|MO Puppy Mill Photo from HSUS..|
According to the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, last week the Missouri Department of Agriculture issued final regulations for implementing SB 161, the Missouri compromise bill on puppy mills. The regulations clarify the requirement that a veterinarian personally examine every animal in a breeding facility at least once a year and that those exams be documented with written records.
You may remember the recent controversy about this portion of SB 161 and the efforts of some to make sure the vet exam was simply a visual overview.
In addition, the Missouri Department of Agriculture has toughened enforcement. This is a shift that began when Missouri Governor, Jay Nixon, named Jon Hagler as director in January 2009. A horse rancher with a PhD in political science from Washington University, Hagler has overseen a 123 percent increase in inspections and 85 percent more citations for violations by breeding operations. With that has come a 33 percent decline in the number of licensed commercial dog breeders. With new funding appropriated this summer, Hagler increased the number of inspectors to 14 (four more than 2008) and added an investigator and a full-time veterinarian to his staff.
Hagler also launched a program called Bark Alert which allows citizens to report substandard and abusive breeders, most of them illegal and unlicensed. The Missouri Department of Agriculture says it has rescued some 5,200 dogs in the past 30 months.
Missouri animal welfare advocates have another challenge regarding SB161: Fixing the grossly unfair fee schedule that treats non-profit animal shelters and rescue groups the same as for-profit breeders.