The Voter Protection Act

Inspired, in part, by the repeal of Proposition B (not to mention the modification and/or repeal of several other voter initiatives), the Voter Protection Act would modify the state Constitution to require a three-fourths majority vote to modify a citizen initiative.

Missouri is one of only ten states where the legislature can turn around and modify or even complete gut a voter initiative. And, as we saw in the recent legislative session, far too many of our elected officials are more interested in placating special interests than in actually implementing the will of the people.

The Secretary of State has vetted the language of the bill, which means the next step is gathering signatures. If you’re interested in helping, you can volunteer at the Voter Protection Alliance web site.


Senator Munzlinger responds about Rabbit Ridge

A fellow Missourian, Taunia Adams, emailed Senator Munzlinger, the state Senator for the Rabbit Ridge kennel district, about the kennel. Following in his response to her:

You are right in assuming that I do not advocate for animal cruelty. I read this blog post and did some investigating. I spoke with the Director’s office at the Department of Agriculture (MDA) and they performed an on-site investigation on May 12 at the Rabbit Ridge Kennel. According to the MDA, there was one very minor violation. Other than that, everything was in order. The blog post cites previous USDA inspections. I’m sure you’re aware that the Federal government is out of my jurisdiction and I’m not an expert on their inspection standards or punitive policies.

I’ve heard from several Missouri residents in response to this blog post, including the veterinarian on record for Rabbit Ridge. He corroborated the results of the MDA’s investigation. I find it disconcerting that some people are willing to ruin the reputation of a licensed breeder in good standing based on personal agendas and rumors.

Also, I must disagree with you regarding my support of Senate Bill 161. Proposition B, as passed by the voters, did nothing to address the problem of unlicensed breeders in our state and provided no funding to allow the MDA to step up inspections and enforcement. The compromise language allows good, law-abiding breeders to remain in business, while giving the Department the tools they need to increase enforcement.


Senator Brian Munzlinger
District 18
State Capitol – Room 426
(573) 751.7985

As I noted earlier, the veterinarian for Rabbit Ridge, Jim Foster, posted a now-pulled Facebook entry that he had been at the breeder with the MDA for the inspection that Senator Munzlinger noted. Now, the veterinarian may have been at the breeder by coincidence, or he and/or the breeder may have been notified by the MDA prior to the inspection that the inspector was going to be at the kennel that day—hard to say.
screen shot of vet discussing breeder visit

We have no idea what the “minor violation” is, since the good Senator didn’t identify it. I’m assuming it could be a repeat of the last MDA violation: a build up of dirt, grime, and cobwebs in the kennel buildings.

We have a breeder who has racked up hundreds, maybe even thousands, of serious violations over the years, suddenly having no violations. And we have an MDA inspection report that differs from the last two USDA inspections. So where is the truth in all of this?

Thanks to the amendment stuck into the bill on blasting in last year’s legislature, no one from any animal welfare organization can accompany an MDA inspector to verify the accuracy of the department’s reporting. No, not even a representative from MAAL or the Humane Society of Missouri (HSMO), both of whom worked with Governor Nixon and the MDA to toss out Proposition B in favor of the “compromise” SB 161. And frankly, after three failed audits, and the department’s actions regarding the Proposition B vote, I don’t have a lot of faith in the MDA.

My next action is to contact the USDA for any and all photos that it’s inspectors have taken of Rabbit Ridge. Because of the failures in the March and April inspections, the USDA should also be inspecting the breeder in the next couple of months, so will see how that inspection goes.

Well, unless I’m taken away by the FBI for being a terrorist because of my activity, that is.

another fb screenshot where I'm accused of terrorism


HSUS and the local shelters file suit

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

HSUS joined with the Dogwood Animal Shelter in Osage and Stray Rescue in St. Louis to file a lawsuit to block new fees for shelters.

