The landmark ballot initiative now law thanks to Missouri voters, requires dog breeders to meet certain humane standards, including by reducing the number of dogs held for breeding to no more than 50.
It doesn’t seem like much to ask for dogs, our friends and companions. But the initiative was fiercely opposed by breeders, agri-business, even the National Rifle Association.
Missouri’s new law should inspire Ohioans, New Yorkers, and others to pass similar legislation. After all, it is to those states that basically allow puppy mills to flourish unchecked that Missouri’s puppy millers are now now likely to go. From a shelter director in New York state about the threat of dog breeders moving there from MissouriÂ in the wake of Prop B…. Check out McKenzie’s Law, a billÂ now pending in Ohio, to shut down cruel puppy mills and help us pass this legislation for Ohio’s dogs.
For more information about Missouri’s Prop B, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.
Aug. 3, 2010: The Missouri Secretary of State has now certified the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act" to appear on the November, 2010 ballot in Missouri! The initiative will be called Proposition B on the ballot.
More than 190,000 signatures were delivered to the Secretary of State.
If the ballot initiative is approved by voters, it would be a new law regulating commercial dog breeders in Missouri.
About the proposed initiative
"The purpose of this Act [would be] 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, [space], and regular exercise."
The ballot initiative is spearheaded by a political action committee, Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, a coalition of the Humane Society of Missouri, Humane Society of the United States, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation.
The new law would not apply to those who breed and sell hunting dogs, dogs "during lawful scientific research", dogs receiving veterinary treatment or during exercise or cleaning of their enclosures, pet stores, animal rescues or shelter, hobby or show breeders who have custody of no more than ten female covered dogs for the purpose of breeding those dogs and selling any offspring for use as a pet; dog trainers who do not breed and sell any dogs for use as a pet. The new law would also not apply during transportation or in an emergency.
Significantly, the ballot initiative would limit licensed dog breeders to 50 breeding dogs. A dramatic reduction in numbers for many of Missouri’s puppy mills which may house hundreds or even thousands of breeding dogs. The state is believed to be the puppy mill capital of America. Missouri puppy mills bring in an estimated $250 million a year.
Other noteworthy provisions: Dogs must have at least 12 square feet of indoor floor space per each dog up to 25 inches long; at least 20 square feet of indoor floor space per each dog between 25 and 35 inches long; and at least 30 square feet of indoor floor space per each dog for dogs 35 inches and longer (with the length of the dog measured from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail). There must be at least one foot of headroom above the head of the tallest dog in the enclosure.
Temperatures must be kept between 45 and 85 degrees F.
Dogs would be required to have "unfettered access" to an exercise area.
Necessary veterinary care including an examination once a year would be required.
Other states now limit the numbers of breeding dogs kept by commercial breeders
Virginia, Louisiana, Washington and Oregon all now limit the number of breeding animals that can be kept for breeding pets for sale. Similar limits are pending in Massachusetts and New York. This year California’s legislature passed a bill limiting the number of breeding dogs per commercial breeder to 50, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it.
Current Missouri regulations
The Animal Care Facilities Act RSMo §§273.325-357 and 2 CSR 30-9.010-030 has been in effect in Missouri since 1992. The Act requires commercial dog breeders with 4 or more female dogs used for breeding, 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.
The standards of care are very minimal. Dogs can be crowded into cages and even tethered. The standards do little more than require puppy millers to maintain animals in conditions that won’t cause injury, infestation or disease.
The space and exercise provisions are the same as for USDA licensed breeders, meaning crowded conditions with no exercise. For example, exercise is not required if dogs are crowded into cages that provide "at least one hundred percent (100%) of the required space for each dog if maintained separately".
The space for each dog is calculated as follows: Find the mathematical square of the sum of the length of the dog in inches (measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail) plus six inches (6"); then divide the product by one hundred forty-four (144). (A little more space is required for dogs with nursing puppies.)
As another example, the exercise requirement is also satisfied if a dog housed alone has twice this minimal space.
There are minimal standards for sanitation, cleaning, lighting, ventilation, fire protection, water, food, and shelter from extreme temperatures and shade or protection from snow, rain or hail.
Otherwise, puppy millers are directed to follow "normal animal husbandry practices".
The state licenses 1,082 commercial breeders. The USDA also requires licensing of some commercial breeders and dealers. Find USDA licensed Missouri breeders and dealers here. The federal USDA does not, however, require licensing of commercial breeders that sell dogs directly to the public through newspaper ads or over the Internet. Go here for information about the Animal Welfare Act and its regulations.
Authorities believe there are several hundred commercial dog breeder operating in Missouri without a license. Animal welfare advocates say there could be as many as 2,000-3,000 unlicensed dog breeders in the state. In 2001 and again in 2004 then state auditor and now U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, issued scathing reports condemning the state’s inspections of puppy mills and lax enforcement of the Animal Care Facilities Act. A 2008 audit showed little improvement.
This past year after the state legislature once again failed to pass new laws similar to the ballot initiative proposals, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, Director of Agriculture Dr. Jon Hagler and Attorney General Chris Koster launched a program known as "Operation Bark Alert". Under this program the public can report alleged violations of the Animal Care Facilities Act. As a result of this program, the Attorney General reports 50 cases are under consideration for prosecution and there are 150 fewer unlicensed dog breeders.
Missouri state Rep. Jim Viebrock, who usually opposes animal welfare legislation, condemned the ballot initiative as a "train wreck…. just loaded with a lot of emotional stuff".
The proposed law would make first time violations a Class C misdemeanor. Those who have violated the law previously would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for a subsequent violation.
As they usually do when faced with the spectre of providing humane care and treatment for the animals they profit from, some puppy millers in Missouri are threatening to put down or kill their dogs. Rescues and shelters will be ready and waiting, however, to try to help find these dogs good homes.