passed, I've documented a ton here how our lack of enforcement of current laws is the primary problem with the 'puppy mill' issue here in Missouri. In order to get more enforcement, they have to get $$ from somewhere, and removing the exemption for shelters and rescues paying the licensing fees would help raise revenue, and help increase enforcement -- and would be paid for by the people that likely would benefit the most by the increased enforcement (and on a side note, I think it would encourage more rescues to consolidate so we would have fewer 2 and 3 person rescues and more 10-15 person rescues). I really don't have a huge problem with the lost fee exemption in general (the fee starts at $100, so it's not huge), but don't love that it adds a $1 fee for each adopted animal while there is no $1 fee for killing the animal. I realize they did this so large shelters would pay more than smaller ones, but I don't like the disincenting saving the lives of animals.

As for the Prop B provisions applying to shelters, that too, in theory, could make sense. If you listened to the proponents of Prop B they kept talking about all of the provisions being necessary to ensure quality care for the animals. In theory then, shouldn't this apply to shelter and rescue animals as well as commercial breeders? And isn't it at least a little hypocritical that we would want higher standards on commercially raised dogs than the rescue community is willing to apply to themselves? It actually does make theoretical sense to apply it to all animals to improve their conditions everywhere (unless the goal was really less to improve how animals were cared for than punishing breeders for the act of breeding).

And I guess the application of this helps show where I think some of the biggest problems of Prop B were in the first place in that there were some core provisions in Prop B that are not very fair or workable (and no, I'm not talking about the proper food and water or kennel size type of stuff which seems completely workable).

So, again, conjecture on my part, but I would project that Munzlinger's motives are more to show the unfairness of certain parts of the law more so than a true desire to truly limit shelters and rescues...

MichelleD

"I was more than willing to accept that this fallout from Prop B was predictable and inevitable until that tiny little point at the end - when we find out that Munzlinger has done this before. " Well if its happened before why are you not willing to accept its predictable it would happen again? I don't understand..

However, the shelter fee increase was not voted into place until Prop B was well on its way (Spring 10). The "opponents" knew about it Fall 2009 (actually, I think earlier than that). The people passing this should have bought a clue that Prop B would not be passed without reprocussions.

Shelley

Representative Munzlinger's bill is vindictive and petty. He's angry at HSUS so he targets Missouri rescues and shelters, though none are associated with HSUS. Such actions should be beneath a representative of the state.

More importantly, the bill is unenforceable, and Munzlinger should know this.

There is another statute in the dog laws that requires law enforcement personnel to round up unlicensed dogs, hold them for a week, and then euthanize them if they aren't claimed. This means municipal shelters HAVE to take the dogs, and hold for at least a week.

Some areas have hundreds, even thousands of homeless dogs. The Kansas City privatized shelter gets between 650 and 700 dogs a month.

Because of the law, though, they can't turn dogs away. Because of the law, they can't even forgo capturing dogs even if the shelters are full.

His bill sets up a conflict within state laws, which invalidates it.

As a representative, he should _know_ this. I have to assume this is nothing more than wasting government time on making "a point".

Shame that we have such among Missouri representatives.

Brent

Incidentally Shelly, I would say that a lot of the folks on the other side of the coin would also call some of the statutes of Prop B "petty and vindictive".

To play the contrarian for a second, if the point of Prop B was to improve the living conditions of dogs, then why would these same stipulations not also apply to shelters? Certainly there are shelters in the state that are not doing a very good job caring for animals -- and cram multiple dogs into small crates and not providing adequate vet care or proper food and water. Should these animals not be protected too?

While I don't necessarily disagree with you on Munzlinger's motives, it does seem disingenous to me that you, as a very vocal supporter of Prop B, would say it's about the care of dogs, but then be SOOOOO disgusted by it when it is then applies to animals in shelters.

I'm certainly no fan of Munzlinger's law....but I think the flip of this shows the lack of fairness of prop B, and the lack of truly pure motives on the most die-hard advocates for Prop B...because I don't think it was every about really how the dogs were cared for...and was always about punishing breeders.

And I think the lack of any desire by the most vocal of supporters of Prop B (which never really addressed the real problem of lack of enforcement) to compromise has led them down this patch. I think there is a lot of room for compromise here that would really benefit the animals (remember them?) but am afraid stubbornness on both sides may end up creating an even worse mess.

