Many people I meet ask me why Missouri farmers have been so concerned about provisions of Proposition B, the ill conceived ballot measure that slapped numerous negative penalties and few positive solutions on Missouri dog breeders. Here’s why. My concern with Prop B, similar to those of many farmers and ranchers, was that it defined a pet as “any domesticated animal that lives in or near a dwelling.” Livestock are listed in Missouri Statute as domesticated animals and our livestock live near our dwelling. After watching what HSUS, PETA and other animal rights groups have done in Florida, Arizona, and California, this really concerned me. My pigs are livestock. Providing them the kind of humane treatment they deserve and a safe environment in which to grow is my top priority. But, while they are domesticated animals, they are not pets.
Supporters of Prop B claim it was ONLY about dogs. If that was true, why not define the term “pet” as a canine?
That is one of the reasons we felt that some modest, common-sense changes to this proposition were sorely needed. This week Missouri Legislators passed SB113, which would improve animal welfare for dogs in Missouri. If you read any of the online editorials or articles about SB113 you would get the impression that our Legislators have revoked the will of the people. The writers of the articles, however, didn’t give me any facts to support what they were writing. So I did some research on my own for facts, not opinion. The following paragraphs reveal my findings and I think you will be surprised to learn how misleading these articles have been. The majority of the articles I have found are filled with emotion and drama, and drama sells better than facts.
I have read both Prop B and SB113 and after a comparison of the two, I disagree with what I have been reading in online articles and editorials. Voters in Missouri who supported Prop B wanted to improve the quality of care for dogs. However, Prop B didn’t have any guidelines to find unlicensed breeders, the biggest problem in the state concerning dog breeding and care. Prop B didn’t fund more inspectors and it only required a veterinarian to visit a facility once a year. Prop B also didn’t mandate pet stores and animal shelters to abide by the rules set forth in Prop B. A dog could be neglected in a pet store or animal shelter just as easily as it could in a breeder’s care. Prop B also limited the number of breeding females a breeder could own.
SB113 increases site inspections to twice a year by a licensed veterinarian and it mandates all breeders to work with a licensed veterinarian regarding animal care and exercise. This seems very reasonable to me because veterinarians are experts in animal care, not legislators, lobbyists or out of state special interest groups.
SB113 requires breeders, pet stores and animal shelters to abide by the rules for animal care set in SB113. This seems reasonable to me as well, all dogs deserve to receive quality animal care whether they live in a pet store, shelter or in the care of a dog breeder. I know I take my dogs to see the veterinarian each year. This seems reasonable to me and it is an improvement from Prop B.
SB113 also beefs up enforcement of animal welfare laws by providing EXTRA resources for the Department of Agriculture to conduct site inspections, including funding to hire new inspectors. SB113 also includes tough new provisions against unlicensed dog breeders, an issue Prop B failed to address. This is NECESSARY if we are going to improve animal care in our state. I can’t understand why this was left out of Prop B if the true intention was to improve animal care.
SB113 removes the limit on the number of animals a breeder can own. Supporters of Prop B see this as a sticking point to animal care. I don’t see this as a problem because quality animal care isn’t dependent on the number of animals you own. If you have 12 children it doesn’t mean you are not as good of a parent as someone who only has 2 children. It also doesn’t mean you can’t love all 12 children as much as you love 2 children. We don’t limit how many kids a family may have, or how many clients a lawyer may have so I see no problem with removing this restriction. Increased inspections and site visits by veterinarians will find bad actors regardless of their size. And, Operation Bark Alert is a toll free hotline where bad actors can be reported anonymously.
SB113 clearly states it applies only to canines, not domesticated animals. HSUS said Prop B was only intended for dogs so they shouldn’t mind this clarification.
I agree with supporters of Prop B – we need guidelines for quality animal care and bad actors should be held accountable. I do think Prop B needs enhanced, not revoked, but enhanced. Missouri Director of Agriculture, Jon Hagler, has stated that Prop B, as written, would put every licensed breeder in Missouri out of business. A compromise was needed and that is what SB113 is about, compromise. HSUS and other groups are claiming the Legislators have “weakened” Prop B with SB113 but when I read the facts, it appears to me SB113 actually STRENGTHENS Prop B and makes it a better law. If the care of DOGS is what HSUS was really after, they should be supporting this bill. Having more inspectors on the ground is a great thing that will only improve inspections and the quality of care given to DOGS. This bill is about healthy animals and making sure experts are determining the care of the dogs. What the Legislators have changed doesn’t hurt Prop B, it only makes all caregivers of dogs play by the same set of rules.