Dogs in Missouri had reason to howl yesterday, given that a major step forward was taken in the quest to address puppy mill cruelty in the state with about one-third of the nation’s mills. Yesterday, Missourians for the Protection of Dogs — a political committee including The HSUS, ASPCA, Humane Society of Missouri, Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, and animal shelters throughout the state — delivered more than 190,000 signatures of registered voters in Missouri to the Secretary of State in order to qualify the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act for the November ballot, far in excess of the 99,000 signatures needed.
Last year, 10 states adopted reforms to address problems at puppy mills — commercial breeding facilities where dogs are inhumanely confined for years on end, typically in small wire cages with no exercise or human attention, and are often exposed to extremes of heat and cold. This year, lawmakers in Oklahoma and Iowa, the second and third largest puppy mill states, approved new legislation to address some of the problems in their states. The Missouri ballot measure will improve the lives of dogs by requiring large-scale breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with such basics as sufficient food and clean water, necessary veterinary care, adequate housing, and adequate space and exercise.
Unfortunately, there is a move in the Missouri legislature to thwart this initiative. Lawmakers are considering a series of bills, including a constitutional amendment that has already passed the House, to block citizens from conducting ballot measure campaigns on animal cruelty issues, and to take power away from the voters and put it in the hands of politicians. This measure, which would have to go to the voters for approval, is an attempt to nullify the current reform effort on puppy mills. It could also have far-reaching unintended consequences, such as potentially making dogfighting and cockfighting legal again in the state.
We’ll be fighting that effort (please take action and encourage friends in Missouri to do so), as well as pushing ahead the puppy mill ballot measure in the weeks and months ahead. To get involved and find out more details on the ballot initiative, visit www.missourifordogs.com.
And to Americans elsewhere, not just in Missouri, I urge you to be wary about copycat efforts in other states to thwart the public will and prevent citizen participation in democratic action. We've seen anti-animal, anti-voting rights proposals in other states, and we must be vigilant in protecting animals but also in defending the rights of all citizens to have their fair say.
Wayne Pacelle is president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. This post originally appeared on Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.