Thursday, March 22, 2012

Missouri Puppy Mill Legislation and Farmers Wake-up Call

What do puppy mills have to do with farmers?  Plenty, as evidenced by the recent campaigns to institute new puppy mill and commercial dog breeding laws in Missouri.  

My own rural Ozarks neighborhood was filled with campaign signs warning that the government would soon be telling you how many horses, cattle, hogs, and other livestock you may own and how they must be cared for.  You may recall my own remarks about Missouri's Prop B and farmers during the campaign.

Missouri puppy mill compromise legislation was passed and many Missouri commercial dog breeders have gone out of business.  At the same time, Missouri farmers are still angry and feeling very threatened.  So are livestock producers in other states.

I usually do not quote press releases in their entirety, however, this is important information that I want to make sure I get right.  The information below comes from "Mo. dog breeding vote 'wake-up call' for farmers" written by Alan Scher Zagier of the Associated Press.

A 2010 ballot initiative to toughen oversight of dog breeders highlighted the rift between Missouri farmers and national animal rights activists. Two years later, the divide has only deepened.

Twenty-five farm groups ranging from the Missouri Pork Association and the state Beef Industry Council to agribusiness heavyweights Cargill and Monsanto have united under the banner of Missouri Farmers Care.

Their target? The Humane Society of the United States, which pushed the dog breeding initiative and is now the primary financial backer of Your Vote Counts!, a proposed state constitutional amendment requiring a three-fourths majority vote before the Legislature could override voter-approved laws.
That's just what lawmakers did last year, reversing many of the new rules for dog breeders endorsed by a slight majority of Missouri residents just months earlier.

Farmers' anger was on full display at a recent Missouri Farmers Care meeting in Monroe City, 20 miles from the banks of the Mississippi River and half that distance from Mark Twain's birthplace in Florida, Mo.

Vehicles sported bumper stickers warning HSUS and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to "get your paws off our laws." Missouri Farmers Care flyers set on a table said, "Their goal is to end animal agriculture by increasing the cost of food and even through outright bans."

Activists view animals as "cuddly, furry things, not what we use to make money in livestock operations," said state Sen. Brian Munzlinger, a Republican whose district includes 13 northern Missouri counties dominated by hog farms and grain elevators.

"They weren't going to stop at pets," he added. "They're going after all of our farm animals."

Rural lawmakers such as Munzlinger have headlined a recent series of Missouri Farmers Care town hall meetings across the state. From Clinton and Harrisonville to Salem and St. Joseph, hundreds of farmers turn out twice a month for political rallies that bring together soybean growers, dairy producers and other agricultural groups that more often have focused on their own narrow interests, said Dan Kleinsorge, the farm group's operations manager.
"Prop B was a wake-up call for agriculture," he said.

Farm groups in other states also are heeding the call, Kleinsorge noted, as HSUS and other animal rights groups target not just Missouri but two dozen states that allow signature-driven petitions to appear on ballots.
In neighboring Nebraska, Gov. Dave Heineman caused a stir this month when he referred to HSUS in saying, "We're going to kick your ass and send you out of the state." Farm groups there have formed a "We Support Agriculture" coalition as a pre-emptive move against potential HSUS-supported ballot efforts.

In Ohio, the state Farm Bureau formed a Center for Food and Animal Issues as part of its successful push for a 2009 ballot measure that created a livestock care oversight board. And in Iowa, farm groups stung by the release of videos of chicks being ground up and pigs being beaten convinced lawmakers to make it a crime to lie on a job application to get access to farms to make secret recordings.

While the Your Vote Counts! effort makes no mention of agriculture or "cuddly, furry" pets, Missouri campaign finance reports show two-thirds of the more than $345,000 donated to the petition drive through the end of 2011 came from HSUS. Another $50,000 was donated by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Just two of the 11 individual donors to Your Vote Counts! in the fourth quarter of 2011 live in Missouri.

Missouri Farmers Care has raised significantly less — about $127,000 through 2011 — but nearly all its 290 individual donors in the last three months of 2011 were Missourians. Most gave in relatively small amounts.

