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Dear Missouri,

Thank you for passing Proposition B, the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.” For a while I wasn’t sure that it was going to pass. But it did — with rather narrow margins. Last I checked, 51.6% of Missouri voters opposed inhumane breeders, while 48.4% were in favor of continued cruelty.

Yes, I am generalizing on your behalf by saying that if you voted the act down, you are complicit in the perpetuation of a system that condones cruelty. You are denying acknowledgment of a problem that exists because you are quibbling over petty, and in some cases, spurious details. You’ve been cowed by your own hallucinations of some conspiracy manufactured by Those Crazy Animal Rights Activists With Acronyms. You are blinded by your own paranoia about how gubbament OUTSIDERS are gonna go after yr hunting dogs and milkcows next! Meanwhile, a system that is obviously broken continues unchecked, and you’re going to cast a vote that basically declares that nothing needs to change?!

Thank goodness 51.6% of you do NOT totally make me want to give up on humanity.

Not that I believe this act alone is going to make any immediate or discernible changes. But it is a statement that can be amped up and made more visible with the right kind of publicity. My own comments on Proposition B aren’t worth two damns, but it does make me feel a little better to get this written down and to know that an opinion like mine is floating out there amongst the grumbles and gripes of those reading about its passage in the morning headlines.

From what I’ve gathered from comments in direct opposition to Proposition B, there are commercial breeders who see little qualitative difference between 10 and 50 dogs (now the maximum number of intact dogs allowed on site, according to this act), or 50 and a hundred dogs as some of these “responsible” breeders claim to legally possess. To me, the difference between 50 and 51 dogs is not arbitrary; it’s all too much, even when basic facility standards are in place, which is all that the text of Proposition B is trying to get on record.

I’ve been at facilities where there were approximately 50 roaming dogs on site, where the dogs were rescues and so mostly already fixed, cage-free whenever possible, well fed and watered and cared for by a whole staff of unpaid volunteers who genuinely opened their hearts to these dogs. Yet, there was still excrement everywhere that had to be cleaned daily, the dogs were a little stir-crazy from being around each other all day (as there certainly wasn’t enough manpower to take them all for walks!), and it was generally not a good environment because it was so noisy and crowded. But these dogs made do, because they had to, and because we believed they would eventually find good, loving homes as soon as possible.

Dogs kept solely for breeding purposes, regarded by the law and by their “owners” as being on the same level as livestock or a means of income, lead a very different kind of life.

There is no way that a single breeder can provide much more than the minimum for all her dogs when she has that many on site at once. Not unless they’re hiring extra help, even if it’s [extended] family, and at that point, profit motives cannot help but to undermine the quality of care received.

I don’t need gruesome and heart-rending pictures to realize this qualitative difference between a commercial breeder with that many dogs on site, and what a responsible, ethical breeder should look like. For the record, I am not against good breeders who proudly meet the highest standards. As for commercial breeders, I draw my conclusions based on publicly circulating information, common sense, logic, and a bit of empathy.

I would rather see commercial dog breeders find another way to make a living. I don’t want to live in a world that permits that kind of livelihood to exist at its current scale.

It terrifies me that I live in the same world as people who think puppy mills are okay, let alone “necessary” just because they satisfy a perpetually self-renewing market of uninformed puppy buyers.

It also deeply disturbs me that geography and demographics can apparently determine so much about the way people express their beliefs through their vote.

Image captured from Missouri Secretary of State website

This Proposition passed largely on the power of the electorate in urban areas surrounding St. Louis, Kansas City… and the Bootheel (?). Somehow, I doubt that’s where the majority of USDA-licensed puppy mills with stacks of dirty dogs in small cages are located. I’d check the muddy brown, poop-colored counties instead… all the ones that found it in their heart to vote No on Proposition B.

Edited to add a link to current state laws on Missouri Animal Care Facilities, accessible in .pdf form here. Proposition B does not nullify or completely replace existing laws, but adds some new provisions that weren’t there before (like an upper limit on the number of intact females allowed on site – 50, according to Prop B; no limit, before), changes some previous requirements that were not good enough (amount of space that a kenneled dog should have, exercise and veterinary requirements), and does not propose alterations to much of the existing legislation.

I think existing laws and Prop B can work alongside another alternative aimed at public education and stresses “Operation Bark Alert,” which reports existing unlicensed and noncompliant breeders, hosted by The Missouri Medical Veternary Association. There’s a link to a decent side-by-side comparison of Prop B amendments next to existing laws, but I think they might be working with earlier drafts. They didn’t note that “The provisions of [Proposition B] are in addition to, and not in lieu of, any other state and federal laws protecting animal welfare” as stated on the final ballot. I agree that without proper enforcement, Prop B is more of a rhetorical than a substantial victory; but I also think there’s no such thing as “empty rhetoric” …

And finally, just one of many links I perused while rereading and reconsidering this entry: Shelley Powers at Burningbird provides the most reasoned, organized post I’ve seen. The fact that her blog is free of reader comments actually helps.