When the Animal Care Facilities Act was passed in the early 1990s, municipal pounds and shelters were exempt from paying fees. The reason why should be obvious: these organizations don’t profit for every animal they process. In fact, the opposite occurs, as each organization has to expend money for processing the animal—sometimes a significant amount of money if the dog or cat is from a rescue and is in bad shape. In addition, unlike commercial breeders, these organizations also provide a service to the community by helping to remove unwanted dogs and cats from the streets, including the too many dogs dumped into the animal rescue infrastructure by callous and uncaring large scale dog breeders.

In 2010, this changed. In 2010, a simple little bill called SB 795 moved from the Senate to the House. This bill was related to blasting safety—something everyone can get behind. However, by the time the House was done with the bill, amendments and alterations had been tacked on to the bill to handle transportation of wild boar, the sale of eggs, the establishment of a Large Carnivore Fund, something to do with electric portfolios, a fee for selling booze, registration for pesticides, and amendments to the Animal Care Facilities Act (ACFA).

Among the ACFA amendments is the following, which specifically removes the fee exemption for animal shelters:

273.327. No person shall operate an animal shelter, pound or dog pound, boarding kennel, commercial kennel, contract kennel, pet shop, or exhibition facility, other than a limited show or exhibit, or act as a dealer or commercial breeder, unless [he] such person has obtained a license for such operations from the director. An applicant shall obtain a separate license for each separate physical facility subject to sections 273.325 to 273.357 which is operated by the applicant. Any person exempt from the licensing requirements of sections 273.325 to 273.357 may voluntarily apply for a license. Application for such license shall be made in the manner provided by the director. The license shall expire annually unless revoked. As provided by rules to be promulgated by the director, the license fee shall range from one hundred to five hundred dollars per year. Pounds[,] or dog pounds [and animal shelters] shall be exempt from payment of such fee. License fees shall be levied for each license issued or renewed on or after January 1, 1993.

The square brackets surround existing ACFA text which is removed via this new legislation.

Why remove the exemption for shelters and rescues? Spite, pure and simple. This is proved out by another amendment to the Act, which added an additional section to the law:

The department of agriculture shall not retain, contract with, or otherwise utilize the services of the personnel of any nonprofit organization for the purpose of inspection or licensing of any animal shelter, pound, or dog pound, boarding kennel, commercial kennel, contract kennel, commercial breeder, hobby or show breeder, or pet shop under sections 273.325 to 273.357.

It would be difficult for puppy mills to retain their dirty little secrets if folks from organizations such as Stray Rescue or HSMO were allowed to tag along with inspectors, even if the organization’s person provides a needed service, such as veterinarian expertise.

HSUS, in conjunction with the Dogwood Animal Shelter and Stray Rescue are now challenging the increased licensing fee provision because it violates the state Constitution, specifically the Limitation of scope of bill:

Section 23. No bill shall contain more than one subject which shall be clearly expressed in its title, except bills enacted under the third exception in section 37 of this article and general appropriation bills, which may embrace the various subjects and accounts for which moneys are appropriated.

The bill is a clear violation of the Missouri Constitution. The thing is an awful mess of totally unrelated provisions, rules, replacements seemingly shotgunned into the original bill, which is now some grab bag of special interests and personal agenda items. The original bill text about blasting safety still remains—crammed somewhere between pesticides and large carnivores.

The Missouri General Assembly should be ashamed of putting out such a worthless piece of crap. What made it worse, though, was to add an alteration specifically to punish non-profit organizations.

All I can say is the people in Missouri can take no pride in their lawmakers.


Inspection Activity at Rabbit Ridge

I received a copy of recent Missouri Department of Agriculture inspection activity for Rabbit Ridge Kennels.

To put everything in perspective, I created a timeline of inspection/violation that overlaps between the USDA/APHIS inspections and the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) inspections. Sorry for the length of the writing: there are so many violations. Note that I didn’t have access to inspection reports before the USDA 2008 and MDA 2009 reports, except the one dated 2003.

October 14, 2003USDA inspectors noted one sick dog, as well as issues with excessive accumulations of waste, all around the hutches containing the dogs.

August 25, 2008USDA inspectors found the self-feeders to be badly rusted and impossible to be cleaned properly. Outside enclosures (predominately converted rabbit hutches) were found to be in ill-repair, with holes in wire floors, badly chewed wood, and lopsided. Half the dogs had water in containers that had slimy, green algae coating them. There was an accumulation of feces under the dogs’ cages.

