An Online Conversation with Representative Berry

A back and forth with Representative T. J. Berry, R-Kearney District 35. From Puppy mill issue hits House.

This is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

For one, Representative Berry's district supported Proposition B by 57.1%. What he's telling you, people of his district, is that your vote doesn't count.

As for accusations about Proposition B:

No representative has been able to show in the text of Prop B where it states it's for licensed breeders only. There are existing laws in addition to Prop B about unlicensed breeders--it's illegal, period. But Prop B applies to both licensed and unlicensed breeders.

And believe me, if you've read as many USDA inspection reports on licensed breeders in this state, as I have, you would come to know that we have a lot of really bad but still licensed breeders in Missouri.

The USDA APHIS database can be accessed at:

http://acissearch.aphis.usda.gov/LPASearch/faces/LPASearch.jspx

Just enter Breeder as type and Missouri as state.

There is funding for Proposition B. Proposition B just adds some constraints to the same inspections, no new inspections. As the Dept of Agriculture stated in the fiscal note for Proposition B, it needed more inspectors for its current work load. It's needed more inspectors for years. Yet it never asked for the budget for more inspectors.

In the SB 113 fiscal note, it did ask for more inspectors, and said the increased fee would not be sufficient. The Senate oversight department stated since they have to do the inspections anyway, they don't need the additional inspectors. So it denied the Dept of Ag request for additional inspectors.

In addition, the new license fee cap impacts more on shelters than it does breeders. Why?

Breeders pay a $1.00 per pup sold in license fees. Even the largest breeders don't sell a couple of thousand puppies a year. Yet a non-profit like HSMO and others can process thousands of dogs for adoption. They have to pay $1.00 per dog adopted out.

This upper limit fee is more punitive against the shelters than corrective. The agricultural community is peeved that most of the shelters and rescues supported Proposition B.

The increased fees should only be applied to breeders, but it was also applied to shelters. The only ones exempt are municipal pounds.

The note about the puppies is an especially egregious misrepresentation. For one, Proposition B is about adult dogs, only. If puppies need to have heating pads, heating lamps, or even puppy incubators, this isn't a violation of Prop B.

Then there's the fact that mother dogs provide most of the warmth for the puppies when newborn. Use commonsense -- when you've seen dogs give birth in that cardboard box, do you turn the heat of the enture house up to 92 degrees? Seriously?

I'm disappointed that the reps played this kind of semantic shell game.

Bunk on the 50 dog limit and the grossly exaggerated claim on legal filings. Really Representative, is this what you think of the people in your district--that they're dumb as bricks to believe this?

Proposition B is not the first state law to limit dogs or put stringent requirements on dog breeders. I would suggest you check to see the legal filings, because you'll find that the reality does not match this...fantasy.

In addition, I notice the House and Senate had no problems putting extreme regulations on the adult entertainment business last year--and they did have a legal standing on which to file suit and did file suit. In addition, there was excessive loss of revenue to the state for this action, as well a the loss of over 3,000 jobs -- yet you all had no problems passing that law.

You're telling the voters of this state that you want to spit on their vote, and then you're implying we're too stupid to know what you're doing.

Reply back from Representative Terry:

Shelly, your letter is misleading at best. I have not made up my mind on how I will vote on the issue. When we make a law in Jefferson City it is written reviewed in committee, debated on the floor then sent to the Senate for debate then to the governor to sign. The process takes alot of time and the laws that you get are usually balanced. HSUS wrote there law put some money behind it and it was passed. The Prop was stilted to one side which makes for bad law and I don't like that. With that said I still have a real problem overturning the vote of the people.

The only reason that I will consider voting to modify prop b. is line 9 in the proposition. It defines pet as any domesticated animal. That means some lawyer may be able to use this law to apply to other animals. I do not want to see that happen.

Sincerely,

T.J. Berry
State Representative 35th District

My reply back:

Representative Berry

Please do not insult our intelligence.

The line before the list of definitions states that the definitions apply only to this specific bill. This is standard, and if you look at other laws, you'll see the same language. As a representative you should be aware of how laws are formed.

It does not bode well to know that the people who supposedly spend a lot of time developing laws don't even understand what these definition sections really mean, and why they're included.

According to your logic, then, the only allowable type of dealer in the state is an animal dealer, because that's how ACFA defines "dealer".

Of course, according to people behind SB 113, the only pets in Missouri are dogs -- think about how that sounds?

Your comment about HSUS writing the law, already shows you're trying to re-frame this discussion--trying to use HSUS as a scapegoat, not only to justify your disrespect of the voters in your district, but also discredit HSUS at the same time. Must seem like a bonus to you.

That will teach any organization that actually cares about animals that the only ones who decide on animals in this state are the members of the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Cattlemen's Association. Oh, and Forrest Lucas, and all his nice campaign contributions.

Heaven forbid that some schmuck of a dog lover will come along and tell you all that no, wire cages only 6 inches longer than the dog, are not good for dogs. Or that a drive by visual inspection is not not proper veterinarian practice. Or that it's not OK for dogs to be sick and hurt and injured and not seen by a vet, because Billy Bob has this ointment someone gave him and it cures everything. Or that it's not OK for dogs to be forced to lick frozen water, or stuck in a plastic "dogloo" with a bit of straw for warmth -- spending most of their time shivering from the cold.

