While you were snowbound

We commend the state representatives for slogging along, right in the middle of one of the worst winter storms to hit Missouri in years. On February 2nd, our intrepid representatives managed to hold together long enough to refer HB 281 and HB 332 to the agricultural committee. In addition, the House agricultural committee also held public meetings on HB 100, which basically denies the ability to create any new agricultural regulations, and HJR 3, which would disallow any future citizen initiatives having to do with livestock, including pet animal breeders.

Of course, the public was stuck at home or in traffic, surrounded by snow and ice. Soooo sorry we couldn’t make it to the public meetings. How glad we are that you soldiered through without us…and without our input.

But wait…there’s more…

Our busy little representatives have filed yet another bill to modify Proposition B: HB 405. I haven’t checked it word for word, but it seems to parrot the Senate bill SB 113, which was passed by the Senate agricultural committee last week. Just like the senate bill, HB 405 suggests it is a “modification” when it does nothing more than gut Proposition B. Another devious, deceptive act by our good state representatives.

Let’s not stop there, though. The House also heard the second reading of HJR 17, which is yet another Constitutional amendment to prohibit any new regulations related to agriculture, hunting, or fishing in this state.

No other industry in Missouri receives such protections. Evidently to some Missouri state representatives, Missouri should have no other industry but farming, and probably no other people but farmers. After all, this seems to be the only work being accomplished in Jefferson City.

This flurry of panicked, paranoid bills forces me to the conclusion that our Missouri state representatives are more afraid of happy, fluffy kittens and healthy, cute puppies than al-Queda.



Recovered from the Wayback machine.

The current Proposition B debate in the state legislature has not been a demonstration of openness in government. As I highlighted earlier, the Missouri Senate Agricultural committee has passed a bill to send to the Senate floor that states it’s only a modification, when in actually it completely guts Proposition B. It would have been more honest and straight forward just to come to the floor with a repeal.

Now it’s the House turn, and I don’t hold out hope for openness in this part of the General Assembly. Of the bills proposed, one grandfathers all existing breeders, whether they’re bad or not; others seek to repeal Proposition B—either openly, or in the same underhanded manner displayed so blatantly by the Missouri Senate.

One representative, Chris Kelly (24th District) has published a couple of opinion pieces about seeking compromise on Proposition B. If you look at all of his writings, though, his version of compromise is to eliminate Proposition B entirely and put something else in its place. What that something is won’t be what the people voted for last November.

In a December guest column at the Columbia Missourian, Representative Kelly wrote:

As with virtually all voter petitions, Prop B, being written by only those on one side of the issue, is unbalanced and fatally flawed. Among its several problems, the most glaring is the lack of a funding mechanism. In today’s economic climate no reasonable legislator can justify funding new animal protection over state services like education. Yet this is what we would have to do to actually activate Prop B.

As I pointed out in another guest column at the same publication:

Proposition B is an amendment to Chapter 273 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. When enacted, it will be labeled as section 273.345. An existing Chapter 273 section, section 273.357, reads:

“273.357. All fees collected by the director from licenses issued under sections 273.325 to 273.357 shall be used to administer the provisions of sections 273.325 to 273.357, and shall be deposited in the state treasury to the credit of the “Animal Care Reserve Fund,” which is hereby created. All moneys deposited in the animal care reserve fund shall be subject to appropriation for the use and benefit of the department of agriculture to administer the provisions of sections 273.325 to 273.357. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 33.080 to the contrary, moneys in the animal care reserve fund shall not be transferred to the general revenue fund at the end of the biennium.”

Proposition B is added as 273.345, including it within the range given above. Therefore Proposition B’s funding is already mandated by law.

If existing funding is inadequate for Proposition B, it is inadequate for the existing regulations without Proposition B. Proposition B refines existing inspection criteria; it doesn’t add to the criteria. If anything, Proposition B should lessen the burden on inspectors as it sets an upper limit for breeding dogs, requiring less of the inspector’s time. In addition, we should see a decrease in bad breeders, who take up the majority of inspector time.

This week, Representative Kelly came out with another guest column, Unlicensed breeders at heart of Prop B problem, at the Missourian. Right off the bat, he’s framed the discussion so that the “real” problem is with unlicensed breeders.

Prop B, as passed by the voters, applies only to licensed breeders. Left unaddressed is how to finance the enforcement of licensing requirements. If unlicensed breeders are a major contributor to the conditions that motivated Prop B supporters, and Prop B opponents likewise see a problem with them, shouldn’t we then address the issue of unlicensed breeders?

He then goes on to detail a scheme for catching unlicensed breeders that doesn’t seem to take into account any of the existing laws regarding unlicensed breeders.

More importantly, by redefining the framework for Proposition B—that it’s only for licensed breeders, and the “real” problem is unlicensed breeders—he seems to dismiss Proposition B’s usefulness with all bad breeders, regardless of license. Yet there’s nothing, nothing at all, in Proposition B that states it is only for licensed breeders.

Representative Kelly talks of compromise, but I’ve not once seen him actively support one provision of Proposition B. Not once. I’ve not seen him write, “Well, the provision to ensure continuous access to fresh, clean water is reasonable”, or “dogs should be treated by a veterinarian when they’re sick or injured”, or even, “Heck, it’s -15 degree wind chill temperatures tonight: those dogs need a warm place to sleep”.

Instead, we hear about a “compromise” that consists of a repeal of Proposition B—but beribboned, and covered in sparkles and tinsel to make the act look prettier.

In the last several months, one thing I’ve said, again and again, is that if commercial dog breeders really want to undercut Proposition B, all they have to do is open their doors to us. All they need to do is invite the public in to verify what they have assured us: that the vast majority of licensed dog breeders in this state provide a wonderful environment for their dogs, and how Proposition B isn’t needed. We’re the show-me state; if the operations are that wonderful, show us.

Yet in all that time, a scant handful out of the 1400+ licensed breeders have invited the press to their establishments. A handful. Balance that with the thousands of pages of violations one can read at the USDA APHIS database: violations among current, licensed breeders.

We did not see openness from the breeders, and now we’re not seeing any openness among the state representatives who seek to revoke the people’s vote in order to preserve commercial dog breeding in its current state.


Madonna of the Mills

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

A friend pointed out a new documentary, Madonna of the Mills. It’s about Laura Flynn Amato’s mission to save dogs from puppy mills.

The trailer demonstrates the problems associated with large scale commercial dog breeding. At one point in the movie, the camera shows a poor retriever, who turns and looks at the camera, and then turns away in an attitude of despair and dejection.

I noticed this same thing in a video made of a former Missouri blue ribbon kennel, just before the kennel closed down its business. In the video, you can see that the dogs have room in their cages, for the most part. And food and water and the place is clean. But the place is also large (over 500 dogs and puppies), and as the person holding the camera moves past the cages, many of the dogs look up and then away. All except for those who strain at the cages in a desperate attempt for attention.

Hopefully once the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act takes effect, the puppy millers who took up dog breeding to make a buck will get out of the business and the only people remaining are those who genuinely like working with dogs.