There are tens of thousands of dogs who are lonely and depressed and ill because it is their awful misfortune to pass each day on a puppy mill operation in Missouri—the nation’s top puppy-producing state. The conditions of the puppy mills there as in other top-producing states are deplorable, as we’ve shown again and again in our investigative and animal rescue work.
Happily, voters in Missouri will have an opportunity to turn the situation around by approving Proposition B on Nov. 2. But this life-saving measure is not just an opportunity for Missouri voters, but for citizens of every state. That’s because the Missouri ballot measure will have tremendous positive implications for dog welfare all over the nation.
The puppy mill industry in Missouri is an exporter of dogs. For the operators there, it’s not really about filling up pet shop windows in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, or Hannibal. The primary markets for Missouri puppy millers are New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle and other major cities around the country. For example, about 68 percent of dogs sold in pet stores in New York City come from dog dealers in Missouri.
At the same time that pet stores in these cities are putting puppy mill dogs up for sale, these same cities are dealing with the burdens associated with the presence of tens of thousands of homeless animals. They are struggling to adopt these needy creatures to loving homes, and to ensure their well-being, even as the mills are flooding the system with purebred dogs. In the most basic way, the mills produce misery for the dogs they hold, but they are also exacerbating the broader pet overpopulation crisis in America.
It is estimated that Missouri has 30 percent of all puppy mills in the country—with a staggering 200,000 breeding animals churning out approximately 1 million puppies a year. Now remember, there are about 2 million healthy dogs killed in shelters every year for lack of suitable homes. Thus, Missouri alone is displacing 1 million potential adopters by funneling these puppies into the supply line.
Prop B will not shut down all puppy mills in Missouri. But it will require that breeders maintain certain humane care standards, and if past patterns hold, a fair number of them won’t be interested in complying. They turn hefty profits by cutting corners—not providing sufficient space for the animals, denying them veterinary care, and starving them of human affection and attention. If they weren’t able to cut so many corners, many of them would no longer be in the business, since they wouldn’t realize the profits they counted on.
The Better Business Bureau and two state auditors have slammed the industry in recent years for its reckless breeding practices. And the USDA’s Office of Inspector General said the federal agency is not doing its job to enforce the minimal standards of the law.
Consumers who unwittingly purchase puppy mill dogs often must deal with enormous veterinary bills because the animals come to them sick or ill. Local governments deal with the effects of pet overpopulation, and the mills contribute to that problem in a major way. And day after day, week after week, year after year, groups like The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, and the Humane Society of Missouri must step in to deal with the costs of handling and caring for puppy mill dogs when things get really bad and the worst of these operations must be shut down and the animals rescued. In short, while these mill operators generate profits for themselves, they saddle consumers, private humane organizations, and local governments with enormous costs, running into the hundreds of millions each year.
Clearly, we need a change. And Prop B is the leading edge of that change.
We need supporters all across the nation to support the YES! on Prop B campaign with their dollars. We need to put television ads on the air and reach Missouri voters, and the only way we’ll be able to do it at the level needed is if people who care about this issue invest in this campaign. We and our partners in the YES! on Prop B coalition need millions to run ads in the weeks before the election. Please think of making a gift to the campaign today. Never has there been a more important dog protection campaign than this one.
P.S. Nationwide on Oct. 3, you can host a Party for Pups event to support Prop B. Read details here.
Paid for by Missourians for the Protection of Dogs / YES! on Prop B, Judy Peil, Treasurer.
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.