Pride of Place and Puppy Mills

Time is running out to prepare for arguments to save Proposition B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. This afternoon, the Missouri Senate will debate SB 113, and most likely vote whether to support it or not. I expect the House to follow quickly if SB 113 happens to pass.

I've appealed to Missouri representatives' compassion, by showing them USDA inspection reports that outline how cruelly the dogs are treated in puppy mills. Legally treated, which is morally reprehensible.

I've also appealed to the Missouri representatives' civic responsibility to support the voter's wishes. We just voted on this act, and it hasn't even gone into effect, yet. The majority of this state supports this act, while special interests, and too much agribusiness money, are behind the effort to repeal our vote.

The only thing I have to left, is an appeal to pride. Pride in Missouri. Pride in what Missourians accomplish, what we do, the industries we have.

Fact: we have the largest number of large scale commercial dog breeding operations in the country. This isn't hearsay, the USDA confirms this. More breeders are licensed here than any two or three other states, combined.

Yet, no one brags about the number of large scale commercial dog breeders we have. You won't find Governor Nixon boasting of this number in any of his speeches. I'm sure he doesn't bring up the fact when he meets with his peers.

You won't find any of the representatives, even those who want to gut Proposition B, bragging about our number one position for dog breeders. Other than their work to repeal Proposition B, you won't find these representatives talking about commercial dog breeding, at all.

I looked through the literature for the State and the Department of Agriculture—you know, the brag sheets. We export this much corn and soybeans, and we're number seven for hogs, and so on. But you won't find puppies among the listed exports, nor will you find any boasting on being the number one large scale commercial dog breeding state in the country.

Why don't we brag about the number of breeders we have? Because deep down inside, none of us is happy at the numbers of breeders we have. None of us is proud of our position, or even of the industry. Those who fought in defense of the breeders have done so more to defeat HSUS—because of their concern about other forms of livestock—rather than because they really approve of the large scale commercial dog breeders. They just don't care enough about the dogs, but they sure as heck care about HSUS.

The breeders, themselves? You can look at their web sites and all you'll see is cute little pictures of puppies, usually playing with children. But don't attempt to visit the breeder to pick up your puppy. No, they'll be glad to mail the puppy or meet you at some neutral spot. If you do meet with them, they'll surreptitiously hand the puppy over, like it's made of crack cocaine.

In the days before we voted on Proposition B, if the operations were as good as the breeders said they are, all they would have had to do is show us. Invite some of the more interested folks to visit—have journalists tour their operations.

Yet I know of only three commercial breeders who were willing to meet with the public. Three out of 1,390. One breeder actually tried to run over a Fox news crew camera when they tried to visit the place.

What does this say about this industry, as a whole? An industry that keeps to the shadows, and hides from both scrutiny and public view? One that, in effect, lies to the public by pretending to be a little Mom and Pop breeder with a few dogs, when they have hundreds?

And what does it say about how we feel about this industry, when we never brag about it, never even talk about it—except when another mill is closed down because of horrid conditions. Or because of Proposition B.

If we choose to fight for industries in our state, shouldn't we fight for ones we're proud of?