Rita

Well, what's good for the goose...... Shelters and rescues should have no problems complying with Prop B. After all HSUS' Barbara Schmitz kept saying that it was just a 'common sense measure'.

Shelley

Brent and Rita, I tried to respond to your comment, but the comment system here wouldn't accept my comment, but I can't tell why.

If you want to hear my views, I guess you'll have to read my own weblog. Not pushing it, but I don't know how to respond with a restrictive system.

Shelley

Brent and Rita, Missouri is not known for the "bad shelter capital of the US", nor the "really awful rescue capital of the US". We're known as the puppy mill capital of the US. Proposition B is specific to a persistent problem we have in Missouri, and that's puppy mills.

In one of the audits about the Department of Agriculture by the Missouri Secretary of State, the department was asked why it didn't always inspect shelters. Because, they answered, they rarely had any problems with shelters.

Shelters do have to follow all of the existing laws. So why are we "picking" on commercial dog breeders, so to speak?

Well, let's explore this by checking to see if there are differences between shelters and dog breeders.

As an example, what are the differences between a large scale breeder, such as USDA customer NO 4364 and a shelter like the Humane Society of Missouri?

One difference is that the dogs aren't bred at HSMO. As soon as dogs are old enough, or healthy enough, they're spayed or neutered. Any puppies are those turned over to the shelter.

Why don't the shelters breed the dogs? Because the shelters aren't in the business of breeding dogs for commercial gain.

What's another difference? Well, hopefully, dogs aren't at HSMO for more than a few months. HSMO actively seeks good homes for the dogs. They also work with foster homes for the dogs, as well as other rescues in the state, and even other states. All for the dogs.

Not the commercial breeder. They'll keep the dog until no longer useful or profitable. They have no interest in "finding a good home" for the dog. If they get rid of the dog, they'll try to sell it, either privately or via auction.

What's another difference?

Well, another difference is the one I mentioned earlier, about shelter inspections. How many shelters have been closed down in Missouri? How many shelters have had 34 pages of violations, like customer 4364?

Not all shelters are perfect, and some shelters have not been good, but the vast majority, especially in this state, are very good. And the reason why is yet another difference between 4364 and HSMO.

Customer 4364 is in dog breeding for the money. HSMO, however, is in it for the dogs. Well, also cats, gerbils, rabbits, and other animals that need a home or help.

Proposition B is a refinement of existing laws. The primary reason for the refinements is because too many dog breeders find their ways around the gaps in the existing laws, in order to maximize profits, and minimize costs.

So where do we compromise? Do we deny the dogs fresh air and a little room to move about? Do we deny them shelter from the weather? A warm place to sleep when the weather is cold, like now?

Do we compromise on how often they're bred, so they can never recover between breeding cycles? To help prevent the tumors that happen when dogs are bred too frequently?

Do we compromise on solid floors, so dogs can live on wire floors that wear their pads, and tear at their claws? Or work their way loose and damage their eyes, and scrape raw wounds in their backs?

Is the compromise in the veterinarian care? When the dogs are ill or badly hurt, should we deny them care?

Do we compromise on the access to fresh, clean water? Wholesome food?

You're saying we're supposed to compromise, but all we care about is the dogs. Are you telling us to stop caring about the dogs?

Shelley

OK, did take the comment. Sorry.

Brent

Shelley,

I think your comment, to a T, exactly describes my biggest issue with the proponents of Prop B who refuse to make any changes.

In all of your "do we compromise" statements, you never even addressed the two biggest issues most people have with the law. How convenient that you never mention the 50 dog limit...or that having "unfettered access" to the outdoors when it is 5 degress and snowing outside would be a death wish for puppies.

Nope, never mentioned it.

And failure to even acknowledge this (which Pacelle has been great at doing as well http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2011/01/let-prop-b-stand.html) shows a complete lack of interest in having honest dialogue -- and is why no one trusts the advocates for the law. It's because you completely ignore the biggest problems with the law as if compromise is ridiculous -- even though it is misleading (at best) to pretend those are the only parts of Prop B.

