The many myths surrounding Proposition B

Recovered from the Wayback machine.

The Columbia Missourian was kind enough to allow me to write a guest column, Separating myths and facts regarding Prop B. In the article I address several of the myths and misunderstandings about Proposition B, including funding, the supposed “slippery slope” that will impact on all farm animals, the Outside Influence that seems to obsess so many people, and that Proposition B will kill puppies.

We had to cut one of the myths out because the article was so large. There are also several other myths and misunderstandings that I didn’t have time and space to cover. Here at Puppies @ Burningbird, I plan on expanding on the myths covered in the Missourian article, as well as cover additional ones in the next week or so.


More bills introduced

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

More bills have been introduced in the Missouri Legislature. Why yes, we must have few problems in Missouri if the state representatives primary concern is revoking regulations to prevent puppy mill cruelty.

SB 95 Modifies Proposition B to the following:

Under current law, the provisions of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act apply only to commercial dog breeders with over 10 breeding females. This act makes the animal care standards applicable to anyone in the state who has more than 10 female dogs over 6 months of age.

Current law prohibits anyone from having more than 50 dogs when the purpose is to breed them and sell the resulting puppies. The act removes the purpose criteria and instead just prohibits anyone from having more than 50 dogs that are over 6 months of age.

The act modifies the title of the act by referring to it as the Puppy Cruelty Prevention Act, modifies the definition of “covered dog”, and removes the definition of “pet.”

Under current law, animal shelters are exempt from the requirements of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. This act removes that exemption.

This makes little sense, other than as a spiteful, petty jab at dog shelters in the state.

What Senator Brian Munzlinger (R, 18), who introduced this bill, doesn’t seem to realize is that there isn’t one dog shelter or rescue in Missouri that isn’t desperately trying to have less than 50 dogs. Every shelter and rescue would absolutely love to have fewer than 50 dogs.

In addition, public shelters can’t restrict the number of dogs they have: they’re mandated by county or town laws to take any and all dogs.

Both public and non-profit shelters incur expenses for every dog they take in. Unlike commercial breeders, rather than profit by the number of dogs they have, shelters lose money. For public shelters, this typically means more taxpayer money going to care for the dogs. However, if the public and non-profit shelters don’t take the dogs, they roam the street: homeless, potentially dangerous, and definitely suffering from cold, hunger, illness, and injury.

Perhaps someone needs to instruct the good Senator in basic economics and humanity. Or responsible legislation.

SB 113 Amends Proposition B

I had missed this one earlier. SB 113 modifies Proposition B as follows:

Current law prohibits anyone from having more than 50 dogs when the purpose is to breed them and sell the resulting puppies. The act removes this prohibition.

The act modifies many of the act’s definitions.

Under current law, anyone subject to the act’s provisions who violates the act commits the crime of puppy mill cruelty, which is a class C misdemeanor. The act gives breeders who are properly licensed a grace period of between 30 and 180 days in which to correct serious violations of the act before being charged with the crime. The act also requires the Department of Agriculture to conduct two follow-up inspections on any properly licensed breeder who is found to have committed a serious violation of the act. The department may revoke the commercial breeder’s license of a breeder who fails to correct a serious violation after the second inspection.

The act contains an emergency clause.

Of course, the problems with this amendment is that this actually adds a significant burden to an already overburdened team of inspectors. In addition, breeders are given 30 to 180 days to correct a serious violation.

Consider what a “serious violation” is? Sick and injured dogs not seen by a vet; dogs freezing in this cold weather; emaciated dogs; dehydrated dogs—if the person who owned the dogs wasn’t a breeder, they would be arrested and charged for animal abuse.

In addition, we will continue to have problems as long as people can own and breed hundreds of dogs at a time. Our shelters can’t continue caring for the dogs worn out or no longer useful for these breeders. And inspection reports show, time and again, that breeders cannot properly care for large numbers of dogs.

Then, if you dig deeper and look at the full text of the bill, you find that it completely removes every single Proposition B provision. Rather than state this upfront in the bill summary, the supporters “hide” what the bill really does in the text of the bill. Not particularly transparent or open. Some could even call such actions, deceitful.

HB 131 Repeal Proposition B and replace the text.

This bill would change the title of the new act, from “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act” to “Dog Breeder Cruelty Prevention Act”. I’m assuming the only reason why is the state representatives who are sponsoring this bill don’t like the term “puppy mill” —even though puppy mill is a common term, and has been legally defined.

That’s just semantics, though. What isn’t is what they did to the rest of Proposition B:

  • Remove both the adequate shelter and veterinarian care provisions.
  • Change the provisions so that the bill only applies if the breeder has more than 100 dogs
  • Remove the section that would allow the dogs to rest between breeding cycles
  • Remove the qualifications on food and water, so that water dishes can continue to have filth and algae, food doesn’t have to be wholesome

They did leave in the misdemeanor charges, but for what? The representatives have basically gutted the entire Proposition B bill, and left in only a few tattered, innocuous pieces. Is this the compromise that Representative Kelly spoke of, earlier in the month?

