My Letter with commentary on new commercial dog breeder rules

Following is the letter I sent to Drs. Woods and Hickam.

Subject: Commentary on proposed commercial dog breeding regulations

Dear Doctor Woods and Hickam:

I appreciate this opportunity to provide commentary on the proposed new rules to be added to the Animal Care Facilities Act (related to Senate Bill 161.1). Following are my requested clarifications and modifications for these rules.

1. In the section defining “Necessary veterinary care”, please provide further clarification that the once a year examination be a hands-on physical examination, and not a visual inspection. A visual inspection is not sufficient in order to determine the dog’s health.

2. In addition to the inspection, please provide some form of clarification about what a “serious illness or injury” is. I believe that we’ll find that a non-breeder’s idea of “serious illness and injury” differs significantly from a breeder’s. The rules are far too vague in this regard.

3. You provide a definition for Pet, and limit it to dogs, but ACFA applies to dogs and cats. How will you reconcile this seeming conflict?

4. I find it disconcerting that you would charge the same fee to a non-profit shelter that you charge a for profit commercial breeder. Though you don’t have as much discretion about charging the fee, due to a law passed as an amendment to another law last year, you do have some discretion about how the fee is calculated. I hope that you consider formulating an algorithm that doesn’t harm legitimate nonprofit shelters and rescue organizations, or, at a minimum, provide for an exemption.

5. The new rules should ensure that existing wire floors grandfathered in should still be sufficient to prevent dogs paws from falling through holes, or dog claws from being caught, and the dogs getting injured.

Again, I appreciate this opportunity to provide commentary on the proposed rules.


Shelley Powers

See? I can be polite when so moved.

I also cc’d the letter to Jon Hagler, Director of the MDA.


Breeders Pressuring Missouri Dept of Agriculture into weakening “The Solution”


This is an alert that was put out by the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation (MAAL) and the Humane Society of Missouri. We’ll get into “I told you so”s at some later time. Right now, we all have to pull together to prevent this abominable action.

One of the regulations agreed to with the “Missouri Solution” was that each dog at a breeder must be physically examined annually by a veterinarian. The Proposition B rules that would have required that injuries and illnesses be treated by a veterinarian were removed, but at least this one minimal requirement was left.

The dog breeders agreed to this. Their representatives signed on to this.

Now, they’ve changed their mind. They’re pressuring the Missouri Department of Agriculture to drop this requirement and return it to the much weaker “visual inspection” that we had before Proposition B or the Missouri Solution. This means that all a vet needs to do is visit the breeder, have a cup of coffee, maybe glance into the cages (if the dogs are lucky), and then be on his or her merry way.

After all, it costs so much money to actually physically care for the dogs.

The commercial dog breeders are now trying to pressure the Missouri Department of Agriculture to weaken this provision to require only a “visual inspection” of the dogs rather than a complete hands-on physical examination. Many breeders are even insisting that the dogs do not need to be removed from their cages for this required annual examination. Predictably, one of their main concerns appears to be the added expense of a hands-on exam vs. a visual inspection of their dogs.

This is what comes from expecting honorable behavior from dishonorable people. However, for Nixon and Hagler to even contemplate this weakening of a law they touted as a “wonderful compromise” just a few short months ago…well, so much for respecting the voters of the state of Missouri.

Right now, you need to send a letter. No, not an email. No, not a phone call—a letter.

You need to send a letter expressing your outrage of this underhanded move. However, don’t write like I do at this site. HSMO and MAAL are asking that you be “polite”. So be polite. Feel free to bitch on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, but be polite in the letter.

The “official comment period”, which the Department of Agriculture didn’t deign to let the public know about, ends September 30th, so you need to hustle. You can express your opinion of this move, as well as provide other comments on the new rules.

Send letters to both Jon Hagler, Director of the Department of Agriculture, and Dr. Taylor Woods, State veterinarian. The addresses are:

Dr. Taylor H. Woods (now Dr. Linda Hickam)
State Veterinarian
PO Box 630
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0630

Dr. Jon Hagler
Director of Agriculture
Missouri Department of Agriculture
1616 Missouri Blvd.
Jefferson City, MO 65102

The only required letter is to the State Veterinarian, but I’d send a letter to both.