April 8, 2009: The MDA and the USDA made a joint inspection. Inspectors attempted to inspect the facility but no one was present at the date and time to authorize an inspection. Both MDA and the USDA inspections are unannounced and require that someone be available for inspections during normal working hours.

August 12, 2009: Though neither inspection reports that it is a joint inspection, both the MDA and USDA report an inspection on this day and list the same violations: feeders were coffee cans, and the law requires feeders that can be cleaned and sanitized; enclosures were of bare wood, which can’t be properly cleaned. The MDA inspection also notes that several weaned puppies did not have adequate identification.

November 6, 2009: The USDA inspector found numerous violations. Several dogs were found to have matted hair, one serious enough that a dog couldn’t defecate. The owner took out a pair of scissors and cut off the mats while the inspector was present. Several other dogs had matted hair, as well as overlong toe nails. The owner had expired and improper medicines, which he disposed of while the inspector was present. There was a page listing medications for dogs in whelping building, but it wasn’t signed by a vet and was illegible.

The owner showed a PVC (assuming Planned Veterinary Care, required by both MDA and USDA), but it wasn’t signed. The owner stated that the vet was always in a hurry and didn’t sign the PVC. The PVC was dated 1991, the last signature from the vet was 2007. The inspector noted that throughout the facility there was equipment, expired medications, etc that were non-compliant. The owner also did not consistently microchip the dogs, which is a requirement. Owner also did not maintain proper labeling of dogs’ cages.

In the whelping building, the inspector found a feed bag right next to a toilet and the ground around both was dirty and moldy. In addition, feed barrels were not adequately covered. Both could lead to infestations and contamination of the feed.

In the outdoor hutch facility, every hutch unit was complete dilapidated. Roofs missing, floors torn, walls falling in. The owner states he plans on moving all dogs indoors by next Spring.

Throughout the location, inspector noted mold, rusted feed and water containers, facilities that are chewed and in disrepair, bad or missing bedding. Inspector also noted general lack of cleanliness all throughout the facility.

In addition, feces was piled up under cages, and organic material was found in the washdowns in the puppy whelping building, Buildings had cobwebs and mouse droppings, as well as a build up of grime and dirt. The whelping building also had a “putrid, musty odor”, due to lack of ventilation. The building also had lack of lighting in the center of the building.

The temperatures during the inspection were below 50 degrees, yet the bedding in the outdoor facilities was wet and soiled.

And the list of violations went on and on.

April 1, 2010USDA inspector attempted to inspect facility, but no one was present to authorize inspection.

April 23, 2010: The USDA inspector found several repeating violations. Among them were violations for dogs without proper identification, excessive rust and lack of sanitation, especially in the hutch area; inadequate maintenance, again especially in the hutch area; feed stored in inadequately sealed barrels; lack of maintenance and cleanliness, and inadequate lighting in whelping building; excessive accumulation of feces.

Several dogs were sick and injured. Among the violations:

A female tan cocker spaniel was observed with ocular discharge from both eyes. Per the owner this dog has been treated for “cherry eyes” over 2 months ago. This dog has not received veterinary care for this condition since that time.

A male cairn terrier with a swollen, inflamed rear foot. The dog was reluctant to bear weight on the foot. The owner was not aware of the condition and had not sought a veterinary evaluation of this condition.

A male pekingese was observed with green ocular discharge from the left eye. On closer observation, an extreme tartar buildup was observed on the teeth.

A male shi tzu was observed with a reluctance to place weight on the right foot. After removal from the enclosure the dog was observed with fresh blood covering the right front foot from a possible interdigital lesion. The owner stated he was not aware of this condition and this dog has not received veterinary care.

A male dachshund…was observed with a peculiar head posturing. On removal from the enclosure the dog was observed to have the id tag and chain caught in the mouth. The owner immediately removed the chain and id tag from the dog. The dog was also observed with alopecia along the tip of the tail and both ears.