And once you show yourself as untrustworthy and unwilling to have honest conversation about what's best for the dogs -- and at the same time, preface it with several paragraphs for why dog breeders should be treated differently (which is because you dislike people who breed)-- then you open yourself up for exactly the types of retribultion laws that are being proposed.

The lack of honesty about what's in the law is why people don't trust HSUS and the other proponents....and this earned lack of trust could potentially ruin rescues in the state. Yes, there are viable solutions that would then address the actual problems (which is lack of enforcement based on every unbiased source). We could make a huge change for animals....but being dishonest about it will not be helpful.

Shelley

Brent, I didn't mention half a dozen things. I have been addressing many of these items, both at my web site, and in a guest column I did at the Columbia Missourian.

http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2011/01/14/guest-commentary-separating-myths-and-facts-prop-b/

As for the 50 dog limit, what makes you think this isn't a compromise?

The 50 dog limit is small enough to ensure that the dogs get the care they need, while still allowing the breeders to have enough intact dogs in order to still make a living.

Personally, I think 50 is still too much. However, I can also understand about the need to ensure sufficient revenue for existing breeders.


Brent

But in your big commentary, you conveniently left it out. As did Pacelle in his commentary. Pretty convenient to leave that out IMO and a pretty major point to just ignore.

So if the point of the ordinance is to make sure the dogs are well cared for (because "all we care about is the dogs") -- then why have the 50 dog limit at all? If the dogs are well-cared for, and the facility hires staff to care for them, then does it matter if they have 50, or 500?

It appears as if this is a "compromise" to you because you hate them breeding and would like the number to be zero....but if it's really about the dogs, then it should be about the care the dogs received, not arbitrary numbers.

Like I said, you can be honest about what's best for the dogs and what's not, or, you can continue to skip the major points of the ordinance and make everyone realize why you're not trustworthy....but then don't act like you've been "compromising" over something you shy away from admitting is even in the law. It's disingenuous and why the rescue community is potentially getting screwed by this....because they're getting lumped in with people like you.

Shelley

Lumped in with people like me?

Brent are you interested in a dialog, or in generating false controversy?

People like me are nothing more than citizens of Missouri that voted on Proposition B because we knew it was the right thing to do. So if you want to "lump" folks, you'll need to start with at least 51.6% of the voters in the last election. That's a pretty darn big lump.

I covered the limit in both the Missourian and here. Others have also responded about the limit. You don't like the answer but don't try to pretend we didn't answer.

You say the breeders can just hire staff. What you fail to comprehend is that they rarely do. Of if they do, it's intermittent, at best.

You say as long as they're cared for, but typically they aren't. If enough room isn't provided in cages, then breeders have to have a 'vet approved exercise plan'. Tell me something: do you want to say that a breeder is going to exercise 500 dogs a day? How many people do you think should be hired?

So what would be the compromise, then? That a breeder has to hire so many bodies for so many dogs? Let's say one fulltime person for every 50 dogs?

Then they'll say, why this kid or that kid is the extra body...but there is no way for an inspector to verify that this kid or that is actually doing anything.

The Missouri laws are full of gaps where noble sounding words are given about the care of the dogs, but the problem is these noble sounding words are almost impossible to enforce.

Rules and regulations must be worded in such a way that inspectors can ensure the rules and regulations are met. The existing laws are not.

We can't verify that every day, so many people are caring for the dogs. All we can verify is that one owner can care for 50 or fewer dogs.

Every one of the Prop B regulations is targeted at a specific gap in existing laws. Gaps where the inspector can not verify compliance.

And that includes the 50 dog limit.

Brent

Shelley,

But if the dogs aren't getting the proper exercise, or the proper care, why not THEN deal with the enforcing the laws, vs enforcing the 50 dog limit because you just don't think they will take care of them.

Meanwhile, the exact same argument could be made for shelters and rescues. While you say they aren't a problem, there is no way to be sure they are properly caring for all of the animals they have or hiring appropriate staffing. I know for sure that the KCMO Shelter doesn't hire appropriate staff (they do have a group of volunteers that are bailing them out). So then why shouldn't the laws apply to the shelters to to provide a safety net for the animals there? The same loopholes you're talking about still exist on the shelter/rescue side, why not close them too?

