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Yesterday I got a really good look at the lopsided balance of power in Missouri when I attended a rally in support of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act in Jeff City.  About 150 of the most passionately humane and caring people met on the sidewalk outside the governor’s mansion shouting “VETO SB 113.”   Some folks brought the dogs they had adopted from horrible circumstances and told us their stories.  One woman with HSUS who used to be a television reporter talked about what she saw when she went undercover to a puppy mill auction.  We got lots of thumbs up from state workers leaving for the day and people driving by in cars.  All in all, it was an inspiring experience.  I, myself, feel inspired every time I meet someone brave enough to do the dirty work of rescuing animals from their filthy prisons.  I don’t think I could do it.  The chief investigator with the MO Humane Society told us last week about how he has to wear a breathing apparatus (not just a face mask) when he goes into some of the disgusing breeding operations.  He said the fumes in the air can damage his lungs.  Well, imagine what those fumes are doing to the dogs.

After the rally, Marty Rulo and I drove around to the south side of the Capitol building and had to face the fact that we are not just outnumbered by opponents of Prop B but outgunned as well.  The state reps and senators who passed SB 113 gathered in formal lines on the capitol steps behind a speaker’s podium, complete with professional sound system, flags and the whole works.  I’d estimate 800 or so people gathered below the speaker listening and shouting “NO” when asked if they were going to allow an assault on their “property rights.”   And that’s the difference between us and them.  As Marty said , “They think of dogs as property.  We think of them as pets and part of a family.”  The power is all on their side.  The legislators depend on corporate donations to run their campaigns.  The Department of Agriculture rules on all issues involving animals.  The Missouri Humane Society has to depend on the Ag Dept to enforce regulations pertaining to puppy mills.  That probably explains why the state humane society and the MO Alliance for Animal Legislation were willing to “compromise” on a new bill.

I’m not as up on all the regs and enforcement procedures as others are.  I’m not directly involved with any dog group at all.  But when I reviewed the new bill, the “compromise” that the governor brokered with both sides of the issue, I was struck by the fact that they are arguing about how many more inches a dog should have to turn around and stretch out her limbs.  Think about that.  It’s come to this.  We are debating whether an adult dog imprisoned for her whole life in a cage should be able to stretch her limbs.

What has become of us that we are even allowing dogs to be caged for life?  Dogs have been domesticated by humans to serve us as pets.  We want dogs to be our family members and our friends.   We don’t expect cows, chickens and pigs to interact with us emotionally, but we DO want dogs, and especially puppies, to be our companions and our “babies.”

Why are we even having this conversation?  NO DOG should spend its life in a cage barely bigger than the animal itself.  I haven’t been as emotionally affected by this issue as some of the friends I’ve met at these rallies until I read that “compromise” bill. It’s disgusting.  I’m horrified that we, as human beings, are allowing these conditions to exist in our state.  We do NOT need puppy mills in Missouri.  Humane breeders care for their animals, sell only to families that make a good fit for the dogs, follow and go beyond all the regulations because they respect their dogs as social animals.   Breeders who run the factory operations and produce thousands of puppies a year should be closed down – end of discussion.  

“Property rights”?  NO – domesticated animals are not your “property” to do with as you wish.  We have evolved.  We don’t allow animals to be trained to kill each other for sport and gambling.  We outlawed dog fighting and cock fighting a decade ago.  We are on the path to outlawing factory breeding facilities too.  This whole Prop B issue has brought to light the hidden reality of what most of us didn’t really understand until now.   Even if the “compromise” bill passes and the governor caves to corporate pressure and signs it,  we will continue to expose the cruelty that exists in our state.