Animal rights supporters and the dog breeding industry will go head-to-head in Missouri this November, as a bill known as Proposition B pushes for stricter guidelines for the breeding industry.
According to ASPCA Midwest Director Kyle Held, a former member of the Humane Society of Missouri, the proposed bill is simply a set of "common sense" guidelines for breeders.
"As far as the ASPCA's stance...it is basically a common sense upgrade for the puppy mill standards," Held said, listing adequate food, adequate water, adequate shelter, and better medical care as some of the top priorities of the proposition. "They have actually written in that every dog has to have a certain period of exercise now, the stacked cages kind of go away. The size of the enclosures improve. Everything that we are really shooting for is kind of a common sense thing that should be in place anyway."
Held said the new proposition would only affect licensed and unlicensed breeders.
"There are about 3,000 breeders in the State of Missouri, which is about 30 percent of the population of breeders," Held said, adding that the number of breeders in Missouri is "way above any other state in the union.
"We have some regulatory stuff with the [Missouri Department of Agriculture], we just need to improve some of the standards, which is what we are trying to do."
Held said the proposition includes an animal cap, allowing breeders to only have 50 breeding animals.
"Most of your reputable breeders in the state have less than 50 dogs anyway," Held said. "Really, the only thing the cap affects is sub-standard breeders anyway."
Held said the proposition also puts guidelines in place regarding the breeding cycle, allowing females to have no more than two litters within 18 months.
"The only other thing that it really does, which is more of a common sense thing also, is it allows for a breeding female to be taken out of the cycle," Held said. "It can't be bred every cycle, which is a bad trait of most of the puppy mills. They just breed them and breed them and breed them and breed them. That is not good for the dog.
"This proposition does allow them to be taken out of the cycle every other time. That improves the quality of life also."
Held said the proposition is not so much about hurting the dog breeding industry as it is about improving the quality of life for the animals.
"Like I said, everything that we are asking for on the proposition is pretty common sense stuff. I don't want to shut down breeders, I just want to improve the quality of life for the animals while they are there."
Oppositions of the proposed bill claim that the new guidelines are too strict, and could put many legitimate breeders out of business.
According to Kara Crass, a breeder from Jenkins, Mo., who recently wrote the Daily Dunklin Democrat, the proposition is "intentionally aimed at misleading Missouri's voters."
"It's not about basic humane care, we already have regulations in place for that. Twenty-three pages of regulations," Crass said. "It's about limiting the number of dogs a breeder can own. It's about creating unrealistic space requirements that will prove so cost inhibitive that most breeders will not be able to comply."
According to Crass, a number does not define humanity.
"Animal welfare is about the quality of care given to animals, not the number of dogs a person owns or even if they make money selling puppies," Crass said. "This proposition does nothing and has no provisions in place to find and stop puppy mills. The only ones that will suffer are the responsible breeders that go out of their way to follow the laws we already have."
In her argument against the proposition, Crass urges everyone to "please be informed before you vote," adding that there are "several resources for you out there."
"We all have a voice and we all have the ability to find out the facts for ourselves," Crass said. Do not let anyone make you feel like you are a 'bad person' or a 'dog hater' if you vote 'no' on Proposition B. Voting 'no' does not mean that you approve of puppy mills or inhumane conditions for dogs. None of us approve of puppy mills. However, no issue is completely black and white. This proposition is written to 'throw out the baby with the bath water.' It just doesn't make sense."
According to the Missouri Secretary of State's Web site, the purpose of Proposition B is to "prohibit the cruel and inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills by requiring large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with basic food and water, adequate shelter from the elements, necessary veterinary care, adequate space to turn around and stretch his or her limbs, and regular exercise."
The proposition goes on to say that any person having custody or ownership of more than ten female covered dogs for the purpose of breeding those animals and selling any offspring for use as a pet shall provide each covered dog:
* Sufficient food and clean water;
* Necessary veterinary care;
* Sufficient housing, including protection from the elements;
* Sufficient space to turn and stretch freely, lie down, and fully extend his or her limbs;
* Regular exercise, and;
* Adequate rest between breeding cycles.
If the act passes, violators will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, unless the defendant has previously pled guilty to or been found guilty of a violation of this section, in which case each such violation is a class A misdemeanor. Each violation of this section shall constitute a separate offense. If any violation of this section meets the definition of animal abuse in section 578.012, the defendant may be charged and penalized under that section instead.
Ultimately, this November the public will be the deciding factor in the, "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act." If passed, the new guidelines will go into effect one year after passage.
For more on the proposed statute, log on to http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2010peti...