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Both those who favor the anti-puppy mill petition drive and those who oppose it are overlooking the most relevant factor:

According to the HSUS, the reason Missouri needs this new initiative is because Missouri is the leading state in the US when it comes to the number of ‘puppy mills’. HSUS projects that there are around 3,000 ‘puppy mills’ in the state. According to the US Department of Agriculture, there are 1,525 licensed commercial breeders in the state — nearly 3x more than any other state.  The rest, to get to HSUS’s projected number of breeders are unlicensed.   In other words, Missouri could CUT IN HALF the number of ‘puppy mills’ just by closing down all of the unlicensed operations in the state.

Unfortunately, one of the big reasons we are unable to close down these operations is due to a severe lack of state inspectors.  As of right now, the state only has 13 licensed inspectors–who not only have to inspect all of the licensed operations, but also are charged with identifying and closing down unlicensed operations.  There are 120 unlicensed operations per state official assigned to close them down — and another 120 that they have to actually inspect each year. Even though Missouri shut down nearly 150 operations last year, more could be done with the same laws, but more enforcement officials.

According to some unconfirmed reports from people I know involved in this, HSUS has pledged nearly half a million dollars in order to get the 130,000 needed signatures to get this initiative on the ballot.  A couple of million dollars more will be needed once it’s placed on the ballot in order to get enough advertising out there to pass the bill.  This doesn’t even count the number of man hours that will be required to get the ballot signatures.  All I can think about is what this type of money, and this type of human support, could do if it were all channeled toward shutting down the commercial breeding operations that are operating illegally without a license — instead of working on a bill that will have minimal, if any, impact.

I sympathize with those who want puppy mills regulated. Of course I do. Joy Ward, a national activist who has written a science fiction novel involving a dog, told me that those who want the dog breeders left alone do not care what happens to those animals:

They are just taking the mill and Hunte Corp money and moving on. They don’t care about the tortured animals and they sure as hell don’t care about the thousands of people who buy these dogs thinking they are getting healthy family members only to find out their dogs will require thousands of dollars in vet bills, hundreds of hours of behavioral work due to the poor rearing experiences and still may have to euthanize their beloved pets because the vets can do nothing to remedy the insurmountable problems.

Obviously, the situation needs to be remedied.

But I also understand that our rural senators, especially those who are farmers themselves, feel they’ve been shoved from pillar to post these last couple of decades. They’re having a hard go of it, what with Big Ag shouldering them out of the hog and chicken raising business. Some are surviving by raising dogs instead, and they don’t want any interference, particularly from city folk.

All that makes sense, except that their hostility is aimed at the wrong target. CAFOs and Big Ag are the enemy here. Getting CAFOs regulated so that they have to treat the environment and their animals responsibly, instead of raping both, harming the public health with antibiotics and hormones, and then paying no penalties for their sins–that’s where the senators’ efforts should be focused.

Ward responds to those rural senators this way:

The main problem is that dogs are not being bred to be eaten, they are being bred to live in homes with people, Completely different things. If there are genetic problems with a slaughter hog, it won’t cost the buyer thousands of dollars and a ton of family pain.

Like I said, as far as how she feels and as far as how Senators Shoemyer and Purgason feel, I get it. But I don’t think the legislature’s attempt to require that the petition about puppy mills get a two thirds majority to pass is fair, constitutional or helpful as far as solving Missouri’s problems with inhumane treatment by dog breeders. The anti-puppy mill petition, on the other hand, has at least this to be said for it: it has raised awareness of the problem. But if we pass that petition and do nothing to get more regulators, we’ll be kidding ourselves if we think we’ve done anything to solve the problem.