Meanwhile, the 50 dog limit also sets up the most opportunities for more problems down the road when many of these breeders downsize (either by creating more breeding operations or by filling our shelters with animals) and also legally, as I'm pretty sure a government interference in business that actually puts a limit on how many items a business can sell would be virtually unprecedented government over-reach on business and would likely be overturned in the courts.

Again, I'm not saying that some changes shouldn't have been made. I think there were some pretty easy and fair ones that could have been made that wouldn't have been fought nearly this hard. I also think some of the changes could have helped solve some of the enforcement issues. Heck, I even think that if some compromises were made the whole law would be much stronger and the animals would benefit. But anyone who looks at Prop B as if it is the perfectly written law that no changes could make better is delusional. You've mentioned the Better Business Bureau Report on your blog and yet, Prop B, doesn't address a single one of the recommendations proposed by the BBB. Why? And could we drop some of the more controversial provisions and replace them with the BBB recos and come out in a better spot? I certainly think so...and I think outside of a very vocal few, most would agree, even if they didn't all agree on exactly what provisions were made. But standing on the sword of Prop B being unchangable is going to prove to be very problematic for a lot of folks.

MichelleD

"Every one of the Prop B regulations is targeted at a specific gap in existing laws. Gaps where the inspector can not verify compliance. " - how about the reg that you have to feed the dogs once a day as opposed to the current reg stating you have to feed them twice. How does that help? To me, that just shows that no one really analyzed what was on the books - this is just canned legislation.

The dogs at the KCMO shelter would not get out of their kennels if it weren't for the vols. So yeah Stacey, you've convinced me. We need a 50 dog limit for EVERYONE. Maybe we should limit Nike's production of shoes to make sure they're not over-working those Chinese kids. But please do explain how this will hold up in court...

"We can't verify that every day, so many people are caring for the dogs. All we can verify is that one owner can care for 50 or fewer dogs. " Since we can't verify the bad apples are doing what is right we will just damn everyone and count them guilty from the get go - because hey they're evil breeders. Sound like BSL folks? Sound like the same justification of pet limits to you? What else should we restrict because we can't control, oh I mean, "verify" that people are doing exactly what we want them to do?

MichelleD

I'm not even going to continue reading Shelley's blog. Get this: "Summary: Funding for Proposition B is already covered by existing laws."

Shelley

Brent, I don't know how to be more clear: when you have regulations that can't be enforced, you have to change the regulations.

How do you regulate dogs being exercised? You can't. Why? Because there's no way for an inspector to verify, at a glance, that the dogs are being individually exercised. All you can do is mandate the space to ensure that they have enough room to move about and get exercise.

How do you ensure each dog gets the individual attention it needs per day? To ensure that the dog is inspected by the care takers daily so that they can spot injuries or illness, or loss of weight, or other problems?

The breeders can say, "Oh, I have people that come in to help me, they just aren't here at the moment", but the inspectors can't verify this.

So what you do is lower the number of dogs so that even if the owner has hired no one, there should be enough time in the day for the one owner to make this inspection.

All you can do with regulations is modify the ones that are not enforceable, and make them enforceable.

As for the shelters, there is one significant difference between them and commercial breeders: material gain. The motivation behind the shelters is caring for the dog (or meeting municipal mandates and laws). The motivation behind commercial dog breeding is financial gain.

You seem to trivialize this difference, but it redefines the entire context of how dog care exists in each of these environments.

You also seem to gloss over, repeatedly, the point I made about the fact that municipal shelters _have_ to take dogs, no matter how many they have in the shelter. They have to, or be in violation of the law.

MichelleD, and in the Missourian I quote chapter and verse, literally chapter and verse, where the funding occurs for Proposition B. Do you have anything specific and factual to refute my statement?

You talk about dogs getting out of their pens at the shelters only because of volunteers--and you seem to think this is a problem.

Well, the funding for most rescues and shelters also is from contributions. Contributions or tax payer money, and there's not a lot of tax payer money to go around.

Evidently you and Brent seem to think this is "wrong". I've always thought generosity was a good thing, myself, but to each their own.

Regardless, there's a huge difference between dogs in places where the emphasis is getting the dogs into individual homes, and dogs being kept for their entire lives in places, purely for financial gain.

Can you not see the difference in the context, at all?

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