Senate Bill 113, which seeks to amend Proposition B, will go before the House Agriculture Policy Committee today. SB 113 passed in the Senate earlier and is now before the House – which already voted in favor of an identical House bill, HB 131 last month. Sadly, SB113 is probably a done deal – although when the stakes are high, as they are for the animals affected, one should never give up. This, according to an email urging action that I received today, is what SB113/95 and HB 131 would do:
*Remove the provision ensuring that female dogs get a rest between breeding cycles and replace it with an unenforceable vet recommendation provision. 50 breed clubs including the AKC recommend rest between breeding cycles.
* Remove the requirement that the dogs receive an annual exam by a vet and replace it with “two visual inspections” instead.
* Eliminate the exercise provision.
* Remove the provision ensuring continuous access to unfrozen, clean water.
* Make stacked cages lawful again.
* Allow dogs to be confined in cages with only 6 inches of space again.
* Eliminate the cap on having more than 50 adult, sexually intact breeding dogs at a commercial breeding facility.
* Replace the straightforward misdemeanor provisions in Prop. B with allowances for criminal prosecution after repeatedly violating the the law and the violations posing a substantial risk to the dogs
So much for “improving” the bill – which is what our Republican legislators disingenuously claim they want to do. I admit that the pork industry (e.g., Smithfield Farms), for instance – which fears Prop. B as a potential Trojan horse – probably thinks the lege has improved it in just about the right way, and to that effect has been more than willing to exercise some of that
dollar- greenback colored speech that the Roberts Court is so fond of.
So go ahead and call your representative – although it’s not likely to do much good. What big agribusiness wants, it gets from Missouri’s GOP legislature. That’s the ironclad rule that the lege has proved once again by their prompt action to undo Prop. B.
Certainly, the legislature is not responding to public opinion. At a meeting of state Democratic representatives a few weeks ago, all of the lawmakers present noted that they had heard more outcry about the efforts to nullify Prop. B than any of the other issues coming before the legislature this year. They all also noted that that the outcry was bipartisan in nature – so much so that it occasioned a little bitterness from some of the Democrats – Jill Schuupp, for instance, lamented:
… we have received more information on puppy mill legislation than any other piece of legislation, and I know people love their animals and I support that love for animals, but, my gosh, we have a lot of people out there hurting too and I sure wish people would … stand up and get that involved when it involves other people too.
I sympathize with Rep. Schuupp and share her frustration about the seeming lack of concern for the people who will suffer because of the GOP determination to pursue a destructive legislative agenda. However, I also understand why the plight of puppy mill animals generates a larger and more intense response.
There is at least a perception that human beings who are threatened by the actions of our business/corporate dominated GOP legislature can speak for themselves, but animals can never, under any circumstances, speak for themselves. And while conservatives may buy into the rightwing dogma that presents poverty, deprivation and injustice as the result of poor choices on the part of individuals, nobody, left or right, thinks that dogs live out miserable lives in breeding factories because they have made poor choices. Many of us live with dogs – they’re ideologically neutral – which is why opponents of Prop. B must resort to misrepresenting the concern about conditions in breeding kennels as sentimental excess on the part of those who don’t know better.
While we have probably lost the immediate battle, it is possible to continue the campaign. We can publicize just exactly what happened, refuse to let pols blather about “improving” or “tweaking” Prop. B, and make sure that the memory remains fresh next election. We can ensure that there are consequences.
Legislators who put the dictates of corporate agribusiness before their human obligation to mitigate unnecessary suffering deserve to be held accountable. Businesses, like Smithfield Farms, deserve to hear from consumers who do not appreciate their meddling in unrelated areas of animal husbandry. Finally, in response to those politicians who whine about the hardship that Prop. B would cause “good” breeders, we need to be emphatic that those puppy breeders who cannot conform to the minimal strictures of Proposition B deserve to be put out of business – the sooner the better.