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Humane Society

Humane Society chief warns against overturning "puppy mill" measure

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Wayne Pacelle
Wayne Pacelle

ST. LOUIS -- The national president of the Humane Society has issued a warning to the state's agriculture lobby about attempting to overturn a ban on "puppy mills" approved by voters last week.

Proposition B -- which passed with 51 percent of the vote on Tuesday -- imposes new regulations on Missouri dog breeders, including requirements for providing food, veterinary care and exercise to dogs at breeding facilities, as well as prohibiting stacked cages and wired flooring.

The campaign for the ballot question was funded by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare agencies concerned about the condition of dog breeding operations in Missouri, which has more such facilities than any other state.

But some Missouri lawmakers are already talking about overturning the law, claiming that it will only hurt legitimate breeding operations, and do nothing about the breeders who operate outside the boundaries of the law.

Some farming interests have also expressed concern that imposing restrictions on dog breeders represents a slippery slope towards regulating other type of agriculture.

In an "open letter" to the Missouri Farm Bureau posted on the Humane Society website, the group's president and chief executive, Wayne Pacelle, sought to dispel those fears, comparing Prop B to a measure the organization pushed in 1998 banning cockfighting and bear wrestling in Missouri.

"The Missouri Farm Bureau opposed that ballot measure, too, arguing that a ban on that barbaric practice would lead to an end to all hunting, fishing, rodeo and animal agriculture," Pacelle wrote. "The Farm Bureau deceived some voters then with that argument, just as it did this year with Prop B, but it was the right decision for Missouri. Staged fights between animals are morally wrong, just as lifelong confinement of dogs in small cages at puppy mills is wrong, too."

If Pacelle is attempting to rattle the Farm Bureau's cage, it's unlikely to work. The Farm Bureau is about as likely to listen to Pacelle -- an unpopular figure to hunting and farming groups, to put it mildly -- as the Cubs are to let Tony La Russa fill out their line-up card.

Rather, Pacelle is likely trying to send a message to legislators, hoping to stymie any attempt to reverse the new dog breeding rules when the new session begins in January.

Even that appeal, though, may be difficult. Much of the reason the Humane Society asked voters for new dog breeding laws is because the group lacked the clout to convince the Legislature to make the changes.

And recent history is proof that the General Assembly is not afraid to overturn initiatives approved by voters  -- just ask anyone with a concealed carry permit. 

Incidentally, the 1999 ballot measure that dealt with hidden handguns was also labeled Prop B.

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