Thursday, May 5, 2011

Puppy Mills: Missouri Compromise SB 161 a Victory or Sham

Missouri SB 161, the Governor's compromise bill entitled the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act was passed and signed into law on April 27.  It takes effect immediately.  Some Missouri animal welfare groups are calling this a great victory for puppy mill dogs.  Other animal welfare groups are calling it a sham and a shame.

Frankly, I don't consider it a victory.  Nor do I consider it a sham.  I fervently supported MO Prop B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.  Bottom line, I'd like the puppy mills put entirely out of business and I didn't think Prop B had strong enough language.  However, I'm a resident of the real world and, like it or not, that's not going to happen in Missouri any time soon.

The nature of a compromise is that both sides have to give at the same time as they get.  By definition, SB 161 is a good example.  Compromise:  A settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions.  In the case of SB 161, both sides definitely made concessions.

I did not support SB 161.  Nor did I oppose it.  I have been pretty vocal about my disgust that the Missouri Legislature would tamper with a voter passed initiative ballot measure.  (However, that's not for the first time, as I discovered in my reading about so-called democracy in the great state of Missouri.)

My bottom line concern is the dogs.  Are their living conditions improved?  

If I have a raging fever of 105 and my temperature drops to 104, that's an improvement.  Is my health still in jeopardy?  You betcha.  My body still has a battle to wage.   And so do dog lovers in Missouri.

The new law requires that dogs in large breeding facilities receive hands-on vet care, continuous clean water, nutritious food twice daily, and more space in which to live.  In addition, Missouri Governor Nixon has committed to add over $1 million to the MO Department of Agriculture's budget for more inspectors and veterinarians to enforce the new regulations.

The original Prop B, passed by 51% of Missouri voters in November, required an indoor floor space of at least 25 square feet for small dogs;  30 square feet for medium size dogs and 35 square feet for large dogs.  The new law doubles the previous minimum space requirements by January 2012 and triples them by January 2016 for existing breeders.  Wire flooring is also be prohibited.  Any dog housing facilities constructed after April 15, 2011, will have to comply with the tripled space requirements immediately.

The original Prop B required at least one yearly exam with prompt treatment for any illness or injury.  The new law requires one yearly exam and prompt treatment of a serious illness or injury.  Though the new law does not include a mandated breeding cycle rest period, it does require a recommendation by a licensed veterinarian for breeding and requires vet records be maintained for two years.

The new law requires dogs to have continuous access to water, access to food at least twice daily - an increase from the original Prop B once daily requirement.  However, generally is inserted in front of a requirement that the water be free of debris, feces, algae and other contaminants.

Under the new law dog breeders could pay as much as $2,500 instead of the current $500 maximum and will pay an extra $25 annual fee to finance Missouri's efforts to crack down on unlicensed dog breeders.

Some who opposed the SB 161 compromise see this as no victory at all.  Rather than seeing the glass half empty, I prefer to see it as half full.   It's a long road ahead, but Missouri dog lovers have gained some ground.

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