Heavens, no, we don't want that kind of person in Missouri.

This is all nothing but political theater: smoke and mirrors. People scared to death of the Missouri Farm Bureau.

Representative Terry's reply:

Shelly,

Your not being rational. I had the rep for HSUS in my office Tuesday morning. He was not against what I said and understood the argument that I made. I do understand how laws are made and changed.

Obviously you don't understand that once a prop becomes a law it can change like any other it's no different.

If you had wanted to make it unchangeable you should have made a constitutional amendment. Then it would have been held to a different level than just an ordinary law.

I get very irritated when people will not give an inch. That attitude is caustic to our system. It has lead to the polarization of our society. So if HSUS agrees with what I am trying to do why don't you? If you would like to talk with my contact at HSUS I would be more than happy to provide it.

If you would like to talk in person, I would be more than happy to.

T.J.

My reply:

Compromise on what?

So it's OK for dogs to get water in an algae coated rusted bucket? Or maybe to be forced to lick frozen water? Is this the compromise you want to make?

(Yes, from USDA inspection reports of existing licensed breeders)

Or do you want to compromise on access to an indoor sleeping area? Allow breeders to keep dogs in outdoor only kennels in subzero temperatures, with only a plastic barrel and a bit of straw for warmth?

(Yes, from USDA inspection reports of existing licensed breeders)

Perhaps the compromise is in keeping dogs in wire cages that are only 6 inches longer than they are. Imagine a dog in a cage where they can barely turn around--and they live there all the time. Should we compromise on that?

(Ditto on the inspection reports)

Dogs with hair so matted, they can't move and their skin develops sores. Dogs that can barely stand up, they're so sick. Dogs with bloodied eyes partially poked out by a loose wire in their cages. Dogs with twisted injured legs because their foot fell through the wire floor and got caught.

Cages with dead puppies. A dead calf between kennels. A yorkie with a collar so tight, it became embedded in her neck leaving open sores. Dogs shivering from the cold. Dogs emaciated from parasites. Dogs desperately licking at frozen water, because that's the only water they have.

Dogs never getting fresh air. Or dogs never out of the elements, even for a little bit.

Dogs never getting out of their cages...there day after day after day. Never a kind word, never a gentle hand -- not even the impersonal handling of a vet once a year.

Breeders with so many dogs, lined up by the hundreds--either desperately barking, or silent because the breeder shoved a steel pipe down their throats to debark them.

The smell of ammonia in the kennel so strong, it makes the inspectors eyes water. Waste feet high underneath the cages. Flies everywhere.

So exactly what compromise do you want to make? Which of these is acceptable to you?

Compromise is a political term. I'm not in this for the politics, I'm in this for the dogs.

If you want to spend some time, I can send you some USDA inspection reports. Grab some of your peers and go visit the breeders. See who you are defending.

As for your HSUS rep: Proposition B isn't about HSUS. Wasn't in the past, isn't now.

So tell me: where should we compromise?

update Futher:

I want line 9 changed that is what I want. You are wrong about what can be used to define the possible law suit HSUS has agreed to the new language. So again I ask you what problem do you have with that!

My reply back:

I have no problem with line 9 being changed. This isn't HSUS's call, though. But I have no problems with line 9 being changed.

I also have no problems with clarifying the language on the breeding cycle restriction so that it states the restriction is for female dogs, either.

So can we assume that if anything else but line 9, or the addition of gender in the breeding cycle restriction, is changed, you won't vote for the bill?

Rep. Berry replied:

Shelly,

So whose call is it that we change line nine in the law?

T.J.

My last:

One of the downsides to modifying or repealing a citizen initiative is you're accountable to everyone who voted for it. You're also accountable to everyone who believes in the importance of the individual vote, regardless of their view on the particular issue. Most representatives from other states consider repealing or modifying a citizen initiative, especially right after it was voted on, tantamount to drunk waltzing in a mine field. Missouri representatives must like living on the edge.

What you can be reasonably confident about is that the Proposition B community you have chatted with doesn't particularly care one way or another about the change to the definition of pet. This change doesn't impact on either the care or the environment of the dogs, and that's what is important for us--not semantics on definitions for the word "pet". If you wanted to keep the pet definition that's shown in HB 131 or SB 113, but throw away all the other changes, I don't believe you'll get any push back from any of us.

I don't think you would have any push back if you wanted to modify the regulation about breeding cycles to be about females only. I also don't think you'll have any push back on the increased ceiling fee, though this does impact on non-profit shelters and rescues more than the breeders--and the rescues and shelters are having a real hard time right now. Donations are down.

I probably will quibble about the Bark Alert fee, because frankly the program lacks transparency and we know from comments elsewhere in this thread that some people are using the program to enforce their own religious bigotry. The concept is good, but just like the Blue Ribbon kennel campaign, how effective is it, really?

Also, it's important that people are fully aware that the fees from the ceiling change only provide enough money for one inspector. I believe that misinformation on this has been give out in House meetings on these bills.

Regardless, I can only speak for myself on these issues.