End in Sight for Missouri Puppy Mills

In the battle against puppy mills, Missouri is ground zero. With approximately 3,000 puppy mills in the state, Missouri is the number one puppy producing state in the country. Approximately 40% of all pet store puppies are bred in Missouri, where almost 200,000 breeding dogs produce up to a million puppies a year.

There appeared to be no antidote for Missouri’s puppy mill problem, until now.    Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, a state ballot initiative committee, officially kicked off their campaign to improve the lives of these forgotten dogs. The group is comprised of the Humane Society of Missouri, the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Humane Society of the United States, and local humane societies, veterinarians, and animal advocates across the state.

Missourians for the Protection of Dogs are going straight to the citizens of Missouri for their support. A ballot initiative, or citizen’s initiative, allows a petition signed by a certain number of registered voters to force a public vote on a proposed statute, amendment or ordinance. The Missourians for the Protection of Dogs will need to acquire more than 100,000 petition signatures before the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act can be added to the ballot. Even when all the necessary signatures are acquired and approved, the campaigning will continue for “yes” votes on the November 2010 ballot.

The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act is a modest reform to address some of the most inhumane practices at puppy mills:

Cruel and inhumane conditions --- Dogs in puppy mills rarely feel the touch of a human hand or grass underneath their feet. Food and water are often scarce, dirty, or spoiled.  Many dogs have little protection from the elements or extreme temperatures. We wouldn’t treat our pets this way; and we shouldn’t allow large-scale breeders to do it.  The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act would require basic, humane care for dogs, including sufficient food and clean water, necessary veterinary care, and regular exercise.

Stacked, wire-floored cages -- Puppy mill dogs are crammed in small cages similar to chicken coops, 24 hours a day. The cages often have wire floors, and foot and leg injuries are common. Rows of cages are stacked on top of each other, sometimes allowing waste to rain down on animals in the bottom cages. The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act would require that dogs have sufficient housing, including protection from the elements, and would ban stacked or wire-floored cages.

Continuous breeding without rest -- Across Missouri, female dogs are caged and forced to breed nearly every heat cycle to produce puppies for sale.  By the age of  6 or 7, they are worn out from breeding, used up, and often killed or abandoned. The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act would require adequate rest between breeding cycles for dogs.

This is a moderate and reasonable measure. In the past two years, 12 states have passed laws to limit or regulate puppy mills. Pet lovers across the country are demanding better treatment for dogs at mass-breeding facilities, and Missouri is no exception. Reasonable standards are needed to protect our best friends. The Act would not affect small, reputable breeders or sportsmen.

I asked Barbara Schmitz, campaign manager for Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, to break down what activists can do to help:

If you are a Missouri resident:

• We need your signature! We are inviting Missouri registered voters to sign our petitions so that we can collect enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Look for us at major community events as well as at public places like post offices.

• We need your help gathering signatures. Even a few hours a month can make a huge difference. We’ll answer your questions and train you. If you would like to know more about our campaign, then attend one of our meetings. Just call 314-725-8880 or 573/263-9226 for details. Or, better yet, visit missourifordogs.com!

• There are many other things you can do to help the puppies. Just contact our office at 314-725-8880 for details.

If you are not a Missouri resident:

• Consider spending a weekend or a few days of your vacation time in Missouri. We need your help! Just contact our office at 314-725-8880 and let us know the dates you will be around, and we will let you know what we will need help with at that time.

• Spread the word! Let your friends and relatives in Missouri know about this campaign and how important and urgent our efforts are. Urge them to get involved. Even a few hours a month can make a big difference. Write, call or email your friends.

• Become a fan of our Facebook Page, Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, so you can stay on top of the latest in our campaign.

For more information about the Missouri ballot measure or what you can do to stop puppy mills go to missourifordogs.com.

In 2010 we will make history in the fight against the mills. Always remember that your voice is incredibly powerful. Education is the best defense against animal cruelty. Tell someone about the puppy mill industry today!


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Positively Expert: Kim Alboum

Kim Alboum is North Carolina's state director for The Humane Society of the United States. Since 2005, she has served as a volunteer coordinator and later as a board member for the Puppy Mill Awareness Day Organization. Her volunteer responsibilities also include tracking dog breeding legislation and cruelty laws.


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