Dane Waters, the Your Vote Counts! campaign manager, acknowledged HSUS is the primary force behind the proposed Missouri ballot measure. His group must still collect signatures from two-thirds of the state's congressional districts equaling at least 8 percent of the votes cast in the 2008 gubernatorial election. That amounts to between about 146,000 and 178,000 signatures — though the group is aiming for 234,000 names.

"With any initiative effort, there's always a primary supporter or a primary donor," said Waters, who worked on Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and is also political director for the Humane Society Legislative Fund, an HSUS spinoff group that works to change state and federal animal protection laws.

"At the end of the day, it's irrelevant where the money comes from," he added. "Because only Missourians get to vote on it."

Waters agreed that the dog breeding initiative led to the latest fight, but he disputed the idea that his group was anti-agriculture. He said it has no plans, nor interest, in other agriculture-related political campaigns in Missouri beyond this year.

"There's a tremendous amount of misunderstanding about what HSUS is," he said. "Our goal is to not to fundamentally change the agricultural society in Missouri. Our goal is to work within the agricultural framework."

Farmers and their supporters remain suspicious. Steve Yates, a 59-year-old retired high school agriculture teacher who attended the Monroe City meeting, summed up the unease shared by many there.

"It threatens our livelihood, but it's a bigger issue," he said. "Whether you're a commodity producer or not, it affects the way we live. If you think the price of food is high now, just wait."


  1. IMO 50 adult dogs for breeding purposes is still way too many. There are far too many dogs in shelters and so many are euthanized.

    And personally I do think the farmers should raise and kill their animals humanely. But that is my opinion.

    I am glad to hear though that at least some of the puppy mills have closed down. It's a start, but I think the law still needs revisions.

  2. If I were a farmer and knew that PETA was working on animal legislation it would make me uncomfortable too. That said, puppy mills need to be done away with and hopefully we can keep family farms a different issue from puppy mills.

  3. 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Puppy Mills

    1) There is no such thing as a "puppy mill". "Puppy mill" is not a legally defined term, it is slang used by the “animal rights” community to denigrate any and all breeders -- small or large, standard or substandard. It's the "N-word" of breeders. The phrase “puppy mill” has been promoted in the media by the animal “rights” movement, people who want to end all animal ownership. It is applied indiscriminately by these fanatics to anyone who breeds dogs.

    2) Those horrendous photos you see in commercials for the “Humane Society” are mostly outdated or a 1 in one million exception to the care given animals by breeders everywhere. The photos are intended to shock and horrify you into giving money. Any photo can be photo shopped into looking really bad. Be skeptical. If you didn’t see it with your own eyes take it with a grain of salt.

    3)There are three main types of breeders: Commercial, Pet and Hobby/show breeders. Every one of these can be a large-scale breeder, every one of these could be a substandard breeder. Commercial kennels are subject to state and/or federal oversight. Substandard care can be found with all types of breeders. It is about the standard of care, NOT the numbers. Most commercial breeders have state of the art kennels that meet USDA standards and the standards of their state laws. They are inspected at least yearly and must meet or exceed standards far higher than those expected of the average hobby breeder.

    4)“Sick” puppies do not sell. It is counterproductive for any industry to produce a defective product and expect to stay in business. Any dog can have health issues. Its about Mother Nature NOT lack of care or numbers.

    5) Passing laws intended to outlaw “puppy mills” will not solve any problem. Most substandard breeders are already in violation of existing laws. New, stricter laws will only affect those who are already working to follow the laws. The only way to have any effect is to enforce the laws that are already on the books.

    6) All the hobby breeders in this country cannot produce enough puppies to meet the demands of the American market. A shelter dog is NOT for every family. Shelter dogs come with baggage that can require an EXPERIENCED owner.

    7) BREEDERS are NOT responsible for the presence of dogs in shelters. We have a problem with a lack of responsible ownership, poor shelter management and poor pet distribution. Education is the key to improvement in this area.

    For more information:


Go ahead... bark at us!