Algae. How could a person remove a provision that would prohibit algae from growing in water dishes? What kind of person, what kind of state representative, would protest this?

Evidently, the same state representatives who believe continued cruelty to dogs is acceptable.


We are not to blame

The shooting this weekend left many of us shaken. People should be able to go to a Congressional meet and greet without having to wear bullet proof armor. I hope for a complete recovery of those injured, including Congresswoman Giffords, and I’m sad for those killed.

I’m horrified at the events, and and sad at the losses, but I will not indulge in this national flagellation, as we once again overreact to a tragic event.

A sheriff remarks about the violence, hate, and bigotry in our speech; others point out a targeted list by Sarah Palin that had a bullseye aimed at Congresswoman Giffords. The belief seems to be that it was the national dialog that somehow drove this one man to kill. If only we weren’t so violent in our speech with one another; if only we were better.

Yet, those who knew the shooter have stated their fear of the man. One woman showed an email she wrote months ago that described her fear of Loughner, and hoped that he wouldn’t return to class with a gun someday. A former teacher of his also made similar remarks, and the school told him to leave and not to return until he sought medical help.

A psychiatrist looked at the material Loughner posted, and stated the obvious: the man was mentally ill, and most likely schizophrenic. Only time will tell us if he was previously diagnosed, and if so, why wasn’t he on medication.

We also heard that Loughner had attended a political rally of Giffords in 2007, and was unhappy that she didn’t understand what he was trying to say. His online screeds are a gibberish about government mind control and odd fixations on the dangers of illiteracy, and currency.

Jared Loughner is a dangerously disturbed young man who should have been under the care of a doctor. He was a powder keg looking for a place to blow. People may say that the national dialog acted as trigger, but look at the evidence of his own writings and self-made videos: he probably wasn’t even aware of the national dialog.

We do this. A horrible event happens, and we immediately look everywhere but at the instigator for “causes”, when in actuality there are sick people and guns are too easily accessible—a combination that has played out, all too often, in our news. No matter what thee and me do, such tragedies will continue to play out…as long as there are such sick people, and guns are so easily accessible.

Is our political dialog toxic? Of course. Political dialog in this country has been toxic since Adams and Jefferson ran for President 200 years ago: Adams accused Jefferson of incest, rape, and murder.

President Andrew Johnson was impeached because he went on a two week tour and gave speeches.

True, Johnson also had a reputation for being drunk during public appearances (including his own inauguration), and he sometimes used language inappropriate for a president when talking about his foes in Congress. But these improprieties were not his fundamental crime. The basic impropriety motivating this particular article of impeachment was that he stooped to address crowds directly in the first place, that he had reduced himself to the demeaning position of trying to whip up enthusiasm for his preferred policies by the ethically dubious practice of holding popular rallies. In Johnson’s time, making a speech to a crowd on policy questions was thought to be contrary to the dignity proper to the office of the presidency. Sitting presidents avoided doing this, and so did candidates for the presidency.

From Presidential Rhetoric in Historical Perspective.

In the 1826 campaign, the four candidates accused each other of murder, being drunks, and misconduct.

During the 1840 Presidential campaign, both Whigs and Democrats accused each other of being neo-monarchists.

The 1896 campaign was particularly rife with acrimonious rhetoric, as the field of six candidates indulged in open anti-Semitism, and battled over rights for women, immigration reform, business monopolies, and, of all things, currency.

Huey Long was so polarizing, and assumed so much personal power, his opponents formed an armed militia and openly talked about insurrection.

In contrast to the past, today’s political dialog is actually relatively tame. The most acrimonious accusation about President Obama is that he wasn’t born in this country. Really, compared to past accusations of murder and rape, this one is rather bland. It is also nothing more than a surrogate for what some people really want to say: Obama is black, his name is funny, his father is from Africa, he isn’t like us—all things that people would have said, openly and stridently, in the past.

We are nation that is, unfortunately, too familiar with assassinations. One only needs to look at the Wikipedia page associated with assassinated people to see that such events are not uncommon in the US. Yet there are just as many other violent events—in schools, workplaces, shopping malls, and along freeways. The only thing most of these events have in common is a sick person, and too easy access to rapid fire guns with never-ending bullet clips.

But of course, we don’t address the real problems: mental illness and lack of adequate care; too easy access to guns. We don’t address the former because we really don’t want to be reminded of our mentally ill, and we certainly don’t want to spend money on ensuring their care. We don’t talk about the latter because to do so would pit us against NRA. Politicians are scared to death of the NRA. Oh the politicians dress it up by waving the flag and misquoting the Constitution, but the cold hard fact of the matter is that politicians are more afraid of the NRA than they are of being shot in a rally or a parade.

No, it is more expedient to absorb the blame; to point to our “violent dialog” and our rudeness to each other.

Dr. Douglas Fields wrote in the Huffington Post that Americans are rude, and this is our problem, plain and simple. We know his statement is real because he points out brain graphs of teenagers and talks about mental imprinting at birth compared to learned, and how the Japanese are so much more courteous than we are.

I give him the point about the Japanese because most I have met are very courteous, but I don’t give him that Americans are more or less rude than people in many other countries.