A female pekingese was observed with a green ocular discharge from both eyes. Per the owner this dog has not received veterinary care for this condition.

A male boston terrier was observed with a corneal opacity in the right eye. The owner stated he had purchased the dog with this condition about 5 or 6 years ago and had not sought veterinary care.

A male chihuahua was observed with a tight fitting chain. Closer observation revealed abrasions and hair loss along the neck area due to the tight fitting chain.

May 18, 2010: Another inspection by the USDA, and again, several repeating violations: lack of proper identification, excessive rust, hutch units with rusted wire, and poor maintenance. The owner was again cited for excessive feces, build up of dirt and grime, lack of lighting in whelping building, and poor maintenance, especially in the outdoor hutch area. However, the owner had built ground level runs for several of the dogs, so there were fewer dogs in the hutches.

The inspection report does not say, one way or another, whether the sick and injured dogs mentioned in the previous report were adequately taken care of. However, the inspector did note that another dog, a female lhaso apso had green discharge coming from its eyes, and closer inspection, had an abdominal tumor. The dog had not been seen by a veterinarian.

August 11, 2010: Another inspection by the USDA. Several repeating violations, and some new ones. Among the repeating violations were notes again about the general disrepair of the outdoor kennels, including rotting, chewed wood surfaces, and broken rusted wires. There was standing brackish water between the hutch units, and piles of feces. Surfaces were dirty in the whelping building. A new violation had to do with temperatures in the whelping building. The building had two ceiling fans, but only a couple of open buildings. It was August and the outdoor temps were 90 degrees. The inspector notices the surface heat in the building, as well as observing several of the puppies panting from the heat.

In addition, there was a strip of material for shade for the outdoor kennels, but as the sun moved, the shaded area decreased until the dogs only had about a square foot of shade.

Light was still missing from the whelping building. There was excessive feces around the outdoor kennel area. Feces were also hanging from the cobwebs in the outdoor barn structure. The outdoor kennel area had not been cleaned.

Several dogs were sick and injured, and had not been seen by a veterinarian.

September 27, 2010: An inspection, finally, from the MDA. Except that the owners were not available in order to authorize access for the inspection.

November 16, 2010: An inspection attended by two MDA and two USDA inspectors. Again, the outdoor enclosures are in disrepair, with peeling paint and broken wires with jagged ends that could injure the dogs. Again, there are puppies with missing identification. Outdoor kennels did not have a wind or rain break to protect the dogs from the elements. Coffee cans were still being used as feed receptacles.

Rodent droppings were observed on the floors and counter tops in the buildings. The inspectors also noticed holes in the wall made by rodents. The outdoor enclosures were not cleaned or properly sanitized. In the whelping building, the primary enclosures had feces, and the inspectors noted a foul odor. The inspectors also noticed that the wires were too far apart and puppies feet were falling through the wire floors. The inspectors also noticed an accumulation of feces under the raised cages in both the whelping building and the “new” building.

Several outdoor kennels had uneven, muddy ground, with compacted dirt and “organic material”.

A puppy was housed with an adult dog who wasn’t related to it. This is potentially dangerous for the puppy.

Several of the dogs were sick and/or injured and had not been seen by a veterinarian. Injuries and illness were as serious, or more serious, than those I detailed from an earlier inspection.

November 29, 2010. A USDA inspector notes that all non-compliant items are now compliant. The items are not listed individually.

January 24, 2011: An MDA inspector also noted that non-compliant items were now compliant. This inspector listed out the individual items. Included are statements by a veterinarian that sick dogs had been seen by a veterinarian. There’s nothing in the inspection about whether the dogs health was improved.

The inspector also noted non-compliant items, including dogs in outdoor kennels with matted hair. Some of the outdoor kennels were also missing wind/rain breaks. The inspector noted that the holes in the walls of the whelping building were temporarily filled, with a plan to permanently fix the building in the spring. The outdoor wire had been replaced with coated wire, and the kennel cages were clean.

January 30, 2011. Another MDA inspection, this time specifically about sick dogs being seen by a veterinarian, wind breaks had been provided, and the outdoor dogs shaved to remove mats.