If you want me to publish your letter, please email me a copy.

Please also email all your Missouri friends and family, and ask them to write a letter, too.

The dogs need us.


A new State Veterinarian has just been chosen: Linda Hickam. Address your letter to her directly.


No, I don’t want to buy that puppy

A poem has been appearing on several puppy rescue and shelter sites and Facebook pages. According to one site, the poem was a “letter to a roadside vendor by Harriet Rankin”.

No, I don’t want to buy that puppy.
I am a rescuer.
I’ll see him later.

After the fool you sold him to realizes how much work a puppy is.

After he digs out of the boring backyard he was banished to, for the heinous crime of being untrained.

After he roams blistering hot streets, hungry and lonely and confused.

After he picks up parasites and loses weight from throwing up garbage that he eats.

After he gets bitten for wandering into the wrong dog’s territory (and it gets infected).

After a car clips him and breaks his leg, adding pain to the thirst, hunger and loneliness.

Then I’ll find him.

I’ll pay five times what you were asking for him to get him cleaned up and vetted.
I’ll spend fifty times the hours you spent with him, teaching him what he needs to know.
I’ll take a hundred times as long as you did to find him a forever home that loves him.

So no, I don’t want to buy your puppy.
I don’t have to.
He’ll be mine soon enough anyway.


Rabbit Ridge: Recent Missouri Department of Agriculture Inspections

I just received the recent inspections for Rabbit Ridge from the Missouri Department of Agriculture. This joins with the recent USDA inspections.

As you can see, the MDA has had to do three inspections since April. The MDA also found problems at Rabbit Ridge—some very significant, such as dog with mats, hair loss, and wounds on his feet.

I still don’t have the August 2nd inspection from the USDA. In fact, the USDA pulled the August 15/16 inspections from the APHIS database, though I have a copy linked in my Sept 3 Rabbit Ridge writing.

One thing I like about the MDA reports: they provide the count of adult dogs and puppies. According to the inspection in June, Schrage has 204 adult dogs, 72 puppies, for a total of 276 dogs.

I also estimate that this one breeder has had to be inspected over 10 times so far this year, and there’s still 3 1/2 months more to go in 2011.

State Senator Munzlinger once responded to someone in his district who questioned him on Rabbit Ridge, “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.”

You can’t ruin what’s already crap, Senator.

Specs Technology

Why read about it when you can play

Earlier today I got into a friendly discussion and debate on Twitter about a new web site called W3Fools. The site bills itself as a “W3Schools intervention”, and the purpose is to wake developers up to the fact that W3School tutorials can, and do, have errors.

The problem with a site like W3Fools, I said (using shorter words, or course, since this was Twitter), is that it focuses too much on the negative aspects of W3Schools, without providing a viable alternative.

But, they said, W3Fools does provide links to other sites that provide information on HTML, CSS, or JavaScript. And, I was also told, the reason W3Schools shows up first in search results is because of uncanny use of SEO optimization.


It may be true that W3Schools makes excellent use of SEO, and it may be equally true that W3Schools commits egregious and painful errors. However, neither of these account for what W3Schools is doing right. If you don’t acknowledge what the site does well, you’re not going to make much headway into turning people off the site—no matter how many cleverly named sites you create.

