Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thoughts on Proposition B Missoui's "Anti-Puppy Mill" Legislation

Update November 5: This legislation did indeed pass! Now we need to make sure these laws are fairly enforced AND that similar legislation is passed elsewhere.

Update November 9: They aren't going to let this go, there are efforts a-foot to repeal Proposition B. Guess the fight isn't over yet...

November 2, Missouri will vote on Proposition B, legislation designed to crack down on irresponsible large-scale breeders. Last week I posted a few comments from organizations who are opposed to this bill - this week I've tried to respond to their "concerns"

The Tea Bag Party - "The society (HSUS) seeks only to raise the cost of breeding dogs, making it ever-more difficult for middle-class American families to be dog-owners."

As a very rough estimate, there are over 4,000,000 dogs in shelters, with rescue groups and running stray who are looking for homes. Over 2,000,000 dogs enter the system every year. Over half of those dogs will be euthanised. Around 25% are purebred. Although there aren't any statistics on the number of puppies who find their way into rescues/shelters, there are generally litters available, if you look hard enough.

In our life-times, and in our children's life-times, the chances are very good there will be hundreds of thousands of dogs, affordable dogs, looking for homes. They may not be purebred, show quality dogs, they may not be puppies, but they will be good dogs in need of good homes, and they will be affordable.

And breeders of
good quality dogs charge two, three or even four times more than the cost of a dog at a rescue, shelter or the local pound. Pet shops charge even more than a good, local breeder, and they're willing to charge purebred prices for what are essentially "mutts" - e.g. mix-breed dogs. Financially sensible middle-class owners can't afford dogs today, controlling large-scale breeders won't change that!

Missouri Federation of Animal Owners - "Our goal has always been and shall always be to protect the rights of animal owners and enthusiasts against the devastating effects of the animal rights movement."

Proposition B is about protecting animals from pain, suffering and even death, quite frequently protecting them from the "owners" and "enthusiasts" themselves - people who breed dogs in deplorable conditions. Any animal owner worthy of having an animal would be sickened by the conditions the dogs this legislation is designed to protect are subjected to.

In reality, this legislation IS protecting dog owners and enthusiasts. There are thousands of dog owners who adopt badly-breed dogs and spend thousands of dollars and endless hours of grief trying to cope with products of irresponsible breeders. Proposition B IS protecting the rights of animal owners, ensuring their right to have a healthy, well-bred, well-socialized companion.

United For Missouri - "... Proposition B is an economic question as well as one of basic liberty."

Yes, it is economic and it's about liberty. It's about abolishing the "right" to make an easy profit at the expensive of a fellow living creature (be it dog or the human that adopts a dog). What kind of person wants economic prosperity or liberty at the expense of the pain and suffering of another?

Proposition B is about the cost of medical care, training and resolution of behavioral issues, excessive costs paid by owners who've been duped into buying a substandard dog. Proposition is about the "liberties" of the potential owners, who should have the right to adopt a well-breed, healthy, happy, stable puppy.

Missouri Farm Bureau
- "HSUS has introduced Proposition B as a means of eliminating the legal, licensed professional dog breeders in Missouri."

Dog breeders are not being banned by this legislation - the size of breeding operations are restricted, basic conditions for comfort, health and welfare are prescribed. Professional dog breeding isn't being eliminated - large, unprofessional breeders are going to have to start using a bit of common sense, compassion and become honest, ethical business people.

Missouri Veterinary Medical Association - "The issue of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act has come about because breeding facilities that are unlicensed are not being regulated or inspected."

No doubt this is true, there are individuals in every industry who evade and avoid the law. However, Proposition B seeks to tighten the regulations for all breeders - good breeders have nothing to worry about, bad breeders and unlicensed breeders alike will be required to become responsible breeders or find another line of work.

The Alliance for Truth
- "It is not unusual for outside interests to try to impose their will on the people of Missouri."

Throughout history, "outside interests" have "imposed their will" to make changes for the better. The French aided the revolutionaries who founded this country. Americans fought overseas to free Europe from the Nazis. Every day Americans exert their influence in numerous countries around the world in the name of religion, human rights and even animal welfare. If the rest of the United States - the rest of the world - are "imposing their will" to end the suffering of dogs in Missouri, perhaps it's time for the special interest groups in Missouri to listen.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) - "... (the provisions in) Missouri Proposition B do absolutely nothing to improve the wellbeing (sic) of animals; instead, it would add excessive expenses to responsible breeders who strive to produce well-bred family pets."

Funnily enough, good breeders in other states don't seem to be suffering from "excessive expenses" in producing superior dogs for the show ring or for pets. Most good breeders admit financial considerations aren't why they breed dogs, and indeed they frequently lose money - their interest is in improving the breed, not making money mass-producing puppies.

Missouri Pet Breeders Association (MPBA): News - No comment

Perhaps they know they just don't have a leg to stand on....

My take on Proposition B? If these organizations, especially the AKC and the Missouri Pet Breeders Association object to this legislation, it's up to them to police their own members and to ensure that ALL dog breeders ARE members. If they spent as much effort fighting side-by-side with the groups who are concerned with the welfare of dogs AND dog owners, we might actually get something done!

I am NOT a fan of excessive legislation, but when there's a complete failure of compassion and common sense, especially where innocent lives are at risk, especially when the responsible parties prefer to turn a blind eye to the suffering of human and animal like, perhaps legislation is the only way forward.

So if you live in Missouri, please vote on November 2 to support this initiative. Adopt, don't buy, your next dog or puppy. Thoroughly investigate any breeder you choose to do business with, and see how their animals are cared for. Report substandard breeders and support GOOD breeders - they do exist!

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