March 7, 2011. An inspector from the USDA found several violations. The inspector noted that many were repeat violations, which is a bit confusing, as supposedly the MDA inspector had stated these items had been “fixed”.

Several outdoor enclosures had broken, protruding wires which could injure the dogs. Various areas within the buildings had an accumulation of cobwebs, dirt, grime, and hair and needed cleaning. There was a strong ammonia odor in both buildings that “irritated the nose of the inspectors”, demonstrating a lack of proper ventilation.

Wood used for three wind breaks was chewed and worn. Three other enclosures had scratched, worn wood.

Several dogs had evidence of illness and injury and had not been seen by a vet:

A Shih Tzu male was seen hopping and leg flipping due to restricted movement from hair on hind leg matted to abdomen. Areas of matted hair had pulled away from the skin leaving large areas of red, irritated skin. These areas were oozing green pus and had a crusty appearance on both sides of the dog’s abdomen.

Two Scottish Terrier dogs were matted on the face, legs, and back. These matts were dangling off the face and legs, pulling at the skin.

Lhasa Apso had a left eye with a crusty, greenish-yellow discharge in and around the eye.

A male, Boston Terrier had a thin hair coat with generalized hair loss throughout the body. There was an open lesion on the rear leg and a scabbed over lesion on the scrotum approximately 1 inch in diameter.

A dog had an end portion of the tail (approximately 1 inch long) that was red, hairless, and oozing blood.

March 21, 2011: An MDA inspector noted only one violation, which was an accumulation of dust, cobwebs, and grime in the two buildings.

April 5, 2011: A USDA inspector noted that the sick dogs from the previous inspection had been corrected, but did not note if other non-compliant items had been fixed. However, inspector also noted two additional sick dogs, as well as expired medications.

A female Maltese was very thin, with vertebrae, hip, and leg bones easily seen and palpable. She has an obvious waist and abdominal tuck. There were areas of skin on the bony prominences that were scabbed over.

A female, Shih Tzu was seen limping and holding the front left paw up. She was slightly weight bearing on the foot. An approximate pea-size opening location at the top of the foot was moist, reddened, smooth edged and oozing a clear, red discharge. The affected area seemed slightly swollen. There was an area of hair loss around the opening. Licensee indicated that he “was treating with hydrogen peroxide” and was unsure when this lesion occurred. No documentation of treatment by the licensee was available.

According to a Facebook entry, the breeder’s veterinarian, Jim Foster, stated that he was at this breeder with an MDA inspector on 5/12/11 for another inspection. If I get access to this inspection, will post a follow-up. Curious as to whether the inspector notified the veterinarian in advance, of if they both just happened to show up at the same time. Inspections are supposed to be unannounced.


HSUS, Best Friends, and ASPCA next actions

Wayne Pacelle responded to the recent events with SB 161. Evidently the plan of the HSUS, Best Friends Society, and ASPCA is to focus on the Constitutional Amendment that protects citizen initiatives. The organizations also plan to monitor whether there is improvement for dogs in the puppy mills in Missouri. If there is no real improvement, the organizations plan to respond with another citizen initiative, but this time, one hopefully protected from legislative mucking about.

This confirms that there won’t be a move to bring about a referendum to veto SB 161. Disappointing but understandable. With the burn out and apathy I’m seeing demonstrated by various pundits, it may be difficult to bring about a referendum, especially with the actions of HSMO and MAAL.

This is not a happy state, though, either for dogs or voters. I genuinely believe that the lives for dogs in large scale commercial breeding operations will not improve with SB 161, regardless of extra money given to the Department of Agriculture. Even before SB 161 was signed by the Governor, the Department of Agriculture was making noise that the real problem in Missouri is the unlicensed breeders. We know differently, but this just demonstrates that business will proceed as usual in the Department. I don’t expect to see an improvement in transparency, nor do I expect to see an improvement in application of the now weakened regulations.

Additionally, no matter how Governor Nixon and the representatives tried to spin it, SB 161 does not reflect the will of the people. The people’s vote was trodden in the political mechanization that resulted in SB 161.