Driving home not long ago I saw a red sign with white lettering and the silhouette of a fluffy little dog. The sign read “Vote NO on Prop B”. This was my first encounter with it, so I wasn’t sure what it was about. Figured it had to do with dogs and, being a dog lover, smiled to myself thinking that fluffy little dog was probably telling me to help him and his friends out somehow. As I drove along I was amazed to see more signs, lots and lots of little red signs. Seemed like every yard or field I passed there was a sign. I was impressed and a little baffled at the volume. If there were that many signs on this little stretch of road, just imagine how the rest of the state must look. Then I saw the same red sign attached to a fence. It was much larger and had more lettering. Beneath the familiar words and silhouette was added “We Care About Animals”. WOW! I thought. Someone must really care about dogs to fork out all the money it had to take to produce and distrubute those signs.
I was very curious to find out more, so I started looking up information on Missouri Proposition B (2010). It turns out that that cute little silhouette is a ruse. A “NO” vote means that everything stays the same. Lots of us don’t like change, so leaving things alone appeals to us. The problem is that once attempted, things are never the same. Change will come. The question that needs to be asked is “Can I help shape it, or do I leave it to the legistature to do it?” With all that money, you can bet there will be laws passed that make it just about impossible to ever revisit the issue.
So what is Prop B? It is Missouri Dog Breeding Regulation Initiative, Proposition B; also known as “the Puppy Mill Initiative”. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “For decades, Missouri has had a well-earned reputation as the nation’s puppy mill capital. It is home to about a third of the nation’s federally licensed dog breeders and the country’s largest wholesaler of puppies.” The law would require large-scale breeding operations to “provide each dog under their care with sufficient food, clean water, housing, and space; necessary vet care; regular exercise and adequate rest between breeding cycles.” It limits any breeder to no more than 50 breeding dogs for the purpose of selling puppies as pets. (There are no limits on the number of dogs raised for other reasons.) It creates a Class C misdemeanor crime of “puppy mill cruelty” for violations.
Supporters are attempting to pass the law in order to reduce the number of cruel practices occurring in some of Missouri’s large-breeding operations. Specifically, they are interested in twelve facilities, called Missouri’s Dirty Dozen, that have had repeated instances of cruelty. In these large-breeding facilities dogs have been found in cages too small for the dog to lie down in. Often these cages are stacked one on top of the other so that their wire bottom cages allow urine and feces to fall down on the dog below. Dogs are kept in these cages for their entire lives and are bred continuously. Once these breeding dogs are worn out, they are disposed of in the quickest, easiest, cheapest, way for the breeder. Supporters claim these methods are not always humane.
In addition to being cruel to the breeding dog, supporters express concern that puppies from these dogs are sold to pet stores all over the country. The puppies may not be as healthy as they should be so that when someone buys a puppy, they may end up getting a dog that is sick, costing more grief and money than should be expected.
Opponents make claims that the law would add excessive expenses to responsible breeders. They also express concerns that this is just a backdoor attempt at abolishing any and all breeding operations (including agricultural animals such as chickens, pigs, cattle, etc.).
I have looked for and read carefully anything I can find, trying to make a fair, logical, and compassionate decision about which side to take. But for me it ultimately comes down to this: How much money or fear justifies denying the most basic needs to a loved one? Our dogs are part of our family. They are not livestock. They are not bred and sold to be eaten. They are not bred and sold for their fur. They are bred and sold as pets.
The claims that this law would set a precedence that could lead to new laws to abolish livestock…well, this is just smoke and mirrors… a scare tactic for those in society that want no government interference, no laws to hinder them from maximizing profits. I mean, really, if they rally this much propaganda against dogs, imagine what it would take to pass such a law, assuming you’d ever get enough support to get it on the ballot in the first place? Some of us may feel bad for a few seconds when we see cattle lying in muddy, grassless pens, but we quickly find a way ignore it. Afterall…we have to eat, and we like our meat too much to want to think about where it comes from.
The claims that this law would add excessive expenses to responsible breeders begs the question, how? With such basic requirements of care, responsible breeders are already meeting these needs. A little commonsense should soothe fears that the “dog police” will bang on your door at any minute and fine you for having a dog with a runny nose. Get real! We don’t have enough cops to police the drunks on the highways, or to eliminate the drug dealers and other criminal elements in society. This law, if passed, won’t change anything for most breeders. It might, however, be the only chance we have to show that “humane” is rightly shared with “human “. I’ll be voting YES on Prop B. That fluffy little dog calls out to me…just not the way they intended.