Opinion on the “Compromise”

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

First, it’s important to note that Governor Nixon has not vetoed SB 113. If he does nothing for 15 days, SB 113 becomes law by default. This “compromise” that he touts now is not accompanied by anything definitive, such as “If you don’t vote for this compromise, Proposition B will go into effect”. Even as mediocre as this “compromise” is, he still can’t be seen to buck the Missouri agribusiness interests by doing a direct veto of SB 113.

Now, let’s look at the “compromise” compared to Proposition B.

Proposition B set an upper limit of 50 adult dogs. The “compromise” removes this limit, so we can continue with large scale dog factory farms with 200, 400, even a 1,000 dogs.

Proposition B set a restriction on breeding cycle for dogs: twice every 18 months. This follows recommendations dog breed specific clubs set, and allows the female to rest and recover between breedings. The “compromise” removes this restriction, leaving it up to the kennel’s hired veterinarian—with emphasis on “hired”— to “advise” on the breeding cycle. Let’s be realistic: this allows the breeders to breed the dogs as much as they want.

Proposition B set a restriction on water. The water can’t be frozen, and must be served in a container that is clean and free of algae and contamination. The “compromise” also prohibits the frozen water, but adds one single word into the requirement that completely changes its interpretation.

…and continuous access to potable water that is unfrozen and generally free of debris, feces, algae, and other contaminants.

Tell me something: how do you quantify “generally”? What does “generally free of contaminants” mean, from the perspective of implementation? How does an inspector determine when the amount of algae in a bowl falls on the side allowed by “generally”?

Words like “generally” are weasel words—they’re used to pretend to make a change, all the while the good ole boys chuckle about our naivete in the back room.

The space requirements for Proposition B have been removed, replaced with a requirement that states dogs get double the space they have now. However, which size gets doubled? The size requirement that is modified because of behavioral or breed specific needs? The size requirement when you group the dogs together? The single dog cage size, except if overridden by whatever the “hired” veterinarian recommends?

The wire cage floor is back, except for a solid area where the dogs can lie down. In other words, business as usual, because this is exactly what we have now.

For new kennels, the space is triple the size. The only problem is, there will be few, if any, new kennels. Hasn’t anyone caught on that large scale commercial dog breeders are closing down in the state? That over 100 close every year?

The new kennels also can’t have wire strand flooring. That’s really nice that the dogs in the 1,390 kennels we have now, have to stay in cages with wire floors, while some hypothetical new kennel in the future actually has to provide a decent environment for the dogs.

correction: Sorry, I missed the additional constraint that the triple space requirements and removal of wire floor takes effect for all cages beginning in 2016. I’m sure the dogs won’t mind waiting four years, for something that Prop B would have brought about this fall.

More importantly, though, is that the wording is vague. For instance, the new regulation doesn’t say “solid floors” but the removal of wire strand cage floors. Well that leaves the door open for something like Tenderfoot, and this still isn’t a good flooring for dogs. Tenderfoot was designed for hogs, not dogs. Pennsylvania’s board responsible for commercial dog breeder care rejected Tenderfoot, but it’s mighty popular among dog breeders.

(And too much of the space and cage construction is left up to the Department of Agriculture or the kennel vets, rather than be codified as law. These are the same groups that haven’t been consistent when it comes to caring for the dogs in the past.)

In addition, cages can still be stacked. Yes, there’s supposed to be a barrier between the cages, but I introduced you to one breeder where “barrier” doesn’t always mean what you think it means.

Then there’s the outside run. The new provision is:

Except as prescribed by rule, provide constant and unfettered access to an attached outdoor run

First, what rule? Secondly, what this is telling us is that the breeders who provide an elevated outdoor cage for the dogs don’t have to make any changes in their establishments—well, other than swap that wire strand floor out for Tenderfoot. Again, this is business as usual.

There is a modification in the veterinarian care. The “compromise” would require that a vet examine the dogs annually. However, another weasel word crept into the new regulation:

“Necessary veterinary care” means, at minimum, examination at least once yearly by a licensed veterinarian, prompt treatment of any serious illness or injury by a licensed veterinarian, and where needed, human euthanasia by a licensed veterinarian using lawful techniques deemed acceptable by the American Veterinarian Medical Association.

Tell me, what is “serious”? What is a “serious” injury or illness? Is it one where the dog’s life is at immediate risk? If this is so, then dogs with legs broken by falling through the wires, or dogs with rotten teeth, fall outside of the “serious” designation. Pain isn’t “serious”, suffering isn’t “serious”, and misery certainly isn’t “serious”.

The only other changes are some modification of the legal provisions, but not in any meaningful manner. There are also provisions of Proposition B that are missing, such as that the dog’s kennel and cage areas should be cleaned daily. “Compromise” literally means piles of shit, I guess.

The worst item missing is the provision for an indoor sleeping area for dogs. Too many dogs now live in plastic “dogloos” in outdoor only kennels. Too many inspection reports talk about the inadequate bedding provided in these shelters, and dogs huddled, shivering in some corner. How can anyone from MAAL or HSMO compromise on this one?

This “compromise” is not acceptable. So, what next?

If Nixon truly believed in this bill, he would veto SB 113, and send this bill to the voters. In the Agreement letter, we’re told:

Today, we are pleased to submit for your consideration legislation that upholds the intent of Missouri voters concerning the treatment of the dogs and incorporates legislative revisions necessary to ensure proper implementation.

How the hell do you know what my “intent” was? Who are you, any of you, to make this judgment call?

One of the downsides to modifying or repealing a citizen initiative is you’re accountable to everyone who voted for it. You’re also accountable to everyone who believes in the importance of the individual vote, regardless of their view on the particular issue. Most representatives from other states consider repealing or modifying a citizen initiative, especially right after it was voted on, tantamount to drunk waltzing in a mine field. Missouri representatives must like living on the edge.

That’s what I replied to Representative Berry when he asked who can make an agreement to modify Proposition B. There is no one organization that represents all of those who voted for Proposition B. To think that we, the voters, will be placated because some members of the animal welfare community agreed to a “compromise” undermines not only the eclectic nature of the animal welfare community, but also the importance of the vote.

In a time when we have to beg people to go to the polls, to treat voters with such arrogance and condescension is beyond offensive. To especially do so with a “compromise” that is anything but a genuine attempt to make lives better for the dogs is to add additional insult.

As for those who signed from the “animal welfare community”, neither HSMO nor MAAL speak for me. Whatever agreement they make means nothing to me.

Press release

Letter of Agreement (PDF)

Legislative Text (PDF)

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