October 21, 2010

Is Prop B Barking Up the Wrong Tree?

On the surface, Proposition B appears to simply be an effort to regulate dog breeders in the state of Missouri. So what is everyone so worked up about?

If all the law is targeting, is better protection for man's best friend, why are the state's leading agriculture groups coming out in opposition of the legislation?

Just like in most cases, the concerns arise in the small print, fueled by apprehension regarding the fact the new law is being pushed by the Humane Society of the United States.

But Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund says in his article in HSUS's Animals & Politics that reputable dog breeders have nothing to fear from the law.

"In the end, it seems that many of those claiming to be responsible breeders spewing falsehoods against Prop B either will not be affected by it at all, or are opposed to putting teeth into the state's dog welfare standards mainly because they are already failing to meet the weak standards provided by current law," he said. "Good breeders who are already abiding by humane standards of care have nothing to fear from Prop B. The measure will not apply to hobby breeders with fewer than ten female dogs, and will not affect farming or hunting in any way."

However, proponents of the bill, such as the Missouri Farm Bureau, point out that the increased regulations are unnecessary because Missouri already has specific laws and regulations governing dog breeders, noting that what Missouri needs is more funding and better state enforcement, neither of which are provided by Proposition B.

"The proposal does absolutely nothing to help put disreputable dog breeders out of business," said Estil Fretwell, director of public affairs for the Missouri Farm Bureau. "They ignore the current law and will likely ignore any new law and regulations as well. Proposition B will, however, put good dog breeders out of business. They comply with the current law and raise dogs in a healthy and clean environment, but as the Missouri Department of Agriculture indicates not one of Missouri's 1,400 or so licensed and inspected dog kennels will be in compliance with the requirements of Proposition B."

Markarian estimates that Missouri is home to more than 3,000 "puppy mills" or roughly 30% of all dog breeders in the country, pointing out that "some of most appalling operations in the state are still licensed as of this year. Missouri voters can join the many responsible breeders, veterinarians and vet clinics across the state, and others who are working to turn around the state's reputation as the puppy mill capital of America, by voting yes on Prop B."

Regardless of HSUS's pledge that the bill has nothing to do with animal agriculture, such entities as the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, the Missouri Dairy Association and the Missouri Farm Bureau have come out against the law, pointing a finger at what they believe is the national organization's past history.

"HSUS, which has an annual budget of over $130 million, spends less than one percent of its funds on the actual care of pets," said Fretwell. "Instead, they use our human emotions and attachments to pets to raise millions of dollars annually to finance their campaigns against farmers and animal agriculture. HSUS and its president, Wayne Pacelle, have an agenda to not only eliminate animal agriculture but also pet ownership."

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