Prosecution Bark Alert

Puppy mill protest

Update: June 29, 2009: Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and state Department of Agriculture Director Jon Hagler have kicked off Prosecution Bark Alert.

Fighting Missouri’s reputation as the Puppy Mill Capital of America, the two officials have announced a plan to protect animals from breeders that are unlicensed or fail to comply with animal care laws – or both. 

This year the Missouri legislature failed to pass a bill, HB 1004, discussed more fully below, that would have increased regulations for the puppy mill industry. Scathing audits in 2001 and 2004 and recently in 2008 of Missouri’s commercial dog breeding inspection programs revealed virtually non-existent enforcement of the state’s current animal care laws, the Animal Care Facilities Act, RSMo, §§273.325-.357 and 2 CSR 30-9.010-.030.

Missouri was one of the first states to regulate commercial dog breeders. It continues to have the most puppy mills, nearly 3,000 facilities with state licenses.  Find USDA licensed Missouri breeders and dealers here. It is not known how many remain unlicensed.

Puppies are big business in Missouri with estimated revenues of $250 million.

The current state law requires commercial dog breeders with 4 or more intact females to obtain a license annually. Annual inspections are required, but the state only has about a dozen inspectors for all animal care facilities. The state has the authority to refuse to renew or revoke the license of any breeder that fails to provide care consistent with USDA or state regulations; is convicted of an animal protection law or makes a "[m]aterial and deliberate misstatement" in the application for a license or renewal.

Koster and Hagler hope stepped up enforcement  of these existing laws will control the breeders, stop the suffering and help Missouri become known once again as the "Show Me State" and not "Puppy Mill Capital of America".

Update May 20: The Missouri legislature has adjourned for the year. The puppy mill bill, HB 1004, was assigned to a special standing Committee on Emerging Issues in Animal Agriculture but did not advance further.

Read the report below for more on this bill and Missouri’s puppy mills.   

Original report:  Missouri may turn to new legislation to help control the numerous puppy mills that have earned the state the name "Puppy Mill Capital of America".

A new bill called the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, H.B. 1004, sponsored by Misouri state Rep. Beth Low, would toughen existing standards and add new ones.  The most notable feature of the bill is that dog breeders would be prohibited from breeding or raising for sale more than 50 intact dogs over four months of age at any time.

Any person violating the provisions of the bill would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to 180 days, or both. 

Dogs could not be bred in consecutive heat cycles or before they are one year of age. 

Veterinary Care

Dogs would be required to be examined by a licensed veterinarian at least once each year or before each attempt to breed them. They would be required to be given "prompt treatment" for illness and injuries and humane euthanasia could only be "performed only by a licensed veterinarian using techniques identified as acceptable by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and in accordance with applicable federal and state laws".

Missouri puppy millExercise

Dogs would have to be exercised at least one hour each day. Exercise would mean removing them from their primary enclosure and allowing them to move the entire time or giving them access to an area 4 times the size of their cage. 

The Cages

As for the cages each dog would be required to have "[s]ufficient room … to turn and stretch freely, lie down, and fully extend his or her limbs simultaneously with other dogs in the enclosure". "Turn and stretch freely" would be defined to mean "the ability, without touching the side of an enclosure, to stand on hind legs or on all fours and turn in a complete circle without any impediment, including a tether". 

Cages could not be stacked and could not be more than 42 inches off the floor. Flooring could not be made of wire but could be slatted with up to ½ inch between slats. Each cage would be required to be 3 times longer than the longest dog with 6 inches of headroom for each dog.

Protection from the weather

The bill would also require temperatures in the mill to remain between 50 and 85 degrees F. Dogs would be required to have "sufficient protection from heat, cold, rain, snow, and other elements to ensure proper health and safety".

Food and water

The bill defines adequate food and water to mean "sufficiently nutritious food at least once a day to maintain good health, and access to potable water that is not frozen and is free of debris, feces, and other contaminants".