For instance, one of the superior information sites recommended by W3Fools is the Mozilla Doc Center, or MDC as it is affectionately known. Now, I’m a big fan of MDC. I use it all the time, especially when I want to get a better idea of what Firefox supports. But look at the work you have to put in to learn about a new HTML5 element, such as the new HTML5 hgroup element:

  1. Go to main page
  2. Click on HTML5 link
  3. Search through the topics until you see one that’s titled “Sections and outlines in HTML5”, which you know you want because it mentions hgroup
  4. Have a neuron fire and realize that you can just click directly on hgroup
  5. Go to the hgroup page, past the disclaimer about what version of Firefox supports the element, looking for an example of usage
  6. Realize there is no example of how to use hgroup
  7. Go to the original Sections and Outlines in HTML5 link
  8. Go past some stuff about elephants, looking for example
  9. Go past some bullets about why all this new sectioning stuff is cool, looking for an example
  10. Break down and use your in-page search to find hgroup
  11. Finally find an example of how to use hgroup

As compared to W3Schools:

  1. Go to main page
  2. Click on Learn HTML5 link
  3. Click on New Elements link
  4. Start to scroll down when you realize the new elements are listed along the left side
  5. Click on hgroup
  6. Look at example

One thing W3Schools does well is provide a clean, simple to navigate interface that makes it very easy to find exactly what you need with a minimum of scrolling or searching.

Returning to our comparison between W3Schools and MDC, we then search for information on SQL. Oh, wait a sec: there isn’t anything on SQL at the Mozilla site. That’s because Mozilla is primarily a browser company and is only interested in documenting browser stuff.

So then our intrepid explorer must find another site, this one providing information on SQL. And if they want to learn more about PHP, they have to find yet another site. To learn about ASP? Another site, and so on.

What W3Schools also provides is one-stop shopping for the web developer. Once you’ve become familiar with the interface, and once the site has proved helpful, you’re more likely to return when you need additional information. Let’s face it: wouldn’t you rather use one site than dozens?

Screenshot of W3Schools page showing many of the topics

Let’s say, though, that you need information on CSS3. Well, you know that MDC covers CSS, so you return to the MDC site, and you click on the link that’s labeled “CSS”, and you look for something that says CSS3.

What do you mean there isn’t anything that says CSS3? What do you mean that transitions are CSS3—how am I, a CSS3 neophyte, supposed to know this?

Returning to W3Schools, I click the link in the main page that is labeled CSS3. Oh look, in the page that opens, there’s a sidebar link that’s labeled “CSS3 transitions”. And when I click that link, a page opens that provides an immediate example of using CSS3 transitions that I can try, as well as an easy to read a table of browser support.

Screenshot of W3Schools CSS3 transitions page

W3Schools doesn’t throw a lot of text before the examples, primarily because we learn web material best by example. Remember that an entire generation of web developers grew up with “View Source” as our primary learning tool.

But so far, I’ve only compared W3Schools to MDC. There are other useful sites that the W3Fools site approves. So I try the “Google: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript from the ground up” web page. When it opens, I click the link labeled CSS…

And I get a video about using CSS.

A video.

Remember in junior high or high school, when your science teacher would bring out the projector and you knew you were going to get a video? Do you remember that feeling that came over you? How you kind of relaxed, because you know the teacher wasn’t going to ask you any questions, and you didn’t have to write any notes, or even really pay attention?

I bet some of you even fell asleep during the video.

Videos are good for specific types of demonstrations—when something is complex, with many different steps, and the order of the steps and other factors have to be just so.

When it comes to CSS, HTML, and so many other web technologies, though, video is about the most passive and non-interactive learning experience there is. More importantly, if the video doesn’t have captioning, and most don’t, you’re also leaving part of your audience behind.

Now let’s return to the W3Schools site, this time looking at one of the CSS selector tutorials. The first thing you notice is that right below the example there’s a button, labeled “Try it Yourself”.

W3Schools screenshot showing the Try It button

Why read about it, when you can play?

One of the more annoying aspects of trying to learn about a specific HTML element, or a bit of CSS, is that you have to create an entire web page just to try it out. What W3Schools provides is that all important, absolutely essential, one button click to Try it out.

I’m not defending W3Schools. The site has played off the W3C title, though that doesn’t have a lot of meaning nowadays. More importantly, some of the material has errors and the site is resistant to correcting any of these errors, and this is unconscionable.

But you aren’t going to dent the popularity of the site without at least understanding why it is so popular. The W3Schools’ site is not popular because of SEO, and it’s not popular because of the W3 part of the name.

The W3Schools website is so popular because it is so usable.