Yesterday I had trouble getting a container of milk down from a shelf and holding the glass door open at the same time. A man immediately came over to hold the door for me. Earlier in the week, I got stuck behind a road construction crew, and when I turned on my blinkers to move over into the other lane, a car in that lane slowed down to allow me in. At the grocery store, a woman ended up stuck in a line that moved slower than the one next to it, and a person gestured for her to move over, take the next place in line.

Small simple acts, but ones I see every week, sometimes daily: the stranger who points out the envelope you dropped; the sales clerk who mentions that an item is on sale next week; the many people who inhabit online forums specifically to provide help to people; the anonymous donor who fills a need; those who spend hours writing the software we use without anyone knowing their names, usually without a thank you, and rarely for any compensation—the thousands of times we have sent each other little tweets and notes, just to say hi, to commiserate during a loss, to congratulate during a win, to be there for each other, when we’ve never met, and we will most likely never meet.

Unfortunately, it’s too easy to remember the small acts of rudeness, compared to the small acts of kindness, courtesy, and generosity. But the fact that we remember the rude acts that much more only demonstrates their rarity.

So no, I will not take up the cat-o-nine tails and join in the self-whipping. This event does not change me, nor will it change how I live. I will still argue, passionately, even angrily at times. I will not pretend a respect I do not feel. I will still demand answers from our political leaders, and still hold them accountable for their actions. I am not to blame for Saturday’s event. No, we who argue, who debate, who indulge in this supposed violent dialog are not to blame for Saturday’s event.

Saturday’s tragedy was caused by a sick young man, with too easy access to a gun.


Current bills related to the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

As of this morning, the following bills have been filed in the Missouri General Assembly related to Proposition B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act:

SB 4 – to repeal the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. Sponsored by Senator Bill Stouffer.

HB 94 to repeal the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. Sponsored by Representative Tony Dugger, co-sponsored by Representatives Wells, Fisher, Faith, Fraker, Franz, Pollock, Lichtenegger, Reibolt, Entlicher, Crawford, Cookson, and Gatschenberger.

HB 99 – Exempts all shelters, pounds, kennels, pet shops, facilities, dealers, and breeders licensed under specified statutes prior to November 2, 2011, from the provisions of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. Sponsored by Representative Loehner, co-sponsored by Reiboldt, Schieffer, Rowland, Hinson, Fisher, Phillips, Nance, Fitzwater, Dugger, and Schad.

What these bills tell me is that evidently our state is in great shape, because there are no other pressing matters to take the attention of our state representatives.

These bills also tell me that Proposition B is fine…as long as it isn’t applied to existing breeders. Well, at least the representatives realize that commercial dog breeding is a non-growth industry of little or no importance to the economy of the state. However, if the bill is good enough for future breeders, isn’t it good enough for those currently in business?

The whole point of Proposition B is to eliminate the worst of the dog breeders, not enshrine an exemption for them into our state laws.

Burningbird Standards

The unbearable lightness of new

I’m still delighted with my new Linode VPS. I added one button backup to my plan, and that’s made all the difference in the world. Now, when I’m about to try something tricky, such as setting up a site firewall, I can make a snapshot backup first. Then, if my site gets toasted, I can restore a good copy with a click of a button. Lovely.

After five years I finally broke down a bought a new laptop, a Toshiba. Not only am I trying to find my way around a new machine, but also a new operating system. My current older computers are a PowerPC Mac, and an old Dell running Windows XP.

I saw the writing on the wall about getting a new machine when first, Google wouldn’t create Chrome for the PowerPC, then Microsoft released IE9, but only for Vista and up, and recently, neither Opera nor Firefox would continue supporting PowerPC. Plus, my keyboard is failing on the Mac—forcing me to pound the space key, then the comma, and now the C, V, B keys. You don’t how hard I had to type just to create that last sentence.

What I wasn’t expecting, though, is finding out that some of the open source software I use has not been ported to 64-bit Windows 7. I now have to consider what to use for editing photographs that won’t cost me more than my computer.

Speaking of new, Drupal 7 has released. As I wrote recently, I ported Just Shelley to Drupal 7, but I’m still not ready to port my other sites. My existing theme won’t work with Drupal 7, and I’m not sure if I want to port it, or just continue to use the default or other pre-defined themes. In addition, not all the modules I use have made their way over to Drupal 7.

My new site, Puppies @ Burningbird is based in Drupal 7. I’m happy about using Drupal 7, but less happy about having to create the site.

Unfortunately, bills have been introduced into both the Missouri Senate and the House of Representatives to repeal Proposition B, so the battle has begun anew. If you all like dogs and don’t like puppy mills, I hope you’ll stop by from time to time and leave an encouraging comment. I’m using Disqus to manage the comments, having enjoyed using the services at other sites. I figured if I end up turning off comment support, people still have their comments. Plus, Disqus provides some nice editing and other functionality. I may end up adding Disqus support to other of my sites, over time.

I’m also writing a new change proposal for the HTML5 Working Group. Yes, the more things change, the more they remain the same. I’ll post the proposal when I finish it. And I’m still working on books —no rest for the wicked.